Is Your Child Too OLD To Use Signs? (HINT: NO!)

A letter from Abbey Cook, Owner & Director of Communication Junction

June 30, 2021

Have you ever seen us share information on sign classes with Communication Junction and thought... My child doesn’t need sign anymore. He/she is too old and signing is just for babies who haven’t started talking yet. Well just like many of you, once my boys started talking, signing started to disappear at our house. It’s just what naturally happens. I had to remind myself daily to keep signing with them, even once they were talking because signing can play a huge role in early literacy... and it definitely paid off for both of my boys. Keep reading to the end and I’ll share how I used signs at this age with them.

As our kiddos grow, we transition from using signs with our babies to help communicate wants and needs, to using signs to clarify spoken language and learn new vocabulary. So, now you’ve arrived at the place where your little one is talking non-stop - why use signs?

  • To introduce new vocabulary and concepts
  • To help with literacy skills &
  • To help express feelings/emotions

*Bonus, it’s a lot of fun!

Here’s how you can use signs with your preschool and school-aged kiddos:

  • Use signs to teach new vocabulary. In our preschool Sign and Play Classes, we are not signing as much as we do in our other classes. Instead, signs are used to teach and highlight new vocabulary and concepts.  
  • Use signs to reinforce literacy skills. Research shows that using signs with hearing preschoolers actually enhances their ability to read. Signing helps give a picture to a letter or a word. Children are able to associate the letters in a word with a sign, which allows them to remember the word more easily. When you continue to use sign language with older children, you give them a way to access and connect the spelling, the word, and the concept in a visual way! ⁠
  • Use signs to express feelings. Sometimes it’s easier to sign than express yourself verbally. Keeping an arsenal of signs in your daily routine can help a child that is overwhelmed, frustrated or shy, express feelings/wants and needs. It can also help you as you shape and promote behaviors. We still use “POTTY”, “EAT”, “HOME” and “I LOVE YOU”; especially when in crowded spaces or across the room from each other.
  • Use signs to clarify speech. Many kiddos are still working through speech sounds and delays at this age. Continuing to sign will help your child feel successful in communication while working through speech sound development and intelligibility.

So, how did signing with preschoolers look at my house? Here's my favorite example... My youngest really struggled in a way that my oldest did not in learning his ABCs. He had a hard time identifying letter names when shown the written/printed letter. What he excelled at was identifying letter names when shown the sign... so I paired them together. When working on ABC identification activities, I would add signs for letters he struggled with. If we got to a letter he didn’t know, he would look to me for the sign. After showing him the sign, he (most of the time) could verbally identify the letter. Over time we were able to fade away the signs as he became more and more proficient, but for about 6-9mos, having that understanding of the manual alphabet was so beneficial.

Some of our instructors with older kids have shared that their kiddos have used the manual alphabet and signs to study for spelling tests, master those tricky letters (b/d, p/q) and learn all about rhymes.  

Whether it’s learning the ABC’s, letter sounds for phonics, or beginning to decode words, sign language can help... SO, keep signing, even after your child is speaking!

Stay Healthy,
Abbey Cook
Owner & Director - Communication Junction

PS  - Still have questions about signing and language development with our preschoolers or curious about our Preschool Sign and Play Classes? Head over to our Social Media and join the conversation!