Step One: Make it Fun
Have fun with the baby. Enjoying the baby isn’t just the most important thing in baby sign language, it is the whole point of baby sign language. Baby Sign Language is above all a fun way to bond with your baby. Most babies love learning the new signs and the feeling of being understood that comes along with being able to communicate with their parents. When you make it fun, baby will learn faster and you will establish a framework that learning is something they want to do.
Signing is naturally fun. You will notice, even with a baby that is a few months old, that even before they understand signing they will often smile or giggle when you sign at them. Getting your undivided attention, and knowing that you are trying to play with them is just inherently enjoyable to a baby. They have a natural curiosity and will find joy in learning how to communicate.
Fun is important, because fun helps baby learn faster. When signing is a favorite part of her day, baby will learn be more motivated to try signing and stick with it even if it feels difficult at first. Fun is also important, because it sets the foundation for future learning interactions. This is your first time teaching baby, and you want to establish the pattern that learning from you is something they want to do.
To keep signing fun, we set a playful tone, we uses signs that baby is motivated to learn, and we sign in the right time and place.
2. Set a Playful Tone
Baby’s take their lead from their parents and caregivers. If you are having fun, they are going to have fun too.
Incorporate signing into the enjoyable activities you already do with baby. Sign along to our favorite songs. Sign as you go for a walk and spot a dog, or eat your grapes. For older babies we play games like naming the colors with the baby sign language flash cards. Just enjoy being able to send each other an I Love You baby sign, just because.
Animate your signs to add a bit of drama. Babies love drama (and don’t appreciate subtlety). Really put a lot of emotion into them. When you do the sign for excited raise your pitch and widen your eyes. When you sign sad, have a long face. When you are signing lion, let out a roar.
Celebrate your signing successes. We will discuss this in greater depth in the section on encouragement.
3. Motivate Signing
We make signing more appealing when we choose signs that interest baby and harness their natural curiosity.
The most common first signs are mom, dad, eat, milk, more, and dog, because these are all things that interest a baby. They want to learn these signs because they help them communicate about things that are important in their lives.
A common mistake is to attempt to push our agenda and teach things like courtesy signs (please and thank you) as first signs. The problem with these signs is that to a six-month old, they don’t mean anything and there is little motivation to learn them.
Instead focus on signs that are tangible and related to something that baby already finds fascinating. If what gets their attention is the fan, light, flower, or cat, then these make ideal candidates for signing. Some babies want to learn animal signs, some are more motivated by colors, and others by foods. Let their interests by your guide.
4. Right Time & Place
You want to set up an environment that is conducive to baby learning. Babies have a short attention span an their attention usually shifts to the loudest, most energetic thing in the vicinity. So turn off distractions like TV, or flashing toys.
Baby’s position should allow them to see you and for your signs to be in the center of their field of vision. Babies do not have very good peripheral vision, and if you are signing of to the side, they are going to miss the signing.
Baby’s moods can be fickle and not much learning happens when baby is hungry, tired, or otherwise cranky. So time your more formal signing session to coincide with times when baby is well rested and well fed. After a nap, or after meals is usually a good time.
Next Page: Step Two – Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Previous Page: Baby Sign Language Basics
If you found this information useful, check out our award winning baby sign language kit. It includes more than 600 signs, covers advanced teaching methods for faster results, and includes fun teaching aids like flash cards.
The Deluxe Baby Sign Language Kit, bundles together everything you need to get started with signing in one box, at a steep discount. The kit includes: (1) Baby Sign Language Guide Book; (2) Baby Sign Language Dictionary: (3) Baby Sign Language Flash Cards; and (4) Baby Sign Language Wall Chart.
Baby Sign Language Guide Book shows you how to teach your child how to sign. The book begins with a Quick Start Guide that will teach you your first signs and having you ready to sign in 30 minutes. As your baby progresses, you can delve into more advanced topics like combining signs to make phrases, using props, and transitioning to speech. (Regularly $19.95)
Baby Sign Language Dictionary contains over 600 signs including the most common words, the alphabet and numbers. The dictionary helps you expand your child’s vocabulary, and has the breadth of coverage that lets you follow any child’s natural interests. Each sign is illustrated with two or more diagrams, showing you the starting position, the ending position, and intermediate motion. This makes learning new signs easy. (Regularly $19.95)
Baby Sign Language Flash Cards include 52 sturdy board (4×6 inches) flash cards, covering a variety of basic signs. The flash cards allow you to teach words, such as animal names, that Baby is not exposed to in everyday life. The face of the flash cards shows the word and image for the child. The back of the flash cards show how the sign is performed, a handy reminder for the adult. (Regularly $24.95)
Baby Sign Language Wall Chart includes 22 basic signs, and makes a handy reminder for caregivers. The Baby Sign Language Wall Chart covers basic signs, like eat, drink, and sleep. Hang the poster in Baby’s Nursery to help babysitters, or other occasional caregivers learn and decode the most commonly used baby signs. (Regularly $9.95)
Baby Sign Language Guide Book
Learn the best techniques for effectively teaching baby sign language. Including:
• Quick Start Guide – learn the first 10 signs and the basic principles required to start teaching your baby to sign (Chapter 1).
• Advanced Teaching Methods – use teaching aids like books, flash cards, and toys to keep lessons interesting and challenging (Chapter 5).
• Phrases – teach your baby to combine signs and communicate more complex thoughts (Chapter 6).
• Taming the Terrible Twos – reduce frustration and tantrums by enabling your toddler to communicate (Chapter 7).
• Transitioning to Speech – use sign language to expedite and improve speech development (Chapter 8).
Baby Sign Language Flash Cards
52 high quality flash cards (4 x 6″). Featuring:
• Clean Images – real life pictures, isolated on a white background to make learning easier.
• Signs on the Rear – diagrams on the back illustrating the signign motion in case you need a reminder.
• Baby Friendly – printed on thick stock so little hands can play with the cards and they will live to play another day.
Baby Sign Language Dictionary
The Baby Sign Language Dictionary includes :
• Words (500+) – learn signs for nearly every topic of interest.
• Letters – sign the alphabet and teach basic spelling.
• Numbers (0-10) – introduce counting and basic mathematics.
Baby Sign Language Wall Chart
The full color wall chart (24 x 36″) includes 17 everyday signs. Use the wall chart for:
• Caregivers – help babysitters and other caregivers learn the basic signs so they can understand baby’s signs.
• Family – teach family the basic signs so they can join in the fun.