We’ve taken great pains to include just the signs baby and toddler are able to learn in our baby sign language dictionary, however, a singing parent should still note that not all signs ASL (even the ones in the baby sign language dictionary) are as easy for a baby to do as others. Yes, all signs can be approximated by your baby according to his ability, which is highly dependant on his motor coordination, however, some signs are easier to do than others. It is these easy signs which should be introduced first. I’m only saying this to make your life easier! Once you’re off and running, then there’s really no reason you can’t just add whatever signs you want.
I’m only going to present one example of the difference in signing complexity and leave the discretion up to you. You are the best judge of your baby’s ability so you can tailor make a signing program specifically for them.
Take the sign for HELICOPTER versus the sign for AIRPLANE.
Helicopter: 1. The “5” hand is held palm down quivering as it is moved upward by the index finger of the opposite hand. 2. The “5” hand is quivered over the lower “3” hand and pushed upward.
Airplane: The index, pinky and thumb are extended with the ring and middle remaining against the palm in the “I love you sign” which is then drawn upward and away as if a plane is taking off. The wings of the plane are formed by the thumb and pinky finger.
Which sign is easier for a baby to make? Both seem hard at first because they involve some complex movements, however the sign for AIPRLANE is actually the easier of the two since it can be approximated with relative clarity. The handshape pattern in this sign is not that important and context will tell you exactly your baby means (when your baby points up to the sky and you hear a loud noise, it’s probably an airplane). The sign for HELICOPTER involves two hands coming together in specific ways with two hands doing something different one of which requires finger movement. This one should be reserved for later. My son learned the sign for airplane very early on, whereas helicopter was learned about about 16 ½ months.
Other signs that should be reserved for later include colours as they are difficult to understand as a concept.