Allowing for creativity

Once your baby has mastered a good set of signs, don’t be surprised if your baby starts to put their own spin on things. Baby might even start to invent signs on their own. I’m personally not one to stifle their creativity. I guess you can call me a second born rule breaker! It will ultimately be up to you how you react to invented signs. My take is that English is such a varied language that evolves so frequently, why not change ASL up a little bit too. What’s the harm really? If you have no plans to continue ASL into the future, then so what if your little guy decides he wants to make up a sign here and there. I guarantee that your baby will make up plenty of words once they start talking too!

So instead of stifling your baby’s creativity, consider allow it to be a language that evolves between you and your baby and turns into something fun for them to do. This doesn’t mean you have to adopt their signs, in fact, it’s usually best to continue to use the right signs yourself so they pick up the proper sign, but if you end up with one or two personalized signs, there’s no harm in that! There are probably certain important items that your baby forms strong attachments for, which don’t have names, go ahead and make up a sign, there’s no harm in this. While you do this, I’ll distract the hardnosed ASL aficionados over here and while I’m keeping them busy, just be careful you don’t inadvertently use an offensive word for their favourite stuffed animal!

As you teach signing, you’re going to find that some signs are difficult for your baby to do perfectly so the movements and handshapes are going to look different anyway. In other words, don’t expect perfection from the start, there’s some room for trial and error. While I wouldn’t condone a sign language free-for-all, I wouldn’t say you need to be rigid either. Have fun with this thing and use it for your own purpose.

Above: Made-up signs are signs baby makes up when he doesn’t know the proper word. We found made-up signs were fine, but you might insist that baby learns the right word. Made-up signs shows you that baby has associated specific actions with words. Holden made up a CRAZY sign which had no meaning, as well as BROCCOLI and HOLE.

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