When your baby invents signs for things you know you’re doing something extremely right! It’s even more mysterious when you have more than one signer in the house because your baby can fool you into thinking they’ve been taught a new sign! Frequently when teaching my son to sign, he’d look at us when he wanted to sign something new. There were times when his hand gestures were so complex and refined that they really appeared to be real signs. If my wife and I were both around, we’d naturally look to each other to see if either of us had taught him something new. However, when one of us was away, we had to assume he’d be signing something correctly.
While this can be confusing for parents, it’s a positive sign that your baby is really starting to “get it” and fully understands that signs bring good things and is a way to share ideas between people.
When you see that your baby is trying to do a motion, but it’s not specific enough, or does a sign for something you’ve never taught them, it’s time to ramp up your signing efforts! It means that your baby is starving to learn new words and is willing and able to learn them. If you’re reading between the lines, it means that you’re falling back as a signing parent and you need to revisit the sign language dictionary and start introducing new signs, while your baby’s brain is ripe for absorption! Chances are good that you can just drop everything, look up a sign, and return to see that your baby is still interested in learning. As time moves forward, your baby’s long term memory is getting stronger giving you more flexibility as to when signs can be introduced and clarified. In other words, your baby’s interest will remain so you can easily look a sign up in the signing dictionary and still expect that your baby will be interested in learning the sign. Yes, there might be times when you miss a teaching opportunity, usually due to your baby become distracted by something else, but it still makes sense to look a sign up in case your baby finds it interesting at another time.