Kids use American Sign Language too! Find the BEST places online with ASL programs JUST for kids!
If you’ve read my post The Best Sites to Learn American Sign Language and wondered, “Hm, are there sites for kids to learn ASL too?!” Well, wonder no more! YES, as a matter of fact, there ARE!
Like anything with kid-specific material, it needs to be F-U-N. And just like ASL classes are best taught in a natural signing environment (ssshhh!), great kids’ ASL content should focus on how a Deaf child would enjoy this material – through natural rhythm and rhymes as well as visual observations, interaction and language. This is a real diversion for most people familiar with teaching signs to babies before they are talking and adding signs to childrens’ songs. There’s nothing wrong with that practice, it’s just that isn’t a representation of a full on standalone language like ASL (and to be fair – it doesn’t try to be). But that can be misunderstood by the casual observer who thinks they are one and the same under a “sign language” umbrella.
“But is that really harmful?”
Well, it can be. The practice of adding signs to spoken language in an already sound-dominant environment could potentially exclude a Deaf child (or Deaf parent) from participating. Heavy spoken content (and very little ASL) or inconsistent captioning or visual cues is challenging to understand if you don’t have advance notice of what is being said. It’s like getting access to every 4th word at best. Kids’ shows should be celebratory and inclusive in spirit. So you can have “signs”, but without full access, it’s hardly a party to join in on.
And.. when Deaf can’t fully participate in ASL stuff, that raises the skunk flag.
So, check this out: the 10 Best ASL Sites for Kids – Great language models that are of course inclusive for Deaf AND hearing children (and parents!) who want to enjoy some extraordinary ASL content together!
Vibrant ASL rhymes and rhythms developed by Deaf native signers and educators from Deaf families that absolutely ROCK. Wide range of themes including colors, animals, numbers, routines relevant to daily life. No sound or music is played (or needed!). In this environment, ASL simply blooms.
Seasons 1 – 3 of Hands Land are available for streaming on Amazon Prime for $8.99 each.
If your kids love to watch other kids’ channels on YouTube, they will LOVE this! Bubbly and enthusiastic 11 year old Savannah is an incredible Deaf girl from a Deaf family who shares her enthusiastic spin on stuff and LOVES to sign SONGS! Lots of popular covers as well as adorable interviews, bits n’ bobs about the Deaf world and her other interests. Seriously adorable. Don’t miss Marine Mondays!
Silly Paws is an initiative led by CBC Kids and CBC Accessibility to provide ASL content to Deaf children and their families. It features Stuffy, from Gary’s Magic Fort, and Deaf actor Gaitre Persaud (Simmi). In each episode, Simmi and Stuffy have a new activity planned that doesn’t always go as expected! True ASL programming in that it’s entirely in ASL but does have voiceover and captions you can turn on.
Awesome database loaded with ASL Storytelling of traditional folktales and new imaginative stories masterfully paired with English text and art by Deaf artists. Features ASL and other International sign languages from around the world by native signers.
Each story is sold as separate apps that can be downloaded in the App Store and/or Google Play ranging from $2.99-$4.99
Dino Ranch with ASL as an adorable cartoon which features a live interpreter in a bubble interpreting into ASL. This is also on the CBC Kids youtube channel along with Silly Paws. Run by the Cassidy family this ranch is home to some biggest and wildest dinosaurs roaming the wild frontier!
Live ZOOM classes and story times offered for different age groups! Classes specifically for teens and preteens, “storytime” zooms for younger kids. Awesome for families wanting to learn together without a long term class commitment upfront. A typical class commits for 4 weeks and meets once per week for 90 minutes. $100.
A library of Deaf community-contributed videos. Not just for kids, but it’s a wealth of wonderful ASL stories. Some from books but also poems and folklore. Kids will be mesmerized by their community members who are fabulous language models that may inspire some great storytelling of their own. The main objectives are to produce teaching and learning materials that preserve ASL literature, culture and history and promote a better understanding of the complex structure and use of sign languages. I consider it a core resource for anyone learning ASL, but kids especially can benefit.
