By the time your toddler is ready for activity based signs, they’ll essentially have turned into little sponges soaking up all the information they can get, and will be repeating most of it back, in what often seems like an instant! Just continue teaching signs as you have been by introducing signs in the moment, and in context, while coupling the sign with the spoken words. Luckily for signing parents, most of the activity signs are “iconic”, meaning that they mirror the actual things they are meant to represent making them easy to remember. For example, the sign for BALL is done by moving both hands in and out from each other as if squeezing a ball, whereas BOOK is done by opening the hands up with the inside edges touching turning the hands into the outside cover of a book.
Above: To make the ALS sign for BALL, the hands cup together as if holding a ball at chest height while the hands bounce in and out. Think of squishing a ball with your hands.
A great way to teach activities is by setting up choices for your toddler. After introducing the signs, just ask your baby if he would rather read a BOOK, or play with a BALL. You can introduce the sign for MUSIC and DANCE all in one shot. Naturally you will want to dance along with your toddler so they get the idea! Just sign and say “music” out loud asking your baby if they would like it hear it, then sign it a few times as its running. You can also turn the music on and off a few times so they get the sense of what you’re really getting at.
To teach the sign for PLAY just catch them in the act and label the activity. You might say “Oh I see you are PLAYing with the BALL”, “Good for you, good PLAYing!” You might also ask them if they would like to PLAY a game with the ball. HIDE and seek is another sign that is fun to teach as is JUMP and WALK. Any number of ways can incorporate these signs, just get creative. It was easy for us to teach the sign for WALK since it was a daily ritual to take our son outside in his stroller or in the wagon. Soon he got the association, and would wave his arms up and down for his approximation for the sign.
Above: Books are a great way to encourage signing! In this video we sign BOOK, DOG, BIG, PLAY, GIRL, BIRD, HOME, TREE, CAR, SHOE, LION, EAT, BATH, BLANKET and I LOVE YOU.