Avoid trying to teach signs when baby is particularly hungry, tired or cranky. Do try to teach signs to avoid these outbursts however. The time to teach EAT is not when you’re late for a meal, or you are running behind. Food is not one of those things you can withhold as an incentive to sign, nor is anything else really. When a baby is running around a room playing with various toys, is rough-housing with their siblings, or tuned into playing games with Dad, it is not a good time to teach signs. There’s really no need to interrupt the flow of things for signing. Signing should complement your life, not interfere with it. The point of signing is to be fun, there are no goals or races, so if the timing isn’t right, skip the signing opportunity and catch it double next time. Life is too stressful as it is to add one extra thing to the mix.
To teach signs effectively just find times when your baby is calm and receptive, and you can establish a good eye-to-eye sightline. Try to find moments when your baby seems focused. It won’t take long to discover the good from the bad times to teach signs. For example, watch for your baby to establish and hold eye contact and seem focused – zeroed in on your movement, your lips, your eyes, and so on. Whenever your baby seems chatty, is seeking attention, or when their body language shows interest, such as moving closer to an object, pointing at an object, or when your baby becomes excited about something nearby, will tell you it’s time to introduce a sign.
When your baby is interested in doing something else just leave them be. If you try to establish focus through calling your baby’s name or through a light touch to their hand, shoulder, or elbow, and your baby still focuses on something else, try again at some other time. You just can’t force a baby to learn when they’re interested in other things. Often, the moment just before frustration sets in is the best time to introduce a sign since motivation is high, but a child is still willing to give communication a shot. If your baby doesn’t get the sign right away though, this motivation can quickly shifted into frustration so be prepared to give up and model the sign instead so you can move on.
A lot of the time, baby understands that you know what they want, but for whatever reason, which is quite likely beyond them, you are keeping it from them. The concept of asking for something hasn’t yet been fully realized by your baby. In other words, they haven’t grasped the concept of proper communication, and want to skip straight to the results – instant gratification. With time, and your help, your baby will learn that it’s easier and quicker to ask for something directly then to whine for it.
Above: Books are a great way to encourage signing! In this video we sign BOOK, BIRD, HORSE, DOG, ICE CREAM, ELEPHANT, MOON, PENGUIN, ICE CREAM, BALLOON, BEAR, SNAKE, STARS, CARROT, CROCODILE, FROG, WATER, TIGER and SEAL.