Category: Speech & Sign Language

Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Benefits of Baby Sign Language


After signing with both of our daughters and teaching ASL vocabulary to more than 100 babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, I have witnessed countless benefits! Parents love knowing exactly what their little ones are thinking about and the child’s self-esteem is strengthened. Here are five more benefits of baby sign language:

  1. Sign language is helpful for all learning types, especially visual, tactile, and kinesthetic!
  2. Signing often reduces tantrums and increases the bond between child and caregiver.
  3. Signing allows preverbal children to initiate conversations with the adults in their lives.
  4. Isolating hand movements for each sign builds fine motor and gross motor skills.
  5. One study showed that a group of children who signed when they were preverbal had higher IQ scores as second graders than the group of children who did not sign.

What is YOUR favorite benefit of signing with your child?

5 Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Potty Training and American Sign Language

Potty Training and American Sign Language

Our younger daughter is 34 months old today*! As she nears the exciting age of three, we’ve been crossing major milestones off the list. We recently turned her carseat forward, and she’s been asking for a “big girl” bed for about a month.

When we returned from our family vacation at the end of June, I knew it was time to begin our BIG potty training adventure!

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We offered Kate several opportunities to use the toilet over the past six months, but she would happily sit there for several minutes at a time…with no results. We watched our Potty Time DVD multiple times and downloaded the Potty Time app (FREE!)–the perfect fit for our Signing Time/Rachel Coleman fan!

About Potty Time from Signing Time on Vimeo.

I wanted potty-training to be a positive experience for both of us, so I picked up necessary supplies and cleared our calendar for a week. I knew that Kate needed to learn her body’s cues, and that meant a lot of time near the potty chair.

Potty Training and American Sign Language | child development, milestones, potty training tips, toddler, Baby Signing Time, sign language, life skills, parenting

Our potty training supplies:

Our potty training strategy:

Week 1–we stayed home and Kate spent her days in underwear. I quickly realized that she could stay dry for hours at a time, so setting the timer for every 30 minutes was incredibly frustrating for both of us. I lightened up considerably by Wednesday afternoon, handling accidents with a smile and reassurance. By Friday, she had figured out the feeling and was making it to the potty chair with plenty of time to spare!

Our trick? Cumulative Smarties! The first success of the day earned her ONE piece of candy, the second earned her TWO, and so on! One roll of candy lasted all day long.

Week 2–we had some setbacks over the weekend, so we both had to relax and re-learn the routine. It was clear that the Potty Time app was great incentive for Kate. She LOVED putting a digital Hopkins sticker on her chart and “calling” Rachel when she had a success. (Note: she did NOT like calling Rachel for the accidents. I think it embarrassed her, so we focused on the positive.)

Week 3–we were able to leave the house IN UNDERWEAR for errands! She successfully used the public restroom on three different occasions and no longer had accidents during the day at home. She found her routine–stopping during play, pulling shorts up and down, and washing her hands in the bathroom with the step-stool!

We’ve promised our sweet girl her own “big girl bed” as her potty training reward–and I am thrilled with fewer laundry loads after three years of cloth diapers. I know that we still have a few more milestones to go when it comes to toilet training, but I am very proud of her quick progress over these past few weeks!

I’m so thankful for the role that Rachel Coleman and Potty Time played in Kate’s potty training success. Using ASL signs allowed Kate to communicate her needs quietly and gave us the opportunity to celebrate with her every success!

Have you used ASL with potty training? Any other helpful tips that worked for your little ones?

* Note: This post was originally written and published on our previous blog ( in July 2014. 

Want to learn more about using sign language for early literacy & communication?

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Will Signing Delay Speech?

Will Signing Delay Speech?

One of the questions/concerns/fears that comes up most frequently when I talk about sign language with other parents is huge:

Will signing with my child delay his/her speech?

Let me just say, I get it! I completely understand where the fear comes from. We want the best for our children, and we don’t want to do anything that might mess them up. What a lot of pressure!

Social media and our culture of comparison adds to the pressure as well. It’s so easy to compare our children to those we hear about on a daily basis. Uncle Jim’s neighbor’s niece was walking at 6 months! The grocery store clerk’s second cousin has been talking since he was 3 months old!

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but the bottom line is this:

every child is different and will develop at his/her own pace.

Yes, there are things we can do to help our children along, like reading books everyday and singing songs and playing silly games. But some kids are slow to walk. Some kids are slow to talk. And some kids take forever to potty train!

