Making Signing Fun
Have fun with your baby. Baby Sign Language is a way for you and your baby to bond. Babies love learning the new signs and the feeling of being understood. When you make it fun, your baby will learn faster, and you will establish a framework for making learning something your baby wants to do. Here’s how:
Signing is naturally fun. You will notice that babies, even as young as a few months old, often smile or giggle when you sign at them, before they even begin to understand signing. Getting your undivided attention and knowing that you are trying to play with him is just inherently enjoyable to a baby. Babies 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 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 she wants to do.
To keep signing fun, we set a playful tone, we use signs that baby is motivated to learn, and we sign at the right time and place.
2. Set a Playful Tone
Babies 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 your favorite songs and 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 babies 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 babies. A baby wants to learn these signs because they help him to communicate about things that are important in his life.
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 her 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 be your guide.
4. Right Time & Place
You want to set up an environment that is conducive to your baby learning. Babies have a short attention span and 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 her to see you and for your signs to be in the center of her field of vision. Babies do not have very good peripheral vision and if you are signing off 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.
Start Signing with the Baby Sign Language Kit
Our award-winning Baby Sign Language Kits gets your baby signing faster.
- DVDs – baby learns to sign while being entertained by the music of Rachel Coleman & the Signing Time Crew
- Flash Cards – extend baby’s vocabulary to topics like household items and animals with these sturdy flash cards
- Teaching Guide – covers advanced topics for faster results, potty training, and transitioning to speech
- Signing Dictionary – always have the right sign at your fingertips to satisfy your baby’s curiosity
- Wall Chart – help grandparents, babysitters, and caregivers understand the basic signs