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

Help your baby make the sign
Sometimes it is helpful to show your baby how to make a sign by gently guiding her hands. This is called hand over hand signing. Please only do this if you baby enjoys the help. Your baby may not like having her hands manipulated. If you baby shows any displeasure then you should immediately stop. Your baby will learn to sign even if you do not help her to sign in this way.

Ask for your baby to sign
You can encourage your baby to sign with you by asking her to "show me with your hands" while at the same time gently tapping her hands. You can also play a game where a favorite toy is placed out of reach and then you make the sign and bring the toy to your baby. You can then place the toy out of reach and ask your baby to make the sign. Always help your baby by making the sign for her if she has not made the sign within a short period of time or if she becomes frustrated.

Always sign the correct sign
Babies are not likely to reproduce any given sign perfectly when they first begin to sign in just the same way that babies do not always pronounce words correctly once they begin to speak. However, you should continue to offer the correct sign. It is likely that your baby believes that she is making the same hand movements as you are even if she is not. If you change your sign to match your baby's sign then she is likely to become confused as to the correct sign to use.

A case in point is with Jessica and her grandfather. One day Jessica's grandfather came to visit and saw Jessica making the sign for "bear" before she picked up her favorite bear. Thrilled with Jessica's ability to communicate through signing, Grandpa John signed back to Jessica with the exact hand movements that Jessica had used. Jessica became upset and repeatedly signed back the same modified version of the sign for bear.  Finally, Jessica grabbed her grandfather's hand and dragged him to her mother. She literally danced around the room when Grandpa John finally signed the correct version of the sign.


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