Physical prompting is a technique in baby sign language where you physically grab your babies hands and guide them in doing the sign. This is a technique that is not appropriate for all babies because some babies will resist being assisted in this fashion. It’s not as if you are forcing a baby, it’s just that some babies would prefer to do the sign themselves without being constrained.
This is why I always advise that parents give guiding a try but then stop as soon as your baby shows any resistance. Signing, after all, is meant to be fun for both you and baby so there’s no sense in forcing your baby to make a sign they can’t or won’t do.
To use physical prompting, always begin by asking your baby if it’s okay for you to help. A young baby won’t resist at all, but you should still ask as a formality – this formality will become important later on. When I first started doing this with my son, he would willingly let me, and as he grew older, he would eventually offer his hands to me when I asked. Over time, your baby will develop a preference one way or the other and will develop strategies to make you aware of his decision. For now, just ask and assume that it’s okay. Next, lightly grab your baby’s hands and help him make the sign by moving his hands for him appropriately. You can then ask your baby to repeat it, and if he won’t, then just repeat the process one or two more times before moving on and trying again another time.
The basic rule to physical prompting is to only use it if your baby is okay with it and always do so gently. Your baby must be willing to go along with the sign – if not, your efforts will prove fruitless regardless of what immediate success you might achieve. If you force signing, it might become a source of contention between you and your baby making signing into a competition rather than something fun.