Signing can be a great way to reduce noise in a rowdy house. Any great teacher knows that yelling over their pupils is far less effective and efficient than is whispering. Lowering your voice forces children to stop what they’re doing and listen, and because we’re all in tuned to nonverbal body language, it forces children to mirror your calming nature. Signing can accomplish the same thing, quite possibly even better, because it’s totally silent. A stern look coupled with a STOP, or QUIET can tune kids down in a hurry more so than does throwing a fit yourself! To clarify your message use a gentle touch, to solidify it, use a firm touch. To make your message the absolute most salient, couple the above with a stern facial expression. Using these techniques were something that our grandparents had mastered, but as of recent, have dropped in propensity.
Quiet: When doing the ASL sign for QUIET first bring the index finger up and to the lips making the “shhh” sign and then dropping the hands palm down as if pushing the sound lower.
Signs can also be used in quiet places such as the library, or across big distances, or when your baby is too embarrassed to speak up such as having to go to the washroom where they might sign TOILET to us. Signs are helpful in reminding a child to say THANK YOU and PLEASE when they might otherwise have forgotten. Parents might also use signs so as not to interrupt another person or when they want to establish calm using signs like WAIT, QUIET or SIT. My personal favourite is the sign for WAIT which gets a lot of use as my son becomes impatient which is usually around dinner time. Without using any words at all, I can tell him to WAIT, then instruct him to go find some TOYS and PLAY. It doesn’t always work, but it does cut back one extra voice in the house! Besides, if signing doesn’t work, neither will yelling!
Finally, don’t stop signing just because your baby has started to talk. The research is clear that signing has benefits right up until the age of three. When you talk and sign to your baby you are stimulating both the audio centers of their mind and the visual centers. That activates more of your baby’s mind as they access language. When you use both centers in teaching, not only does it use more of your child’s mind but it hits on different types of learning. Not all people learn well exclusively through auditory channels or visual channel or even kinesthetic channels, so why not incorporate all of them! This is why signing babies get so much further ahead than non-signers in terms of vocabulary. Signing children have more areas of their mind working on the same problem making them more proficient. Besides, spoken language is going to take more than just a few months to learn anyway, so why throw out all your existing hard work when it’s still perfectly useful. As your baby builds their spoken vocabulary, signs will still be useful in clarifying the words they speak. As your baby becomes more vocal, their signs will remain, for a time, very relevant.
Above: The reward for knowing the letter is – getting the letter! Pretty simple, just hand the letters to him and he can put them in his “got it box or container.” My son was also highly motivated by food treats so you can try that too. Some toddlers might be satisfied with a round of applause too. Just learning is fun when it’s challenging and keeping your toddler thinking. Holden learned most of his letters over dinner time with the plastic letters that you see in the video.