Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together

by Kathy MacMillan. Second edition, Hands Up Press, 2023

Research shows that signing with young children can

-reduce frustration for both parent and child

-increase IQ

-stimulate language learning

-enhance bonding

-raise a child’s self-esteem

All those reasons are great, but the best reason to start signing with your child is that signing with babies, toddlers, and young children improves everyday life and communication. A child who can express him or herself with the aid of signs is far less likely to get frustrated and throw tantrums, and can initiate conversations about topics that interest him or her, which leads to adults talking more about those topics, which leads to a motivated and interested child absorbing more spoken language, which helps develop spoken language skills.

Signing with children naturally complements other language and literacy activities such as books, fingerplays, rhymes, and songs. Little Hands and Big Hands offers solid background information on signing with children ages birth to six, along with hands-on games, fingerplays, songs, and more that parents can use throughout the day to smooth transitions, calm a fussy child, or engage a stubborn one. Each activity is accompanied by photos of the relevant signs.

Even better: the book features American Sign Language, which, as a real language, stimulates children’s language development in a way that made-up gestures can’t. Author Kathy MacMillan is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter and has been sharing the joys of signing for years through her “Little Hands Signing” programs for children and families. Find out more about her signing classes and storytelling programs here.

Read an excerpt.

Order now from the Deaf Camps, Inc. Online Bookstore (autographed copies that support a great cause!) | | |


Reviews of the first edition:

Louise Sattler of says: “Looking for a great baby gift or one for new parents for the holidays? Try Little Hands & Big Hands – a book that demonstrates the basics of sign language and incorporates creative ideas for families to learn sign together! Easy to follow directions! The games included are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Early childhood educators will LOVE this book!”

Betsy Diamant-Cohen, creator of Mother Goose on the Loose, recipient of the 2013 ASCLA Leadership and Professional Achievement Award, and author of many terrific resource books for librarians and early childhood educators, says: “This is an extraordinary book that has just been published by Huron Street Press, administered through ALA Editions. Author and ASL educator, Kathy MacMillan, has brilliantly combined the world of ASL with early literacy activities and presented them in a format that is easy for librarians to use. Written in understandable language, this book explains why ASL should be used over made-up signs, gives verbal and pictorial demonstrations of rhymes and letters, and describes why signing is beneficial for all children and not just those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Simple songs (many coined by MacMillan) accompanied by photographs of her son signing, describe children’s everyday activities with a sense of humor, such as “The Stinky Diaper Song.” Creative activities that foster parent/child bonding through ASL include “ASL Kisses” and inventive “Elephant Kisses.” An appendix at the end contains craft templates although many activities are replicable at home and can be created with everyday materials.

The words to be signed in each rhyme or activity are written in ALL CAPS. A photo of either MacMillan or her son visually explains how to create the sign. The black and white photos are not cluttered, they’re pleasant to look at, and direction markings have been added when needed. Though some ASL resources are difficult to interpret, this one includes self-explanatory photographs that are easy to mimic.

MacMillan’s descriptions of everyday life with baby are sometimes supplemented with vignettes about her own son.  It is clear that MacMillan knows what she is talking about! ASL solutions are available for the child who takes a long time getting dressed, who doesn’t want to go to sleep, and who is not thrilled about taking a bath. Explanations and research support is seamlessly woven into each activity; their wording can be directly used as developmental tips in any library program with parents.

I am always looking for new rhymes and activities to add to my Mother Goose on the Loose program, and this book has provided me with many!  I highly recommend this resource to anyone working with children from birth to age five.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: