Thanks for joining me for Week 3 of my Baby Sign Language series! So far I’ve shared a bit of my experience signing with my two boys (aka why we love sign!) and what research shows about its benefits. Today I’m digging into the gems we’ve come across for kiddos relating to learning sign: books, apps, videos, and online dictionaries.
We haven’t used books extensively for teaching signing. I find the best way to teach sign is within context in your normal routine. (More on this in my next post and this one and this one too!) Also, keep in mind that
Any book can be a sign language book!
Whatever your child’s favorite books are, learn a few applicable signs. We quickly learned the signs cat and shoes for our favorite Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. This allowed Toddler Bookworm to “request” the book he wanted to read, and also while reading he or I would point to the pictures and sign. Recently Toddler Bookworm #2 learned the sign for shoes from this perennial favorite as well, as he first formed the sign while I was singing and signing my heart out to the refrain “I love my white shoes!”
We also enjoyed using our word books as practice for signs. Toddler Bookworm LOVED pointing to a picture in his word book and signing together! He actually loved to be quizzed, too! Our favorite word books were Roger Priddy’s Colors ABC Numbers and First 100 Words, oversized with bright, simple photographs!
That said, we’ve come across a few books we’ve enjoyed that feature signing. As Toddler Bookworm gets older, I’m noticing he is more aware of the hand formations in the photos and illustrations. If you’re reading with a younger bookworm, the modeling they’re more likely to notice will come from you, the reader! When we were first starting out with Bookworm #1, I found the books below to be really helpful teaching aids for ME.
Baby Signs: A Baby-Sized Introduction to Speaking with Sign Language. by Joy Allen. This is my top recommendation for the newest signers. It is a sturdy board book with bright illustrations. It caught my babies’ eyes from the earliest board book days, and it taught me the basic signs we would come to rely on! Each page includes an illustration along with an explanation in words of how to form the sign. Thirteen highly used signs are featured: milk, water, more, all done, diaper, dog, cat, it hurts, help me, mommy, daddy, book, and sleepy.
Signing Smart series (My First Signs and What Do You See?) by Michelle Anthony & Reyna Lindert. The authors of this book are among the researchers I mentioned in last week’s post. They pack a lot into a board book! Each two page spread includes two signs and photos of an adult and child signing, the signs used in a sentence, and a “touch & feel” element (flap to lift, mirror, texture); the last two pages include signing strategies for caregivers.
Sesame Street: Sign Language ABC. Believe it or not, this one my mom stored away from when I was little! It’s no longer in print, but you can snag a used copy for a penny. As the title suggests, it includes the sign for each letter of the alphabet along with 2-3 signs of items beginning with that letter, often relating to or featuring Sesame Street characters. This is more advanced, but we have loved it!
Brainy Baby: Talking Hands. This is an oversized board book with photographs of children signing in various categories: family, everyday (help/eat/bed/play/drink), manners, opposites, feelings, counting, and things (book, dog, toy, shoes). If you used the signs in this book alone you would have a fabulous baby sign vocabulary! This one is also out of print, but it’s available used for a few cents, or maybe at your library.
For (Slightly) Older Signers
Although my Toddler Bookworm was interested in these titles, they are geared more for older signers (preschool & up).
Hands & Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli. This is a beautiful picture book with pencil & watercolor illustrations that could stand on its own as a recommended book about a fun day at the beach. Told in fifteen short poems, it follows a mother and daughter as they share a special day together at the ocean… all while communicating in sign! Each page features a sidebar showing how to make a sign that appears in the text of that page, and often appears in the illustration as well.
Signing in My World by Kathryn Cray, part of the Time to Sign series: Signing at Home, Signing Around Town, and Signing at Home. This series is intended for older bookworms (preschool- 2nd grade), but would serve as a great reference for parents for useful signs (especially if you’re looking for ideas of what signs to introduce next). Many pages contain photographs that make this part word book as well, thereby appealing to younger audiences.
You Can Learn Sign Language! by Jackie Kramer & Tali Ovadia. In the space of 48 pages, more than 300 signs are taught in this book. Each double spread follows a topic and demonstrates a variety of signs relating to it. For example, the pages titled Outside teach moon, cloud, car, home, flower, sun, wind, snow, perfect, warm, hot, tree, car, and “Where do you live?” Out of print, but well worth a bargain price if you can snag it.
There are a variety of other books available that are picture dictionaries of signs. I would recommend taking a look at any that your library has in its collection. Librarians are trained to scour the review sources for the best books to add to their collection; use their expertise!
Online Resources & Apps
I often will simply look up signs as the need arises by using an online dictionary or googling with “ASL” in my search term, e.g “stingray ASL.” Which leads me to my favorite online resources:
Baby Sign Language Dictionary (online dictionary). The dictionary at Baby Signing Time’s website has well over 500 words with videos, flash cards, and tips for teaching the signs. Very helpful! Note: they offer an app, but it simply takes you to their site and the app doesn’t have great functionality.
I tested out many signing apps intended for kids, and I really wanted to like them… but I didn’t. I found a few decent signing dictionary apps, but they aren’t ones I would let my toddler loose with, or that he would enjoy. If you’re looking for one for yourself to look up words, and show a quick (2 second) video clip to your little signer, check out Baby Sign and Learn Dictionary. The videos teach the sign through modeling as well as a verbal description of how the sign is made, with a visual of the word (for example, the sign careful shows a picture of child balancing a block on the top of a shaky tower), and tips for parents on when/how to introduce the sign.
If you don’t mind spending a few dollars, Baby Sign & Sing is a decent option. Animated babies sing and sign a variety of nursery rhymes. You can get a feel for the app for free, and test out one song (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”); you can purchase 9 songs for $2.99.
Baby Signing Time. We absolutely love this video series, and it is available at our library. Host Rachel Coleman teaches each featured sign and then sings (and signs) original songs to help your child practice. There’s also footage of children and families signing in context. It has held my kids’ attention and they really do pick up on signs from watching. (I do sit with them and sign along with the video, as my needs for cooking dinner, cleaning, and writing blog posts allow! With Bookworm #1 we didn’t allow any screentime before age 2, with this series as the only exception. It’s that good! With Bookworm #2 we limit as best as possible, but his attention doesn’t hold for any of big bro’s shows, and really only for this series!) Their website runs promotions from time to time, so if you’re looking to purchase these you may want to sign up for their email list. Netflix offers Signing Time, but it is the version for older kids (ages 3-8), not the Baby Signing Time series.
Brainy Baby: Talking Hands DVD. This video is set to classical music, and teaches a variety of words by combining video of adults and children practicing the sign along with images & video of the topic word. I appreciated the diversity of signers and children that were featured, and also that it was not “abrasive” (simple, calm music & video that get the job done). A good variety of words are included, both high interest (dog, cookie, bubbles), manners (thank you), people (mom, dad, grandmom), directions (stop, go, sit, stand) This was available to us through our library’s Hoopla digital download subscription. See if your library has it!
Resources mentioned in this post should be available at your local library, or at the Amazon affiliate links provided.