Original Published Date: November 3, 2017

Updated & Published: May 16, 2021

By Ronald Kennedy

Teaching Toddlers Sign Language When Young.


Educating The Young Is A Fantastic Adventure

Maybe you’re reading a book just to educate yourself on how the ear works. You’re very concerned! Your child has a hearing disability that should be addressed.

He/she display symptoms that you read about recently. 

You’ve always considered yourself a caring person, especially when it comes to kids. Even if it’s just something as simple as changing a diaper or feeding a child, you’re doing invaluable work.

But in regards to disabled children with hearing issues, you have to be some type of ‘special person.’ How can you learn & tech sign to your child?

In fact, quite a smart move! In regards to the importance of caring and the teaching task you perform each day, there is no hierarchy.

In the beginning, start simply with activities and words you already frequently use.

When you spend time communicating, it’s a very rewarding experience for both the child. Signing validates the work of early childhood educators because it accentuates the importance of your interactions with children.

Although in back of your mind you think, “hearing loss is a terrible thing, but you know this is something families have to deal with.
how-to-teach-baby-sign-language-signing more meals

Bring your hands together and gently tap your fingers together repeatedly.

Once you’ve come to the realization regarding your child’s issues,
 you must then resort to learning the necessary signing techniques to communicate.

There are benefits to parents in regards to babies communicating early. It bridges the gap between comprehension (understanding language) and expression (speaking).

Toddlers who sign experience less frustration. When a child has a way to express her needs and wants, there is less opportunity for frustration to set in.

Young children soon discover that signing is more satisfying an productive than crying or grunting and pointing. Showing and interacting with them through  a list of children’s books featuring deaf characters, will help the communication process go smoothly.

Think of this: You’re feeding your baby and he or she looks at you with their mouth open.

He or she in indicating wanting more. You say; “Oh, you want more?” while mimicking more.

If your child isn’t looking at you, but is looking at the baby food jar or box of mini crackers, what you can do is make the ‘more‘ sign right in front of the food and say “more.”

He or she may eat them quickly and reach for the box to indicate she wants more. To practice communicating ‘more’, give the baby just a couple of bites of food at a time, then you’ll have the chance to repeat the ‘more’ sign over and over.

The daily care you give your child during meals, diapering, and dressing is the best place to start using this special language. It is in these caregiving rituals that relationships and trust form.

Constant communication is ‘key’ for parents of hearing impaired toddlers.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing meal times

MEAL-TIME  – Tap your fingertips to lips as if eating.

Children who communicate this way develop larger vocabularies in the early stages of language acquisition.

Research proves that by age two, these children have 50 more words than those who don’t use the other form of communication.

Communication through these skills is ‘key’ to a child’s expansion and understanding.

Youngster’s who learn can also experience a close bond with their caregivers. The real reason to encourage this is to support relationships through successful communication.

ALL DONE/FINISH  Move open hands outward as if 

finished with something or pushing something away.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing all done/finished

Now that you are communicating ‘more’ and ‘all done’ throughout the day, begin adding other ones within your daily routine.

Using these skills throughout the day is great because they are meaningful to the children.

The repetition also provides practice. Young kids need to see and hear you mimic over and over before they will produce it.

Children thrive when they have an environment that provides predictability.

Using these special skills within your daily routine adds another level of predictability for kids, thus fostering their feelings of security and safety while they are in your care.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing all done/finished

Although some toddlers will be able to rotate their wrists to  imitate ‘all done,’ here are some  common ways children sign ‘all done:’

  • Flapping their hands in front of  them
  • Pushing their hands toward you
  • Opening and closing their hands several times
  • Swing their hands from side to side

Young Kids Seems To Understand A Few Words.

He or she lets us know through their eye contact and body language that they understand words. For example; when a child looks up to you with a special awareness, anticipation, and intelligence, you can see they knows what you are talking about.

Say another person’s name, they looks to that person. When you mention that it is time to go outside, the child looks towards the door.

