Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baby Steps for Baby Signs 1: How to Select Signs For Your Toddler

Last week, I responded to a reader question about what sign system would be best to use with her toddler. After blathering on for a bit about why signs can be so beneficial to language development, I finally got around to answering her question. In doing so, I spilled the beans that no sign system is best for any one child.  In fact, making up your own signs works just as well using a formal sign language system! But sometimes it's nice to have a place to start, and for this, I referred readers over to the Baby Sign Language Dictionary.

This week, I'm back to give you a few more tips on using signs with your child. Today, I'm going to touch on how to select the words you'll be signing with your little one.  Later, I'll be sharing some tips about how to go about getting your child to actually use those signs, which is sometimes easier said than done.

So. Where to start with baby signs? There's no magical starting point, but a few simple tips can get you headed in the right direction.

  • When you are first starting out with baby signs, you'll want to think about the signs that will be most apt to get your child what he wants most quickly. You also want to pick signs that you can use in almost any activity-- that way you'll get lots of chances to use them with your little one. For these reasons, most people will start with two simple but powerful signs: more and all done. If you choose to teach your child to sign "more," know that he will probably begin to sign "more" to request almost everything. That's okay. He's learning to communicate with you, and that's good!
  • Once your child starts learning that his hands have magical power over his world, you can start teaching him to be more specific about what he wants.  To do this, make a quick list in your head of the things he likes the most. Does he crave his blanket? Love his books? Relish in pointing out the kitty cats that go tearing through your house? Look at the things that make him the most happy, and introduce the signs for those very things.
  • As you sort through signs, choose the ones that are the most simple and distinct from each other. Young children have a limited ability to make their hands do what they want them to, so try to pick signs that have big broad movements and look for signs that are different from each other. For example, it may be hard to teach your child the difference between "eat" and "drink" because both of those signs are made up by his mouth.  Instead, perhaps, you could teach him to sign for "eat," which is made by tapping closed fingertips of one hand to your lips, and then also teach him the sign for  "milk," which is made by opening and shutting your hands and has nothing to do with your mouth.
  • If there is a word that you really want to use, but the formal sign is tricky or complicated, change it! Make it what you want it to be.
That's it! With just those few simple tips, you're well on your way to successful signing with your toddler.  Have fun!

Looking for more information about Baby Signs? 


      1. new GFC follower
        Ginger Sines
        please follow back from the fun tuesday hop

      2. Newest follower from the Fun Tuesday Hop Blog Hop!
        Come return the visit when you have the chance :)
        The Sleppery Mind

      3. That's great advice! My son knows more (I have no clue where he got it) and I'm trying to start working with him on more signs since he has no desire to talk to me! LOL

      4. Stopping by from Mom Loop Friday Follow! What a neat blog you have!And on a really interesting topic!

        I just made myself your newest follower!

        I see you sometimes take reader questions, I'd love to know your thoughts at what age parents shoul dworry about stuttering. My two year old stutters when she is excited, and I never know if thats normal or not:)

        Nice to meet you!


      5. Also stopping by from Mom Loop. This was a great post! I was just wondering how early you can start with signing, or what may be too early? My two year old is starting to communicate more articulately now that I think signing won't have as big an impact as it would have 6 months ago...although probably still beneficial :-) Just wondering for future munchkins!

      6. Shannon, glad you like the blog! And, great question...Many, many toddlers will stutter, especially when excited. Most of the time, it will resolve on its own, but you can find out more about when to worry and what to do here:


        Let me know if you have more questions after reading that post! :)

      7. @ Brooke...A great time to start showing a baby signs is between 6-8 months, but they don't often start signing back until 11-12 months! :)

      8. Hi... now I'M your newest follower. LOL. You can tell by my feet in your friends list. Stopping by from Moms Loop. We had the book for baby signs, but never fully implemented it. I've seen other parents that did and it was pretty empowering for their children. Ours at 2 is talking in pretty complex (and often demanding) sentences, so she seems to have survived without. Still it's cool and there's lots of evidence it helps with development. Very cool Thanks for sharing.

      9. Great information! I'm just starting with my 13 month old...probably should have started sooner! :)

        Stumbled you back!

      10. Stopping by from Moms Loop. I'm an LCSW and work mostly with children. I refer a lot of spectrum kiddos to speech and to OT. I also am a provider for The Listening Program. Have you heard of it?

      11. Hi Mary, How fun! I'm vaguely familiar with the listening program, but not specifically so. Tell me more!

      12. I'm also stopping by from Mom Loop! Your post has good information about signs and how it helps babies learn :)
        If you have a minute, visit/follow my blog at http://avonrepbarbsblurbs.blogspot.com