(Then again, some kids are early walkers, early talkers, early readers, and that comes with its own unique set of challenges.)

Let me tell you a little bit about our family:

We have two daughters who are as different as night and day. They are both sweet as pie, but raising #2 has been the polar opposite of our experience with #1!

Addie’s story:

Our older daughter is a walking miracle. Our girl was born at 26 weeks, weighing 1 pound, 8 ounces. She spent 135 days in the NICU, had five surgeries before her third birthday (four before coming home from the hospital for the first time), and has permanent peripheral vision loss due to an amazing, innovative procedure designed to keep her retinas from detaching.

Fast-forward several months, and it probably won’t surprise you that Addie had developmental delays, despite her 1:1 caregiver/child ratio and weekly occupational therapy sessions. Our ECI team recommended we start speech therapy at the age of 18 months, and we agreed. My notes from that first session say, “Addie made lots of sounds.”

Our amazing Speech and Language Pathologist (Ms. Tina) recommended we start signing with Addie to jump start her speech. Her rationale was simple: we could gently place our hands on top of Addie’s hands to help her start signing! And it worked.

In just a couple of months, Addie was speaking and signing at a level close to the peers born around her original due date. After a year of speech therapy, she was caught up with children her actual age. By the time she “tested out” of therapy on her third birthday, her speech was estimated to be at the 60 month/5 year level.

We loved signing with Addie (still do!), so we knew we would sign with our second daughter from the beginning. Kate is our full-term miracle. We had no idea if I would be able to carry a baby past 26 weeks, and she amazed us! Kate was born at 37 weeks: 5 pounds, 6 ounces of pure sweetness!

Will Signing Delay Speech? | sign language, speech delay, toddler, baby signs, American Sign Language, benefits of signing with my baby

Kate’s story:

Kate was a very quiet baby (she lives in a very LOUD house). By her first birthday, I knew she understood what we were saying to her, but choosing not to speak. She was also very slow to sign back to us, though she responded whenever we signed milk, eat, cookie, play, etc.

She was signing milk and more sporadically, but started signing in earnest at around 14-15 months. By the 18 month mark–the age we started signing with Addie–Kate had well over 20 signs and about 5 words (mama, dada, uh-oh, more, nana). She’s now 20 months old* and can sign about 70 words. Her speech is exploding. She says about five new words a day (words she already knew the sign for), knows several opposite pairs (up/down, hot/cold, dirty/clean), and a couple colors. (Her favorite sign is rainbow.)

Will signing delay speech?

Two babies, in the same family, raised the same way. One was not signed to for the first year and a half, the other was signed to (along with speech) from birth. At 18 months, they were both very quiet children–some might even say delayed, if they were comparing to other children/internet myths. 🙂

This quote from Rachel Coleman, co-creator of Signing Time, has stuck with me (published in a blog post written September 2011):

“Language doesn’t delay language. The fear of signing is ridiculous and thinking that a child will not talk because they first signed is as preposterous as saying, “don’t let your child crawl or they will never learn to walk.” Babies crawl before they walk and they sign before they talk. If your child has the ability to deliver a spoken language, they will acquire that skill whether or not you sign with them. If they happen to have a speech delay or a disability that gets in the way of speaking, then thank heavens you are signing with them and giving them a way to be understood. If your child’s speech is delayed, it is not the signing that delays speech… it is something else entirely, because communication doesn’t delay communication.” 

When Kate was barely speaking at 18 months, I was concerned and frustrated that we might have to do speech therapy again. I said so many times to my husband and to my friends, “I am just thankful she signs! How great that we know what she wants!” In just a few short months, she caught up and surpassed “normal speech” for children her age.

Those children that crawl early, walk early, climb early? They are the ones most likely to enjoy and benefit from signing! Their bodies are so busy with all those fine and gross motor skills. What better way to communicate?

I do think it’s important that every family do what is best for their unique situation. If that includes signing, I am happy to help you find resources to get started/keep going!

One more thing: I have never had a parent say to me, “I wish I hadn’t used sign language with my children.” But many, many, many (including myself) have said, “I wish I had started sooner!”

* Update: Kate is now five years old and extremely well-spoken. She reads (like her big sister) and is still very passionate about sign language. We are working on ASL grammar with the goal of making it our family’s second language.

This post was originally published on our previous blog,, on May 6, 2013.