I've mentioned I'm a big proponent of children with disabilities picking up American Sign Language. In particular, my own daughter will probably never be able to express herself effectively with actual speech. So sign language provides a very effective way for her to express her needs, wants, feelings and more. Even if a child is able to speak, it's been proven that children who sign first acquire spoken language faster and have larger vocabularies.
So how do you go about teaching your child sign? One way my wife and I have had success with in our home is with Signing Time videos. This series of half-hour lessons is produced by a family who has a couple of daughters with disabilities. The family is well known on the local music scene here in Utah. So they put their music and producing talent to work on this educational series. Signing Time uses music and animation along with live action of children, in order teach American Sign Language to viewers.
My family owns the first six videos and my daughter loves them. She claps to the songs, mimics the signs and insists on watching at least one video each day. We rotate through them so my little one can pick up as many different signs as possible. My little girl continues to learn new signs and use them to communicate. My wife and I work with our little one too, but I have to give quite a bit of credit to Signing Time. The music and animation captures her attention helps her learn to communicate. It's pretty amazing.
If you'd like to learn more about Signing Time, check out their website. You can hear some of the songs, read the back story on the series' creation, read other children's success stories and even order Signing Time products. Also, check your local listings. I've heard PBS stations are starting to add Signing Time to their broadcast schedules as well.