Beginning Your Signing Smart Journey

Beginning your Signing Smart journey

When should I start Signing Smart?
What are the advantages of starting early?
What are the advantages of starting after a child's first birthday?
When is it too late to begin signing with my child/the children in my care?

(Top)  When should I start Signing Smart?
This simple answer is - today! Signing Smart with your child is worthwhile at any age, especially because our strategies lead to enhanced interactions, communication, and learning, regardless of how much your child may be talking. And remember - even before you baby can learn to wave or clap, he can learn to sign. Signing Smart babies begin signing back as early as 5 months of age! Why? Gross motor development and research-proven strategies!

  • Signing builds on natural gross-motor movements that all children produce.
  • Because this gross-motor ability develops earlier than the fine motor coordination needed to control the mouth, tongue and throat muscles, young children are able to sign many thoughts and ideas before they can speak these same thoughts and ideas.

But more than simply being capable of signing, Signing Smart allows children to sign back as quickly and prolifically as possible.

  • Signing Smart gives parents the tools and resources to create the types of interactions that facilitate early signing, allow children to have easy access to the signs (even if they do not look directly at their parents), and allow parents to recognize and reinforce their child's first sign attempts!
  • Taking advantage of the Signing Smart Start and the Four Keys to Signing Smart Success allows you and your child to have fun learning and using our simple and successful programming!

(Top)  What are the advantages of starting early?
The benefits of starting early are many:

  • Children whose families learn our strategies and techniques early on can have 30-some signs by their first birthday. In fact, results from our national study demonstrates that Signing Smart children at 12 months have on average 25 signs and 16 spoken words, compared to the typical non-signer's 1-3 spoken words!
  • These children often have an early interest in books and reading, connecting their newfound vocabulary with objects and ideas.
  • Parents who begin Signing Smart with children under a year are also able to have a window into their child's mind at a remarkably early age, building memory and intellectual abilities.
  • While younger signers (those 10 months old and younger) can sometimes take longer to sign back, this is not always the case. The timeframe for signing back is influenced by more than just chronological age or the amount of time an individual family has been signing. A family's use of the Signing Smart Start and the Four Keys to Signing Smart Success plays a large role in the length of time it takes for a child to begin signing. In one example, a 13-month-old's family had been signing since he was 5 months old with small increments of success. Within a single hour after learning only a small handful of Signing Smart techniques, the little boy began using 3 new signs and 4 new words!

(Top)  What are the advantages of starting after a child's first birthday?
For those with children 12 months and older - good news! This is a great age to begin Signing Smart.

  • "Older" babies tend to learn to sign back faster, and are able to produce more signs in a shorter time, largely because of their more sophisticated motor abilities and more developed comprehension skills, compared to younger children. Add in some Signing Smart strategies and your child will be off and running in no time!
  • Because Signing Smart strategies are developed to grow with your child, while "older" infants and toddlers are "mastering" early words, they can comment, question, and converse with signs, expanding their vocabulary and therefore making it both larger and broader than if they had needed to wait for all the sound patterns to emerge before they could begin to interact in the same way with their caregivers and parents.

(Top)  When is it too late to begin signing with my child/the children in my care?
Some parents or caregivers wonder if there is a time when their child is too old to begin Signing Smart. Our emphatic answer is that it is never too late to start integrating ASL signs and our Signing Smart Strategies into your interactions with your child. Why?

  • Signing Smart parents learn tools to use signs for concept development and learning. ASL signs provide visual highlights of concepts, ideas, or actions, making understanding and learning that much easier.
  • Research by Dr. Michelle Anthony, one of the founders of Signing Smart, has found that children who can systematically integrate language and gesture systems together display higher literacy rates than do other children. Research by Dr. Marilyn Daniels shows that even those hearing children who are not exposed to signs until the preschool years go on to display enhanced vocabulary, spelling, and reading skills over non-signing children (for more on this and other research, see our Research page). Therefore, it is never too late to introduce signs to young children. Even preschoolers can benefit from learning basic signs.
  • Signing Smart parents also learn ways to use signs and Signing Smart strategies to help children clarify their early words. This allows communication to remain successful and allows parents to correctly reinforce spoken word attempts, thereby encouraging their child to talk even more and in more extended sentences.