Using Sign Language with Preschoolers
Many parents wonder what will happen to their children’s signs as they get older and if there is any benefit in continuing to use sign language with them. Will they continue to use their signs once they develop speech? If so, what is the benefit of using sign language with verbal Pre-schoolers?
Baby sign language is not only beneficial for pre-verbal children but it has also proven to be beneficial for verbal Pre-schoolers. It is never too late to introduce to sign language to your child and to begin experiencing the benefits.
So what are these benefits?
In the early 19th century, educators realized that sign language helped the hearing siblings of deaf children learn to read. Due to political reasons, no further study on this topic was pursued until the 1970s. It was at this point that researchers found that the hearing children of Deaf parents actually learned to read before they began school if their parents signed and fingerspelled to them. It was believed that this was due to the fact that children were exposed to manual letters through fingerspelling and printed letters through reading and had made a connection.
But did hearing children experience the same results? Yes they did and this was confirmed in more recent sign language research.
A researcher in this field, Dr Marilyn Daniels highlighted that sign language increased the verbal vocabulary as well as knowledge of sight words, letters of the alphabet and phonetic sounds for pre-schoolers. She concluded that a preschooler’s vocabulary can be improved if vocabulary is presented visually, kinesthetically as well as verbally. This research also highlighted that not only did the kids find using sign language fun and engaging; it also helped them retain the information for a longer period of time. This is because signing uses both the left and right hemisphere of the brain and uses a variety of learning styles including verbal, visual and kinesthetic.
Signing and singing songs with preschoolers is a fun and educational way to use sign language with your pre-schooler. How many children do you know who love to do the actions to songs such as “Incy Wincy Spider”, “The Wheels on The Bus” or “Twinkle Twinkle”? By introducing the signs in songs and nursery rhymes, research highlighted that children had the largest increase in vocabulary when compared to their non-signing counterparts.
Even if your child has not learned sign language as a baby or a toddler, it is not too late. Don’t let this in any way stop you from introducing them to signing as a pre-schooler. When you begin signing to your baby, you are providing them with a tool to communicate while they are pre-verbal. With toddlers parents use sign language for a variety of reasons including language development, vocabulary building, toilet training, teaching manners and also for fun. For pre-schoolers, parents use signing for a number of reasons. These include vocabulary expansion, enhanced language skills, development of reading skills and the learning of core educational concepts such as the ABCs, Rhymes, Colours, Numbers and more.
So to get started as a parent, I would introduce your child’s favourite 5-10 words with sign and then also introduce an additional 5-10 words with signs to their vocabulary. You can combine these signs to make small sentences which will help with their language development. You can also start teaching them the ABC’s and introduce the AUSLAN alphabet.
Here is a video of a young girl practicing her alphabet using Auslan which is very cute:
Whether they are a baby, toddler or pre-schooler, your child’s development can be transformed through the simultaneous use of signed and spoken language.
Let me know how you have found signing with your toddlers after using sign with them as a baby.
Did you keep it up? Or did you just let the signs drop off as they got older and began to get more verbal.
If you did maybe now’s the time to think about taking it back up again to help your child’s early learning or if you haven’t started yet and you baby is talking it’s still not to late to get the wonderful benefits of using sign with your little one