Techniques to teach the sign for HELP

HELP is an important sign to teach your toddler because so often they are left struggling to get the things they want done. When a toddler can use a sign such as this one to call out to their parents, it makes whining so much less likely. As far as baby goes, it’s an excellent way to reduce frustration and gain confidence since your baby knows that assistance is just a sign away. From a parental perspective, it leaves little to the imagination. You won’t be guessing if your baby is hurt, hungry, tired or any number of other things.


Help: ASL version – The action hand is supported with thumb up and remaining fingers balled is raised upward by the lower palm up hand. 2. The non ASL sign is primarily to help smaller children who might find the ASL version difficult. It is done by patting the chest with both hands palms open.

The ASL sign for HELP is done by dropping the closed fist with thumb extended upward on to the palm up hand and then raising both upward. This can be difficult for a baby to do, so it has often been adapted as both hands with open palms patting the chest several times. To teach the sign for HELP just watch for situations where you know your baby is struggling. Before your baby gets too frustrated, jump in and ask your baby if they want HELP by modeling the sign and saying it out loud. Have your baby do the sign too by helping them. Be sure to follow this up immediately by helping your baby with whatever it is they were having difficult with.

Above: HELP is a great sign to teach an active toddler because it reduces frustration and toddlers want to do much more than they are capable of doing themselves. Here are some applications for HELP in daily life. Note that we don’t use the ASL version of HELP, but rather one that has been adapted to baby sign language. Initially we taught the correct version, but felt it created more frustration that it was worth so moved to the patting the chest version which was quickly adopted by my son.

It’s not always necessary to jump right in though, as there are times when your baby needs to work through difficult tasks to master their independence too, so always be sure to offer HELP only if they want it before taking over. Your baby might want help if an older sibling is teasing or bugging them or they’ve taken a toy away from them, they can’t reach something, lost a ball under the sofa, and so forth.

If you want to take a more active approach to teaching the sign, then enlist a family member to play along. Have your assistant pretend to reach for something high up when your baby is paying attention. Next have your assistant feigning that they can’t reach and then have them model the sign for HELP while asking for you to help them. You’re your assistant say something like “Please HELP me reach this cup from the top shelf. I can’t reach it, I need HELP. Next, repeat back the predicament to your assistant to show them that you understand what they mean and immediately provide the help they’ve asked for.

Whenever modeling these types of scenarios be sure that your baby is actually paying attention!

Above: In this baby sign language video we see how signs work in everyday life. My son begins by asking for some HELP with how we wants to work the calculator. Had he not known the sign for HELP, he might have gotten frustrated. He uses the modified version of HELP, which is patting the chest as the real ASL sign is much more difficult for a baby to do. You will notice that he uses a combination of signs and spoken words such as Dadda in combination with his signs to facilitate communication. Manners also play a big part of homelife so following up requests with THANK YOU will get your child ready early to show respect to others. You can also see him combine HELP with PLEASE which is an early sentence – combining two words in sequence. This is a milestone in and of itself and comes out of having a big vocabulary of signs and spoken words.

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