Signing on your child’s body involves making the signs with your hands near or on them. This is an alternative to helping your baby to do signs by manipulating their hands for them. You can do this either facing them directly or from behind to show them what the sign looks like from their perspective. There are times when signing is difficult to visualize from the front since it requires that your baby be able to perform the mirror image. Your baby will get better at this with time, but seeing things from a few different perspectives is always better than seeing it from just one.
Your child will benefit from the tactile stimulation they receive and derive amusement from seeing your hands move near them. You can also teach signs such as PET or GENTLE, or TOUCH GENTLE in this way by modeling the pressure needed to avoid causing pain to an animal or person. It’s not always clear to a baby what GENTLE really means, so just show them what a light touch feels like. Early lessons on pet etiquette are a must for all babies. The last thing you want is for your baby to be pulling on the cat or dog’s tail or pulling on their fur. You never know what might set an animal off and some pets can be just one small step away from turning wild, even for just a split second.
Above: The dominant hand strokes the back of the opposite hand in the ASL sign for PET.
While you are at it, you can teach your young toddler not to hit. Do this by grabbing their hands and using proper pressure to touch other people in your house such as siblings, Mom or Dad, or whomever else is nearby. Just brush their hand lightly over their hand, arm or even their head. My wife and I successfully replaced all forms of hitting in this way, but it didn’t happen overnight. When never stopped our son from touching, but when he would use excessive force or hit, we’d make sure he stopped it right away. We then grabbed his hand and modeled the acceptable form of touching or stroking by using the right pressure while holding his arm. Now he will usually give kisses to almost everything he sees including pets, people, other baby’s and even photographs of baby’s. He didn’t start off that way though, but by modeling the behaviour for him, and giving him praise when he was GENTLE he learned a more acceptable way to express himself.