If you are ready to introduce American Sign Language (ASL) to your family, I recommend you first learn the ASL alphabet. Although your little ones will not be ready to spell in sign for a while, many of the alphabet positions are used in signs for words, so you will be one step ahead if you already know those beginning signs. (For example, the sign for “breakfast” uses the “B” position brought up to the mouth.)
No matter how young your child is, using the sign language alphabet when you are singing the ABCs is a great way to expose your child to ASL without putting any pressure on him to perform. Simply use the signs yourself when you are singing. If your child is anything like Noah, it will only take a few times before he will be trying to use the signs himself. Let him experiment, don’t worry about perfecting his movements. Save those efforts for teaching functional words. If you have older children, you will be amazed at how quickly they pick these letters up. Then when you practice and you forget one of the letters, they will be more than happy to demonstrate it correctly for you. I have found children and teenagers LOVE having a “secret” language they can communicate in, and my husband and I have used it once or twice when the children weren’t paying attention. Sweet!
Here is a link to a printable ASL alphabet chart – I love the clarity of the fingers on this. You can see exactly how to position your fingers. http://www.coloring-pages-book-for-kids-boys.com/images/american_sign_language_alphabets_all_at_coloringpageskidsboys.gif.
Here is an entire set of sign language letter coloring pages. http://www.dltk-teach.com/alphabuddies/asl/index.htm. You can print them in color to hang, or you can have your children color them themselves. We (especially Daddy 🙂 who is away at work when we are learning our new signs) find it very helpful to have the signs we are working on visible in the dining room where we can reference them easily until we have mastered them.
You and your older children will have a ball practicing your ASL alphabet and fingerspelling skills over at www.lifeprint.com. For seeing each letter signed by a real hand, go here: http://asl.gs/. For practice recognizing words spelled in ASL, go here: http://asl.ms/.
Let us know how it’s going – we’d love to hear.