Books and DVDs and Classes, Oh My!
Parents often ask me what the best resources are for teaching your baby sign language. Should I buy a book? Can you recommend a DVD? Flashcards? Here’s a recent example from a parent…
My first question is: how or where can I get materials for home use? Flash cards? Posters? Books? Are there any free printable downloads or places to purchase these things and what would you recommend to start with? I have been looking but the options are endless!
This is SUCH a good question, and one I know lots of parents have. To help parents get started, I’ve created a list of my favorite tools & resources to help guide you on along your path.
And to help you sort through the hundreds of other resources out there, I give you…
The Ultimate Baby Sign Language Resource Guide
I’ve been teaching baby sign language since 2009 and have strong opinions about what resources I recommend. There are so many options to choose from! Classes, books, DVDs, flashcards… And while I can’t review every class, book and DVD available, I’d like to tell you the pros and cons of each type of learning tool, as well as share my favorites in each category.
The absolute BEST way to learn to sign with your baby is through a live class with a skilled instructor and other parents like yourself. Live baby sign language classes generally meet weekly for a series of classes and teach signs, songs and strategies over the course of the session. You’ll learn tons of songs & activities that you can use at home and get tips & strategies from your instructor.
An experienced instructor will guide you through the entire process of learning to sign: from giving tips on which signs to start with, strategies for making signing fun and engaging for your baby, and activities you can use throughout the week. Most importantly, your knowledgeable instructor can answer your specific questions — which is something no book or DVD can offer. Bonus: you’ll also meet other like-minded families in your community. Can’t beat that!
Finding an established program can be tricky — there might not be a class in your area, and if there is, the time, price or location might not work for your family. Or you might find a program nearby, but the instructor isn’t quite the expert you were looking for.
To see if there’s a class in your area, check out the following links:
An online class is the next best thing to a live class. In general, online classes provide all you’ll get in a live class, minus the in-person interaction. A good online class includes video instruction on signing, lessons with tips and strategies, printable guides and resources, an experienced instructor who is available to answer all your questions, and an interactive community (like an online forum or an private Facebook group) where you can connect with other parents who are learning too.
Online classes are a great solution for busy parents who want the flexibility of learning online. They’re also ideal for anyone who doesn’t have time or access to in-person classes. You can work through the material at your own pace (and in your PJs!) and refer back to it in the future, should you need a refresher. A quality online course also offers a community experience where you can interact with other parents to learn and support each other through the process. Direct access to a knowledgeable and experienced instructor sets a quality online course apart from “courses” that provide little more than an online video dictionary.
Do your homework. Anyone with an internet connection can create a “baby sign language course” even if their only experience is signing with their own children. Check the credentials of the person offering the program to make sure they have completed training in this field. Look to see if they have a background in child development, early childhood education or speech/language development, as well as a solid knowledge of American Sign Language.
I am more than a little biased here, but I spent more than 2 years creating Tiny Signs Online, a 6-week online course to teach your baby sign language. This program offers EVERYTHING you need and is exactly what I wish I had when I was muddling my way through signing with my first baby. If an online course sounds like the way to go for you, you’ll definitely want to check it out.
Because signing is visual and involves movement, it’s MUCH easier to learn from a video than a book. DVDs can be a wonderful tool to build your sign language vocabulary and provide some educational entertainment for your whole family.
The are some extremely high quality sign language DVDs available that your family will enjoy. A good video is both educational and entertaining to watch and provides lots of opportunities to learn and practice new signs. You can really build and expand your signing vocabulary using videos.
Even if you’re NOT following the “no screen time before age 2” recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, you’re probably not going to want to park your 6 month old infant in front of the TV, so DVDs aren’t as helpful when you’re first starting out. Research has also shown that young children learn best through responsive interaction with their caregivers, not from passively watching videos. Another downside of using DVDs I’ve seen is families making the mistake of letting their toddler watch the shows unsupervised, so the child learns new signs and uses them, but the parent has no idea what they’re signing. To avoid this happening, be sure to watch WITH your child.
Honestly, there is really only one DVD series I ever recommend. Two Little Hands make a WONDERFUL series called Baby Signing Time that is the gold standard in baby sign language videos. My kids loved all four volumes of Baby Signing Time, then moved on to the Signing Time series, and currently are enjoying the Rachel and the Treeschoolers series. You’ll love them too.
Books for Parents
As a self-proclaimed bookworm myself, the first thing I do when I want to learn more about something is head to Amazon.com. There are a number of books available on baby sign language and they are not all created equal.
A good book written by a knowledgeable author can provide a solid foundation of the topic and help you feel confident and knowledgeable. A good book can also serve as a handy reference and guide.
While books often provide answers to frequently asked questions, they can’t answer YOUR specific questions, like an instructor in a class would be able to. It’s also very hard to learn how to sign from photographs. You need to see the sign in action (live or on video) to really see how it’s done.
There are quite a few good books on the market, but I always recommend Signing Smart with Babies and Toddlers. It’s written by Drs. Anthony & Lindert, who also created the Signing Smart certification program I completed in 2008. Their book is filled with great information, strategies and fun activities. I also really like Dr. Joseph Garcia’s book, Sign With Your Baby. It’s a quick read and packed with great information.
Books for Babies
Board books are my favorite toy for babies. A sturdy board book with bright pictures is as good as it gets — and can be a great catalyst for introducing new signs to your baby.
All board books are great for your baby – but ones with photos or a theme that repeats throughout can really help with signing. A good board book that also teaches you how to sign along in American Sign Language is even better!
There are a number of baby signing board books out there that use made up or ‘baby-friendly’ signs instead of ASL. This causes a lot of confusion if you are planning to use American Sign Language with your baby (which I recommend), so check the details before you buy.
- Signing Smart: My First Signs
- Signing Smart: What Do You See?
- Baby’s First Signs by Kim Votry
- More Baby’s First Signs by Kim Votry
- Out For A Walk by Kim Votry
Parents often ask me about flashcards, and honestly, I’m not a huge fan. Babies don’t learn best by being “quizzed” and most flashcard sets just aren’t durable enough for a baby to explore on their own, which is the only way I would recommend using them.
Flashcards can be a handy reference to keep in your bag. Your baby might enjoy looking at the pictures and playing with them on the ring that attaches them together.
Flashcards can be pretty bulky and heavy to carry around. They’ll also likely get bent and chewed on by your baby, which is totally fine – just don’t be surprised!
So there you have it…
I hope you enjoyed this round up of my favorite resources and tools for learning baby sign language. If you have any more questions about signing with your baby, please share it in the comments below and I’ll be sure to respond. If an online baby sign language course if for you, I invite you to join me for the next session of Tiny Signs Online – you won’t regret it!
Join the upcoming session of Tiny Signs Online!