When little children have these symbols in their heads, but they do not have the oral motor skills to produce the words, it’s the perfect time to begin teaching baby sign language and using all skills you’ve learned.

It not only gives them visual symbols for the words (as they watch you repeat the word and mimic together), it will soon give them the ability to communicate with their hands. MOST BABIES POINT

Some toddlers start pointing at objects as early as eight months. Most master pointing and do so in a deliberate  and determined way by 12 – 14 months. 

Pointing is an amazing early accomplishment that is easy to take for granted because it is such a natural part of our daily communication system.

Over time, as you understand how complex the act of pointing is, you can see how closely it is related to communication and language.

The most important thing to remember is that language develops through interaction.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing more

MORE  – Baby pointing to hand to communicate ‘more’.

Pointing is symbolic. In doing so, the child makes an imaginary line, connecting the object in the distance to the end of his or her finger.

The child also trust those with whom they hope to communicate can do the same.

‘More’ is usually the first one the child produce. They get a lot of reinforcement when they communicate ‘more’ and get ‘more’ of what they desire.

Often, they will generalize this sign once they’ve found it to be successful.

They will mimic ‘more’ for everything;’ every time they want to communicate.’

This is similar to generalizations that toddlers make when they’re learning to talk.

For example, a child will learn the word ‘dog’ and will call all animals ‘dog’. After practicing the new word or sign, they will begin to differentiate.

Generalization is a normal process in language development.

It is good to communicate eat and drink often, particularly at meal and snack time.

Remember And Understand That Babies Aren’t The Same. Most Have Different Comprehension Levels.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing drink

DRINK  – Cup a hand at your mouth and tip your head up as if drinking from a cup.

With drinks, parents should consider mimicking drink to represent all drinks, or use specific signs, such as bottle, juice, milk, and water.

When your child start mimicking this back to you, you should follow up with; ” Want more to drink?” Repeat saying this a few times just to to make sure this is what he or she wants from you.

WATER  – Put a ‘W’ to your lips.

Water is a sign that up often, not only in terms of drinking, but because many children love playing in water during baths and water play.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing waterA child will typically modify ‘water’ by putting one finger to their lips.

Always remember in regards to beginning actions, that before a they can speak, he or she can communicate their needs by gesturing, gazing with their eyes, using facial expressions, him or her kicking their feet and waving their arms when their happy.

Sometime they may even throw things or push things away when they’re mad or upset.

Two basic needs babies will communicate first are ‘more’ (“I like that,” “I want more of that,” “That makes me happy.”) and the other ‘all done’ or ‘finished’ (“No thanks,” “I’m done with that,” “Stop,” “I don’t like it,” “Take it away.”)

Learn these two and use them consistently throughout the day

These two things will satisfy more needs when communicating with preverbal babies.

PAIN   – Touch your fingertips together quickly on your forehead to sign headache.

Pain, hurt or ouch are directional signs. So if your ear hurts, you should communicate ‘hurt’ near your ear. If your knee hurts, communicate sign ‘hurt’ near your knee.

How-To-Teach-Baby-Sign-Language-signing pain

Keep in mind that most children will not mimic this until they are 12 months old.

But it’ll be good practice for you to start teaching this skill early.

In reality, you can work with a young child at any age.

This action from the child can be an invaluable tool one day, when a baby has an earache and can actually tell you she is in pain.

BED  – Rest your head on your hand.

When he or she sees this action mimicked, they will know playtime has ended. All toys put away for the day, pj’s on and now it’s time for bed time.

If it’s during the afternoon, he or she will know it’s nap time.

how-to-teach-baby-sign-language-signing bedYou may have to repeat this one a couple of times for you may fight a little defiance from your child.
But they’ll soon recognize that it’s time for bed.
how-to-teach-baby-sign-language-signing please

Just out of the mere fact of having good manners as they age, they’ll now be more appreciative before asking!

PLEASERight hand swung out from across chest

Signing In The Right Way

A couple in my old neighborhood had two children; one was totally deaf and the other slightly hearing impaired.

