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American Sign Language:  "child"

The sign for child is done by doing two pats on the top of an imaginary child's head.
You can do it with "one" pat, but could be mis-interpreted as "short."


CHILDREN  (one-handed version)

A quick, easy sign for "children" is to pat the heads of two different imaginary children one time each. The children are standing in front of you and slightly to the right if you are right handed. (Or to the left if you are left-handed)  After you do a single pat on the head of the first child, move your hand to the right one time and do a single pat the head of the second child.

CHILDREN (two-handed version)
Another very common sign for children uses both hands. This version is helpful for stage signing, story telling, many children, or "children in general."

Notes and discussion:

Question:  A YouTube commenter writes:
"I've never seen the one-handed version of CHILDREN.  Is the two-handed version more correct?"

Both versions of children (either one-handed or two-handed) are widely in use in the Deaf Community.

When people are on stage or in front of a camera giving a presentation there is a tendency to sign more formally than in everyday life with friends. If most of your exposure to signing is via recorded video of prepared presentations (newscasters, teachers, announcements, lobbying, etc.) you will tend to see the two-handed version of children quite a bit.

There is a tendency over time for many (but not all) two-handed signs to evolve into one-handed signs (for example, cow, horse, deer, cat, etc. have all evolved to being more commonly done with one hand). Other signs like "happy" and "have" also have common one-handed versions.

Some of the evolution is that it is simply more efficient to sign some concepts with one hand. Some of the more recent "reduction" we are seeing is likely due to many of us Deaf holding a phone in one hand and signing to a conversation partner with the other hand.

Here are some examples of the one-handed version of "children":

See the 2-minute-30-seconds mark of this video and you'll note the one-handed version being used:

See the 4-minute-51-seconds mark of this video for an example of the 1-handed version of children:

See the 23-minute-45-seconds mark of this video for an example of the 1-handed version of children:

See the 2-minute -7-seconds mark of this video for a one-handed version of children as National Association for the Deaf attorney Caroline Jackson shares an official NAD vlog:

Of possible interest is when discussing all the children in a certain category (such as Deaf children) it seems natural to use the two-handed version. Rather than just casually telling you about their own children -- many videos of people signing online focus on society-wide issues facing children as a global whole.

When discussing one's own children or asking a friend "How many children to you have?" -- it may feel more natural to some signers to use the one-handed version.

I encourage students to keep an eye out for differences that may show up when discussing two to five children vs. discussing children in a global sense. However -- the choice to sign children with either one or both hands is just that: "a choice" -- not a rule. (Unless a local ASL teacher insists on it in order for you to get the grade you want. Then it is a rule but only until the class is over.)


A student asks:  "How do I tell the difference between "short" and "child"?"

CHILD: Generally moves directly to a starting location somewhat near stomach height and then does two quick, loose pats.

SHORT: Generally moves directly to a starting location somewhat near rib height and makes one controlled, specific, downward movement.

CHILD: Generally uses a flat hand (fingers together, thumb mostly alongside--not extended)
SHORT: Generally uses a somewhat bent hand (fingers together, thumb alongside, thumb-tip may be sticking a bit up beyond the bent fingers, the fingers are bent at the large knuckles but not at the mid nor small knuckles, the bend varies but is around 45 degrees or according to comfort).

Also, the context of your sentence will generally make it clear whether you are talking about a CHILD or being SHORT in height.

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