Should You Teach Sign Language to Your Twins?

When my twins started to show frustration at telling me what they wanted (because their speech hadn’t yet caught up with their demands!), I began to teach them how to use sign language. Since I had never used sign language before, we bought several videotapes designed to teach sign language to young children (and their parents!). At first, the twins didn’t seem to get the “connection” between signing and communication merely by watching the videos, but as I continued to reinforce the lessons with them through our interactions, I was amazed at how quickly they caught on. When the twins started signing, their signs were very primitive as they didn’t have the hand coordination to do them properly. But as they matured, their signs got more and more recognizable. Some of their favorite signs included “more,” “bird,” “cookie,” “book” and “cheese” (naturally, the things they want most!). Best of all, it was wonderful to see the look of satisfaction on their faces when they knew they were understood.

Sign language is beneficial to children because it helps to compensate for the fact that they often understand language before they’re able to express it well. For instance, when my son Austen wanted something from me but was unable to vocalize it, he would point to things and hum. If he pointed to the cupboard and made noise, I would have to guess at what he might want, which got very frustrating for both of us! But when he made the sign for “cookie,” and I said, “Oh, you want a cookie?” he jumped up and down with glee because he had been understood! In fact, toddlers naturally use a crude form of sign language merely by pointing to things they want or raising their arms when they want to be picked up. Therefore, teaching sign language is just providing them with more gestures to aid in their communication. Some parents worry that if children know signs that they won’t bother to learn spoken words, but I don’t believe that’s the case. As my children were able to speak more words, they used them in combination with their signs—it was like they were speaking in two languages!

DVDs That Teach Baby Sign Language:

My Baby Can Talk: First Signs

My Baby Can Talk: Sharing Signs

(Baby Hands Productions)

 

Baby See ’N Sign, Volumes 1 and 2 (Kronz Kidz Productions)

 

Signing Time! An American Sign Language (ASL) Video for Children, Volume 1

Signing Time! Volume 2: Playtime Signs

Signing Time! Volume 3: Everyday Signs

Signing Time! Volume 4: Family, Feelings and Fun

Signing Time! Volume 5: ABC Signs

Signing Time! Volume 6: My Favorite Things

(Two Little Hands Productions)

 

Sign-a-Lot, The Big Surprise! A “Hands-On” Adventure! (Barbara Granoff and Lee Sher)

Baby Einstein: Baby Wordsworth—First Words: Around the House (Walt Disney Video)

 

Books That Teach Baby Sign Language:

Acredolo, Linda, et al. Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Briant, Monta Z. Baby Sign Language Basics: Early Communication for Hearing Babies and Toddlers. Hay House, 2004.

Brown, Christopher, and John Clements. Sign Language for Babies and Toddlers. Thunder Bay Press, 2005.

Fixell, Andrea, and Ted Stafford. Baby Signing: How to Talk with Your Baby in American Sign Language. Studio, 2006.

Garcia, Joseph. Sign with Your Baby: How to Communicate with Infants Before They Can Speak. Northlight Communications, 2002.

Ryan, Diane. Complete Idiot’s Guide to Baby Sign Language. Alpha, 2006.

 

Copyright ©2007 by Susan M. Heim. Adapted from It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence (Hampton Roads, 2007).

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.