I think signing is one of the most amazing gifts you can offer to your child, yourself and your family. Not because it will make your child more intelligent or enhance their reading abilities; improve their spelling in the school years or their self-esteem and confidence. We never know what the future will hold and although the developmental benefits of signing are incredible and not to be discounted, I love signing because it’s fun and it’s easy. It allows you a window into your child’s mind that otherwise isn’t possible. From reading my blog you will already know that signing in our house has been both fun and utilitarian. I love it because the degree to which you use it is completely up to you. I’ve known some families that have only used a few signs to help with basic needs and frustration while other families use sign language more comprehensively and boast hundreds of signs. The experience is completely unique to each family and each child. You choose how you use it and your child often dictates what signs are used most prominently.
So, it’s here that I will post a few of my tips and I will continue to update and gather more as time goes by. Please feel free to post your own tips and/or success stories as well!
1. HAVE FUN! HAVE FUN! HAVE FUN!
A phrase I heard often throughout my first pregnancy was “it will go by so quickly”. I didn’t appreciate just how true that was. We have such a fleeting time with our babies and we should take in every second. Savour it. Signing with baby isn’t about having a militant ‘lesson’ schedule, it’s about communication. Babies and children learn through play, thus, the greatest thing you can do is have fun with baby.Use Little Helper Signing Stickers to make it really easy for adults, caregivers, family and friends to remember the signs. Completely repositionable, the stickers won’t damage items or walls. We’ve had stickers up for over 1 year now and they still peel off like we just put them up yesterday!
2. MMMM. FOOD.
Start with baby’s first signs: eat, more, milk and finished. These signs are most closely tied to baby’s needs and the hand shapes are distinct enough that you will most likely be able to distinguish between the signs.
3. WE ALL NEED A LITTLE CONTEXT.
Especially when starting to sign with baby, try to make sure baby has some point of reference. For example if baby is happily playing with their favourite toy and you sign milk to them it won’t necessarily have meaning and may actually confuse them. Sign milk if you’re sitting down to nurse or bottle feed. Sign milk if a bottle is sitting there or you’re getting the formula ready. This gives baby a reference point and they will know what you are labelling ‘milk’.Our Little Helper Signing Stickers make it easy to remember to sign! You can put the sign for ‘milk’ right on the formula jar, the fridge door, beside the nursing chair or as baby grows you can put it directly on your milk jug!
4. DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE NAY-SAYERS.
Signing creates a wonderful bond between you and baby and, as observed in my own home, once skeptics see your baby sign for the first time they too will want to join in the fun!
5. WE ALL LIKE A LITTLE PAT ON THE BACK!
Babies are no different. Congratulate them on their attempts. Their motor skills are still developing so the signs won’t be perfect but they will keep trying and your encouragement means the world to them.Our Signing Flash Cards can help create opportunities for play and lots of congratulations! Sitting with baby and playing with them opens the door for moments filled with laughter, learning and lots and lots of clapping and cheering!
6. WHO’S PERFECT ANYWAY?
Your baby is learning so many things and slowly gaining control over his or her movements. Their signs aren’t going to be perfect and that’s ok. The goal is communication and in time their little hands will most likely make the sign correctly. And if they don’t, that’s ok too!
7. YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.
Closely tied to number 5, no one is perfect and we can’t do all things at all times. When you’ve got a baby clinging to you and 6 other things you’re trying to do at the same time, sometimes signing slips your mind. No worries. Consistency is important because the more baby sees the sign, the more familiar they will become – very much like verbal language. However, it’s not the end of your signing experience if you forget. Babies truly are little sponges and they will forgive and thrive despite our imperfections. (Thankfully!)