Testing at a well known ENT clinic, which also houses an audiologist office confirmed the children’s hearing status.

The couple also wondered why children get so sickly while in daycare, but couldn’t connect it to a child’s hearing disability.

At ages 10 months and two years old respectively, the parents realized a rough road ahead raising a hearing impaired child.

Otitis Media Can Cause Hearing Loss: Treatment Done In Other Countries

Other countries with advanced health care systems have well-established treatment guidelines. In general, these countries use a far less aggressive approach to the treatment of otitis media and hearing disabilities.

They consider drugs and surgery to be the last, rather than first resort. For parents struggling with the dilemma of recurrent otitis media in their child, it should give some comfort to know that millions of children around the world are treated without drugs and/or surgery.

This practice has not resulted in an epidemic of the complications once predicted.

Here are a few brief quotes from selected European guidelines:

“Watchful waiting (no drugs) is the approach of choice for all children older than one year….Analgesics (pain relievers) are the preferred symptomatic treatment at this moment.

In two recent reports from the United Kingdom it is recognized that “….unless children with OME are assessed symptomatically and repeatedly, a considerable proportion will undergo unwarranted surgery, with little or no resulting benefit.


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109 Replies to “Your Child Has a Hearing Disability | 10 Signs On Deaf Communication.”

  1. Smart English With Mizanur says:

    Teaching, an invaluable profession that is the door opening training for young learners. It must be based on the trends of the young.

    The young show trends that might be varied from one to another. So, Go on with your teaching activities before taking full coverage over youngs attention. Why your gesture for and what signs the learners express. Can you draw an adjustment or make a bridge from one to all to get the classroom or, teaching auditorium suitable and totally prepared for teaching. 

    So far, manage the classroom by your own genius by understanding the trends and interests of the young.

    When you get them all managed and concentrated to you that is they are totally prepared to hear and spontaneous to learn then start doing to make your target successful. 

    Teaching is a noble and remarkable profession but it is an art that must be by understanding the sign and mentality of the young.

    So, I like to tell that teaching is an art that a teacher does by his/her creativity, potential activities, what he /she can do the best by their posture.   

    When it is huge with teaching then “Will you count teaching as the best profession, why?”

    1. Ronald Kennedy says:

      I would consider teaching a great profession if, along with the specialty in their chosen field, they could also master the skill of signing & teaching to young students. The educational system should do more to employ individuals with these additional skills which will help the hearing impaired.

  2. Kwidzin says:

    This is a great article. Its amazing how much information we have out there nowadays for topics that would have been really hard to find out about when i was younger. If you wanted to know about sign language, then you’d have no doubt had to have gone and enrolled in a sign language course at college or Uni. thanks for sharing. keep up the good work

    1. Ronald Kennedy says:

      It’s a ‘good day,’ when families of hearing impaired children learn sign and better their communication skills. Even in the school system, educators should learn these skills as well in case they have hearing impaired students in the classroom.  

  3. Ann says:

    I am glad the parents of the two children were able to learn about useful tools for helping their kids. I have been researching a lot on this topic and I have discovered, that visual reinforcement is very important. And we can have a blackboard at home. It will become our great ally.

    1. Ronald Kennedy says:

      Hi Ann. I’m glad you found some value in my article. Yes I agree, visuals are very powerful and helpful to those being taught. They should always be used in any presentation!

  4. John says:

    I enjoy reviewing your article about teaching toddlers sign language. The topic is clear to understand to review the examples and visual copies to replicate the instructions for the young toddler to learn. I don’t have any questions as I know sign language myself for work. The sign languages seem universal, and they should be taught accordingly to avoid language barriers. My opinion about the topic is demanding and helpful to communicate with young and who may share challenges who are unable to. Thank you for sharing, and I hope my feedback was helpful. 

    1. Ronald Kennedy says:

      Thank you for checking in, my friend. This is an issue that effect many families around the globe. Families should be aware of problem with child’s hearing at an early age.


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