Getting signs confused is a natural tendency once your baby’s vocabulary has reached a certain level. Your baby might sign MILK for WATER or BIRD for CAT and so forth. Not to worry, this will resolve itself in time and is no different than what happens with spoken words.
Simply carry forward with your program and correct signs by modeling the right way to sign yourself. This can sometimes be a challenge when your baby signs out of context but often your baby will use signs that appear similar. In other situations your baby will use the same types of signs that fall within the same context. For example MILK and WATER are both types of drinks so your baby might do them while at the dinner table. What gives away their intension is that their milk is right there in front of them. Chances are good that your baby wants something they can see rather than something that isn’t present. This goes for other signs too, not just foods. If the object is nearby, usually within eyeshot, chances are better that they’re signing that rather than something that isn’t around. If you give you baby milk, and they he refuses it, then move onto the next logical culprit – water.
When your baby signs something start off by assuming that they are signing what they really want and start a conversation about it. Usually by starting a conversation or offering it, your baby is quick to change their tune. So you might say “Oh, you want WATER, are you sure you want WATER. Maybe you want MILK, the MILK that’s right there on the table? Would you like some MILK instead?” Often, your baby will discover on their own that the sign they were doing wasn’t correct, and will then do the right sign. Alternatively, you can offer both at the same time as a test to discover if they really are confusing signs. If they’ve been mistaken then repeat the correct sign and the incorrect sign and show them which is which. Make a note of which signs are being confused for which and put some extra emphasis on them as you move along.
The bottom line when it comes to sign confusion is to avoid giving your baby what you assume it is that they want, instead, give them exactly what they are signing instead. Assuming your baby wants something, when your baby signs something different, tells your baby that whatever they sign has no bearing on the results. It also tells your baby that signs have multiple meanings, which isn’t always true. Rewarding signs randomly also increases the likelihood they’ll be confused in the future, so take steps early to prevent this trend from forming.