Signs of Cleanliness

Is there a baby anywhere who appreciates the necessity of a postdinner wipe down? If so, those babies are few and far between. Most babies resist cleanliness and, in fact, love to make messes. Many babies even put up a fight when having a bib fastened around their necks. As with so many other things, distraction can be your best defense against these struggles. As you may be discovering, signing is a great distraction tool. Make clean-up time more fun by showing your baby the signs for NAPKIN and BIB.


The sign for BIB, as shown in Figure 11–7, is an iconic one.

FIGURE 11–7 Bib

  • 1. Touch your fingertips to your lips as you do in the sign for EAT.

  • 2. Form both hands into fists and “draw” a bib from your shoulders down to your chest with your hands.

  • 3. Your hands should meet in the middle of your chest.


BIB is not a commonly used sign. You may even find that in some signing circles, the sign for NAPKIN is used in place of a sign for BIB. Because the sign is so iconic, however, there is really no reason not to use it with your child.

Because babies are such creatures of habit, even those who struggle against the bib may begin to look for you to sign BIB at the start of the meal. In fact, if you forget your baby’s bib, don’t be surprised if she signs and reminds you. This does not mean that she wants to wear the bib, of course. It simply means that she has become accustomed to the routine.


NAPKIN, as shown in Figure 11–8, is a very easy sign to demonstrate as it simply mimics the act of wiping your mouth. Because toddlers often enjoy wiping their own mouths with a napkin, this sign may come naturally to many. In time, you will be able to instruct your child to wipe her own mouth by demonstrating the sign.

FIGURE 11–8 Napkin

  • 1. With your fingertips together, bring your hand up to your mouth.

  • 2. Wipe your lips with your fingertips, as if using a napkin.

Try practicing the sign using napkins of all different colors and materials such as paper napkins, paper towels, linen napkins, and terry-cloth napkins. Just pull out a napkin and wipe your mouth with it. Then demonstrate the sign. Once you have done it, pass the napkin to your child. This will give your baby the opportunity for extra signing practice, and she will enjoy handling the different cloths.

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