Early Childhood Education – Acquiring Sign Language

One of the keys to surviving in a tilted economic system in which opportunities to achieve a decent standard of living will be limited is versatility – and the ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. This includes bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

At the same time, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language has led to more career opportunities – and if current trends continue, it’s likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.

Signing Before They Can Speak

A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to five – are the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.

This is not as odd as you may think. As you know, many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.

In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:

“…by 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk.” (Glarion, 2003)

The author also cites study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that “using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration…[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music” (Glarion, 2003).

The Best Time To Start

Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Georgia educational child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose educational child care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by Mommy Minded! I already proudly follow! 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  2. Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m glad to be following your blog!

  3. Thanks for joining our blog hop over at Sassy Sites! There are some amazing blogs out there, and you are definitely one of them! I’m a follower of yours too! Happy Friday! xoxo

    Marni @ Sassy Sites!

  4. Hi! I’m a new follower of your lovely blog.

    Have a nice day!

  5. I did not do the signing when my daughter was younger, but wish I had. I thik she would have loved it. You have a new follower! I look forward to following your blog! Come visit Mama’s Little Chick. Have a great night!

    Mama Hen

  6. Here (late) for the Friday blog hops! Great blog! Your newest follower. Hope to see you at Dropped Stitches!

    xo Erin

  7. I’ve been signing to my 13 month old for most of his life. (We can both hear.) He now signs about 25 signs regularly (and speaks about 5 words). Being able to have a two way conversation with your toddler is amazing. Instead of throwing a fit and getting grumpy when he wants something, he just tells me with sign language. It’s awesome and I recommend it to all parents of babies and toddlers!

  8. Nana Poppins says

    ABC phonics song/sounds of the letters – American version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlMPQ-Lr2_Y&feature=channel

    My grandson and I have been using this video for over two years now. I love that it shows the letter, they sing the sound and it shows the letter signed. 3 for 1!!!

  9. Following you back from Sensational Saturday/Sunday Blog Hop.
    Thank you so much for visiting.

    I can’t wait to read more of your blog : )

    Lucas’s Journey w/SPD

  10. I took sign in college and was so excited to teach it to my kids. They never really caught on, but my first was a really early talker and didn’t find the need. I think it’s great though and I hope to teach my kids sign even though they can already talk. Thanks for the post!!!