If your baby won’t learn a particular sign, then chances are pretty good that your baby just doesn’t find what you are signing very useful or interesting – at least not for the time being. Maybe the sign you are trying to teach just isn’t a big part of your baby’s life right now, or maybe you have missed the optimal opportunity to teach the sign and so now your baby takes it for granted. As a general rule, the best time to teach a sign is when something is new and novel and captures your baby’s interest.
The sign for TOAST is not overly complicated, but my son had been eating it for some time before we tried to teach him the sign. While plain toast played an important part in his daily routine since it formed a staple in his breakfast diet, we hadn’t introduced it early enough, and so his interest in it dulled. In other words, he took toast for granted. Eventually we did teach him the sign, but it wasn’t as easy as it would have been if we had done it the first time around when toast was much more fascinating. So keep that in mind, if you don’t teach a sign early on, and it’s around your baby frequently, he might not find take to the sign as readily when you decide it’s time to label it. We found the same problem arose for BANANA which isn’t exactly a simple sign since it involves one hand figuratively peeling the upturned index finger of the other hand. My son never did end up signed BANANA even though he had one for breakfast almost every day. Once he was verbal enough he simply said “nana” and that was it. The sign for FLOWER also proved difficult. My son started by just sniffing whenever he saw one, so that became his sign. He later would bring his fingers to one side of his nose, but never did master the correct version. The actual sign involves moving a pinched index and thumb as if holding a flower’s stem and moving it from one side of the nose to the other as if smelling it.
Other times a baby doesn’t learn a sign because it is too complicated for your baby to do. Then again, a difficult sign may have been attempted in the past by your baby but wasn’t notice, meaning it went without being reinforced. When signs are missed that are difficult for your baby to do, he may become hesitant in trying it again because he failed to receive the reward he desired. [Right: Sniffing for the sign for FLOWER]
If you really want to teach a sign that your baby is showing resistance to learn, then just continue to model the sign for them at every opportunity you can. Make sure that your baby can see you do it, and that they know what the sign is meant to represent. Quiz your baby every once in a while to see if a sign has been passively picked it up. With time and patience, any sign can be learned, even the more difficult ones, so if you really want your baby to learn something, just keep at it.