About a month ago (I know, I know, I’ve majorly been slacking …eek!), I was ready to throw in the towel with teaching Baby J sign language. I felt like a failure because after almost three months, all he was signing was milk, and that was iffy, infrequent and to everything it seemed. Half the time I wasn’t sure if he was signing, waving, or trying to grab at something….
Matt had come home from school one day and announced that his co-worker’s son (a week or two younger than J) was signing “mommy” and “more.” That added to my feelings of being a failure. His co-worker went back to work after 12 weeks, yet was still able to teach her son more sign language than me! I was feeling mommy failure big time.
Okay, okay so I was a big dramatic and overly sensitive.
Matt laughed at my ridiculousness and vowed he wouldn’t tell me anything like that anymore because he didn’t want to get me in a tizzy. But nevertheless, determined not to give up, I dove into more research on baby sign language and found out the following helpful, encouraging tips.
- DON’T give up! As hard as it seems at times, your baby is learning what you are teaching him. He just may not have the skills to put it all together yet. Don’t worry, he will, but in the meantime, keep modeling and practicing at any and all situations.
- Encourage family members, caregivers and friends to chime in on the sign language train. The competition sparked by Matt’s co-worker gave him the boost to sign with Baby J and I. hehe.
- Babies will most likely “Use and Confuse” before they get the proper sign down. Encourage ANY and ALL approximations of sign language. Baby J was signing milk for almost everything, but I was supposed to encourage the process of just acknowledging sign language as a form of communication!
- Model, model, model sign language. Consistency really is key.
- It will take most babies a few months to acquire any sign language. Continue to sign, model, and even try some mommy’s hand over baby’s hand modeling if baby allows you to. If not, that’s okay just show her your signs with the object present and make sure you verbalize what the object is that you’re signing.
- Encourage baby’s fine motor skills through simple games and finger plays which strengthen fingers, hands and wrists. Think, “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider,” “Patty Cake,” clapping, pointing and waving.
- Remember to keep having FUN and don’t get discouraged. Baby can sense your anxiety or stress. Try your best to stay strong and positive!!
- Don’t try to pile on too many things at once. Start with the most motivating things for baby (5 things at most; typically loved ones, food, toys or pets at this time) and don’t move on until baby shows some signing. There is no rush. See here for yourself.
- Remember, every baby develops at their own rate. DON’T compare your baby to anyone else’s baby (or yourself to anyone else). You are trying to teach your baby for the best of your baby so you are a fabulous parent for any and all efforts!!
- Stick with general terms such as “eat” and “drink” while you are beginning your journey with baby sign language. No need to distinguish between various foods and drinks unless your wee one is choosing between things at mealtimes. I actually didn’t/don’t follow this rule, but shhh I didn’t just say that!
A few days later, Baby J began signing “more” for bananas during snack time. It was so cute and so powerful, I began clapping for him and then he began clapping for himself. That began a new trend for all signing now (which I love ). We’ve since learned “apple” and are using and confusing banana with apple (see my error from #10). Baby J loves the play Little Tikes kitchen set and play food I had purchased at a yard sale for my classroom a few years ago, and it has been tremendous for our signing development!
J also loves to look through our Simple First Words, Let’s Sign book and flashcards. The bright, vibrant colors and pictures of babies are an added bonus. He claps at the book and the babies inside as they sign. Adorbs.
- Water- I know I know, breaking rule #10 again
- Cat- Baby J gets SO excited for the “ki kits”
- All done- instead of flinging the kiwi or bananas across the room (however entertaining this is for Mama and Daddy
Baby J started saying and associating “mama” and “dada” three weeks ago, so we’ve bypassed Mommy and Daddy, but they are very important signs to teach in the beginning if your little one isn’t yet associating and naming his most loved parents!
So that leaves us 5 semi new signs that Baby J isn’t yet using or confusing yet to work on next. Good luck with your choices!
Keep on pushing, keep your faith in yourself as a teacher and baby as a learner, and PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE!! (Yourself and your little one! Sometimes as mamas and daddies, we are our own worst critics– I know THIS from personal experience, that’s for sure!).