Produced by and featuring a Deaf family with two adorable girls, each video is an opportunity to build vocabulary from native signers and learn about culture and issues Deaf people discuss. Overall, it’s a source of unique education and entertainment from interviews, daily routines to outings and vacations – celebrating Deaf people and in the US and around the world.
A compilation of videos from the The National ASL and English Bilingual Consortium for Early Childhood Education, the many listed that feature ASL Rhymes and Rhythm are not to be missed! Check out this story using ONE handshape!
State schools for the Deaf tend to be “hubs” for where Deaf people live and work (at the deaf school, outreach and in the surrounding communities). As a result of this, Deaf educators and other brilliant folk can band together and produce some amazing childrens’ content. The SOC at the Texas School for the Deaf is a great example of this. Not only do the have a storytelling library with wonderful videos, they also offer live storytelling classes. Plenty of smaller video projects also arose out of the pandemic around the country, so please check out your state school for the Deaf website for some hidden gems. ASL in action!
While these videos are musically based, they are the ASL infusion of popular kids shows CoComelon, Blippi, Little Baby Bum, Buster and Morphle. What’s way cool is how they obviously sought out how to do this from the Deaf community. Ding! Ding! The ASL is spot on and it’s not just an interpreter circle in the corner but fully inclusive, front and center with not one but several signers and encouraging to ALL to sign as it’s obviously just as fun as the music, hello!
These are ASL-interpreted cartoon songs BUT they are REALLY well done. The interpreters act as true vessels of communication, faithfully rendering the message that flows through them – the gold standard. As a Deaf adult, I’d love for parents of Deaf children to know that these are the kinds of interpreters we want. And these are a fun choice for kids musically / dance inclined. Side note: I personally became notably more fluent once I started using sign language interpreters on a regular basis. Even if you “know ASL”, time spent watching fluent signers over multiple topics can do a lot! Excellent exposure for young kids to see *great* professional interpreters in action, too.
While her site has (so far) devoted only 4 videos to kids/parent content, IT IS WELL WORTH THE GANDER and deserves an honorable mention on this list. Not only delightful videos with vivid ASL that is delivered in Evelina’s unmatched, down to earth spirit, she is accompanied by her young daughter and you will absolutely MELT. Watching their interactions incidentally leads to witnessing the FUNCTIONAL ASL that I wish more hearing people understood. It works. Beautiful example of this.
Now let’s annoy her to make more videos.
So that’s my two little cents. And I expect this list will be updated periodically because the creativity apparently DOES NOT STOP.
Like the adult ASL classes, none of these alone will teach your child everything about ASL. The culture and people who USE ASL are critical to being able to learn to sign fluently and using it appropriately. Honestly, it’s HARD to keep seeing a thriving language being used inappropriately by hearing folks in their classrooms, churches and of course …those YouTube videos.
Even when there’s the best of intentions in its use, American Sign Language without Deaf input it oftentimes is only seen as a service to *The Deaf*, a display and/or something to use while without asking. And excluding us in the process. Enough, already.
My hope is that early exposure will create inspiration in hearing children, that seeing the real-deal ASL from Deaf people will show them from an early age not only how awesome it is, but HOW it is used, its cultural dynamics, who uses it currently and why. Perhaps it will encourage them to sign with new Deaf friends or a hearing friend’s Deaf parents or a new teacher, shop owner, mechanic, babysitter, pastor.. you see where I’m going with this. Don’t just make it a hearing kids’ activity. Use it with US! Normalize ASL in places where it isn’t currently. I’d love that.
At the very least, ASL exposure can be a small seed planted that becomes a part of them as they grow.
I also hope these resources can give some reassurance to hearing families with Deaf children, too. SEE these amazing Deaf storytellers and performers, the Deaf writers, producers, biz folks.. the whole team behind making these programs and KNOW that we are not simply a group working against a deficit but a bilingual community when we have full access to language. We thrive. I can’t speak for everyone, but I need you to know that.
Knowing American Sign Language is a superpower. Exposing your kids at an early age to true ASL and their Deaf and hard of hearing peers is priceless – and finding it online is easier than ever! Give them these tools and watch them shine.