Is your toddler crying and whining to communicate what he wants?

It might be helpful to introduce a few functional signs. Signs can help children express themselves, reducing communicative frustration. Signs are considered to be words that are produced with the hands instead of the speech mechanism.

They are easier for children to use that orally produced words and have been evidenced to facilitate speech production and oral word use, especially when paired with spoken words.

When introducing signs, start with just one or two signs for the purpose of requesting, e.g., signs for more and please. Use hand-over-hand modeling to teach the signs, e.g., taking your child’s hands and performing the sign for him or her. Over time, fade the level of support you provide your child to facilitate their use of the signs.
After your child becomes proficient with a requesting sign, introduce early vocabulary items, e.g., ball, car, train, music, open, eat, drink, milk, cookie, cracker, all done, help and thank you.

1) More

Functional Sign - More

The ‘more’ sign is an amazing tool for your child to be able to request food, actions, drinks, toys, books and anything really he or she would like to experience again!

2) Help

Functional Sign - Help

Is your child stuck? Did their toy break or drop? Did they loose their shoe? Encouraging your child to ask for help will allow him or her to understand they can shape their environment with the power of communication; rather than crying, fussing or yelling.

3) Want

Functional Sign - Want

Encourage your child to ask for what he or she wants! This will help you child build vocabulary into moving into short phrases, such as “I want juice!” or “I want Mommy!”

4) Open

Functional Sign - Open

Empower your child ask you to Open the door, Open their snack, Open the book, Open a toy, Open your bag!

5) All Done

Functional Sign - All Done

Finished playing with a toy? Sign All Done when cleaning it up. Is your child done with lunch? Help them sign, All Done. your child will learn to tell you when they don’t like something, or prefer to be finished.

6) Mom:

Functional Sign - Mom


Functional Sign - Dad

Make it necessary that your child asks for you! Pretend you don’t know who they want! Help them answer who questions; and identify turn taking. Whose turn is it? Mommy’s Turn!

7) Eat

Functional Sign - Eat

Knowing the sign to eat will help your child be able to tell you when they are hungry, and continue to build vocabulary. What do you want? Do you want to Eat or Play? Let your child choose from different responses and continue to build language.

8) Milk

Functional Sign - Milk

Give your child a word for the drink they love and request they use it before they are given the milk or their bottle. Make your child request it; each and every time!

When practicing, especially when introducing a new sign, have two adults working with your child, in that one person holds the toy/object that your child is requesting and the other person does hand-over- hand modeling of the sign. The person holding the toy/object sits across from your child, at eye level with him/her, and the other person sits behind him/her, taking his/her hands to help him/her physically produce the sign.

Chatterboxes offers quality Speech-Language & Occupational Therapy in Boston, MA. We also offer flexible service options for your family. Call us today at 617-969-8255 or visit us at 121 Mt Vernon St, Boston, MA 02108.