The signs that your baby will eventually learn will be a combination of what you teach them coupled with their interests. You’ve heard the expression that “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”, right? Well, it turns out people and babies are a lot like horses…or is that why the expression became popular!
Babies will learn to sign and say things that matter to them. In the start they will be focused on the basic things in life such as food, mainly MILK. Then he will move onto solid foods like BANANA and APPLE, MEAT, CARROTS and so forth. From there your baby’s interest will expand to things that don’t matter as much to basic needs such as BIRDS, SPIDERS, DOGS and CATS. If you catch your baby wanting at each level of interest, your baby will probably adopt the signs. That is to say, that there needs to be a certain amount of motivation inherent in your baby before they will be motivated to adopt a sign. Not to confuse things, but signs generally fall into two main categories which are “routine signs” and “motivating signs.” Routine signs matter to your baby because they are things that happen many times throughout the day such as at meal times, diaper changes, and at bedtime. Therefore a baby will pick this up because they happen so frequently in their lives. This makes signs such as DIAPER, SLEEP, EAT and so forth are usual signs that will appear in a signing baby’s vocabulary. Motivating signs are any other sign that your particular baby finds interesting on its own merit. These can include DOG, CAT, CLOUD, RAINBOW, BIRD, TRUCK, DOLL and so forth. Because your baby shows interest in these things, they want to know what they are called, or “labeled.” The desire to sign, in this case, is born through the need to talk about them with others when they are noticed or absent.
As a signing parent, your job is to be ready at the helm to teach signs as your baby shows interest in certain things. Should the peak window of interest pass, it will still be possible to teach a sign. However, harbouring your baby’s enthusiasm is what will make signing happen much faster. A motivated learner and a motivated teacher are the two key ingredients to proficient baby signing!
My son learned reached 180 signs by 20 months of age. We did this by simply adding signs as he showed interest in various things. Because there were two of us to help him along, adding signs quickly was easy.