How To Begin Signing With Your Baby

When to start

Start with a few signs

Say the word whenever you sign

Repeat both the sign and the word often

Make signs a part of your daily routine

Getting your baby’s attention

Point to or hold the object that represents the word you are teaching

Wait for your baby to respond

Make signs on your baby’s body

Help your baby make the sign

Ask for your baby to sign

Always sign the correct sign

Signing with one hand

Share books with your baby

Recognize and respond to your baby’s signs

Above all be patient, offer a great deal of praise and make learning fun


How to Begin Signing with Your Baby

Getting your baby's attention
You can try both verbal and nonverbal means to get your baby's attention before making a sign. You can verbally ask you baby to look at you or you can lightly touch, tap or rub your baby. In addition, you can move an object of interest such as a toy towards you to draw your baby's attention. You can also sign between your baby and the object of interest insuring that the sign is in your baby's line of sight. Your baby is likely to learn the signs that you are teaching even if you do not seem to have her attention. At the same time, she is likely to learn quicker if you do have her attention and she is interested in the object or action that represents the sign that you are offering.

Point to or hold the object
In the beginning it is important to give your baby a visual picture of the word and sign that you are teaching. This can either be the real object, a toy that represents the real object or a picture of the object. You want for you baby to see the sign, hear the word and also see the object that represents the word. Remember to include all visual forms of the word such as a real cat, a toy cat and a picture of a cat. If you only sign cat and say the word cat when you read a book about cats your baby may conclude that the sign and word for cat refers only to pictures of cats.

Wait for your baby to respond
You are likely to have spent a great deal of time carrying on two sides of a conversation with your preverbal baby. It is important that you now allow enough time for your baby to respond. You can begin by asking questions and waiting at least 20 seconds, looking attentively and expectantly at your baby, before answering with both the word and the sign. This will give your baby the clue that you are now inviting her into your conversation.

Make signs on your baby's body
Your baby will have a great number of opportunities to see the signs that you will teach her. It is also helpful for a baby to feel a sign. Some signs that are good candidates for this are: bath, cat and dog. You can simply use your hands to make the same movements on your baby's body as you would on your own. You may want to have your baby in your lap when you make signs on your baby's body to make it easier for you to make the sign correctly.


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