One of the signs you should definitely teach your toddler is the sign for HELP. There’s probably no sign that will be more important to your 16-18 month old baby than this one. At this time your guy is learning to be independent, to an ever increasing degree, and they can surely understand what they want and need, but can’t quite do it themselves. There will come a time when your child won’t want the help, but this isn’t it.
When my son was 17 months old, he would sign HELP by patting his chest several times just as he finished dinner. Then he’d sign LIGHT. He wanted us to turn the lights on in the living room so he could go over and play. He’d sign HELP to have us open doors, turn book pages, open the dryer so he could shove his toys in, and on and on.
HELP is one of those signs that will prevent a lot of frustration for you and your toddler. The ASL sign for HELP is done by dropping the closed hand with thumb up onto the opposite hand – also palm up and raising both together. Way too complicated for a toddler! Especially considering how important a sign it is. Now we will rarely change an ASL sign for a homesign – in this case it’s a made up sign advocated by some early sign language programs – however, this is one exception which warrants it. I can tell you that we tried to teach the correct ASL sign, but it never took off. It was simply too complex for my son to learn. Instead of leaving him struggle with doing the ASL sign (or none at all – most likely scenario), we taught him to pat his chest instead. Instantly, he used it! Problem solved!