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.
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