Routine signs are so named because they apply directly to the types of things that happen everyday such as diaper changes and getting dressed, eating and drinking and sleeping. These are great signs to teach to your baby because you will have plenty of opportunity to teach them throughout the day.
Motivating signs are wholly different. These signs arise whenever your baby is keenly interested in something, which is often very different from what we might expect. Motivating signs for my son included things like TRUCKS, FANS, LIGHTS, AIRPLAINES, HATS and on and on. Some babies might be motivated by entirely different things so to discover them, just listen carefully to your baby’s body language.
There are times too when these categories overlap. For example, foods like MILK or BANANAS (which are often part of a routine) can often be highly motivating for a baby and DIAPER change (which is a routine sign) might be highly motivating to a baby that prefers a clean tush! If signs overlap, you might wonder why they are even separated to begin with. Naturally, there is a very good reason – when first teaching your baby to sign, you want to take some signs from each category. That is, you want some from the routine column and some from the motivating column.
You might then ask why this is important, why not just teach whatever you want as you go? Well, you want to teach routine signs because they are 1) useful to your baby 2) happen regularly throughout the day giving you lots of opportunity to rehearse them and 3) you want your baby to be able to ask for these things to meet their needs. Motivating signs are taught to give your baby labels for the things that amuse them. These signs are often easier for them to learn because they have a desire to “talk” about them and point them out whenever they see them helping to quickly build their vocabulary. Motivating signs are included because they give a baby a voice so they can begin to control their environment, they can ask to see these things close up, to touch them, and to learn more about them. Motivating signs give a baby a good foundation to their self esteem because it plays into their interests.
As you devise your list of signs to teach be sure to include a good number of signs from each category.