5 Easy “Maneuvers” That Encourage Your Baby To Sign Back Sooner (at Any Age!)
Rule One: Pick the right signs.
Start by introducing signs that your baby will use frequently, and will be motivated to learn. For most families, it makes sense to start with mealtime signs. MILK, EAT and MORE were the first three signs we started with and were picked up quickly. Then, add in specific food signs. Next, you want to start introducing signs based on your child’s interests and your family environment. Do you have a family pet? Does your child have a favorite toy or activity? These are great options to start with because your child will be motivated to learn them!
Want help picking the right signs? Check out Adventures In Baby Signing >
*Shown below is the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for MORE.
Rule Two: Say & Sign the word at the same time.
Your primary goal is spoken language and development, so make sure you SAY the word every time you sign it. However, there is ONE exception – after a signed word is established, you can ask your child a question in private while you are out in public (for example: asking to go POTTY, or do you need a DIAPER CHANGE?). Sign language also comes in handy when you want to discreetly remind your child to be quiet while in a public setting.
*Shown below is the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for QUIET.
Rule Three: Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Look for natural opportunities to use signs throughout your day. The more often your child sees a sign in action, the faster they will learn it. In the beginning, you should always sign in context. If you don’t, your baby won’t be able to make the connection between the word and the object or action. Once a signed word is established, it’s ok to sign out of context. BUT, I’d like you to keep in mind what you learned in RULE TWO – spoken language IS the primary goal, so SAY & SIGN as much as possible :)
*Shown below is the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for AGAIN.
Rule Four: Don’t underestimate your baby’s abilities.
Your child may have a tiny body, but they have rapidly expanding minds. Babies are like a sponge and they have the ability to soak up and learn whatever you expose them to (as long as they are given the right opportunity and proper exposure). It’s a common misconception that babies lack the understanding of language. This is NOT true! The only skill your baby lacks is the verbal skills needed to communicate with you in the traditional way.
By 6 months old your baby is quite good and understanding what they want or need. But without a way to communicate with you, it’s difficult to understand their cues. This is why your child gets frustrated and tries to get your attention the only way they know how – through crying, whining or tantrums. Baby sign language gives your child a way to communicate with you, in a way that’s easy for you to understand – creating less frustration for YOU and YOUR BABY.
A common mistake parents make is not teaching enough signs. Maybe you don’t realize your child’s potential OR you worry about overwhelming your baby. It’s a good idea to start slow (in the beginning) to give you BOTH the opportunity to get comfortable with the process, but once your child starts producing a few signs, they are primed and ready for you to step-it-up and start introducing new signs at every opportunity.
For example: When you go to the zoo – teach as many animal signs as you can remember. (if this is a planned trip, brush up on your animal signs before you go!) And when you’re coloring a picture – sign the color of the crayon you are using.
*Shown below is the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for DON’T TOUCH.
Rule Five: Avoid comparisonitis.
Just like every baby learns to crawl or walk at different ages, they learn to sign and talk at different ages too. It’s important to remember that every child is a unique individual and will develop at different times. I encourage you to have a signing buddy to keep you motivated and on track, but it’s really super important to not get hung up on… who signs first OR who signs more!
*Shown below is the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for I LOVE YOU.
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