Using ASL to Support Motor Development

Have you ever wondered what are the benefits of using American Sign Language (ASL)?  We get this question a lot when presenting to early childhood professionals. The connection between ASL and language is easy to understand.  However, the connection between ASL and the other developmental domains aren’t as noticeable.  Especially in motor development.IMG_2624

Using ASL with young children is one of the best strategies we’ve found to support language development and build vocabulary.  However, it also strengthens fine motor skills.  The repetitive nature of sign language and the fact that many signs either meet at the mid-line or crossing it helps strengthen the muscles in the hands as well as supports motor planning in the brain.  When we encourage children to meet at or cross the mid-line it supports the wiring of the brain. Providing experiences that support early brain development, provides opportunities for children to strengthen their natural talents as well as be prepared for school and life success.

ASL is a great language to integrate with all young children. It supports all learners!  ASL is a visual language therefore supporting your visual learners by making visual meaning of the words and sounds they hear.  Since children are actively engaged in signing it supports kinesthetic learners as well by engaging the child in movement in order to make the language more tangible.  We strongly suggest that you speak and sign in a tandem approach.  Using this tandem approach supports your auditory learners too.  Through this multi-sensory approach ASL is a strategy that is not only easy to integrate into any curriculum but also meets the diverse learns in our schools today.

Some of our favorite games to integrate ASL into to support language and motor development are:

  • Stop/Go – a form of Red Light, Green Light.  In this game students move (dance) when you sign ‘GO’ and freeze or stop moving when you sign ‘STOP.’  This is a great game to play with young children, even as early as 16 months.
  • Simon Says with action words.  In this game students will complete the action that ‘Simon Says.’  We suggest adding in ASL as you give the command.
  • Acting out the Nursery Rhyme.  We love the nursery rhyme, Jack Be Nimble.  However, we love it more when we add ASL to the rhyme and change the action of ‘jump’ to other things like, ‘walk’, ‘run’, or ‘skip’  You can also change the rhyme by switching Jack to your students names.  This creates their own personal rhyme.

Now when someone asks you,  “Why are you using ASL with hearing children?” you can now provide them with some wonderful information.

Want to learn more?  Come join the fun and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  We love sharing the gift of ASL with others.

Also, we’ve created wonderful ASL resources to use in your program, visit us on Teachers Pay Teachers, Syllabuy or Teacher’s Notebook and have fun incorporating ASL into your program! 

Happy Signing II