As you sign with your baby, you might wonder which words to count toward their vocabulary. This can be a useful way to keep your entire family in the loop as to which signs are being used by your baby. It’s also an interesting way to follow their development and your log can be made into a wonderful keepsake for your baby’s scrap book.
My rule of thumb is to count all words, signed or spoken toward a baby’s vocabulary. A signed word becomes part of your baby’s vocabulary when it is signed regularly and in different contexts. This “proves” that your baby really understands the word he or she is using. If your baby just copies your sign, but can’t recall it back later without help, then your baby hasn’t fully realized the word so it’s not part of your baby’s vocabulary. Copying your sign is a great place to start, but the results aren’t crystallized until a word originates directly from your baby.
Spoken words, even if not perfectly clear, also become part of your baby’s vocabulary and this is so independent of any accompanying sign. The words can appear as sign approximations or verbal approximations. Even if the signs or sounds appear similar to other signs or sounds, but are specifically referred to by your baby for certain things, they still count toward your baby’s vocabulary.
Therefore, as far as we are concerned, any word signed or said, which occurs independent of outside help and in more than one context, should be considered a word in your baby’s vocabulary. While this entire exercise might seem entirely trivial, some parents find it fascinating to watch their child’s language develop. I would guess that signing parents are just the type to want to see how well their baby is doing (not to mention their teacher!). It’s a great way to show pride in your accomplishments too!