As with everything your baby does, she will be looking to you to gauge your reaction when she begins to sign. Your response can make all the difference to her signing progress. When you react to your baby’s accomplishment with excitement and pride, she is likely to want to repeat it.
When your baby learns a new sign, you may not recognize it at first. Therefore, be on the lookout for any gesture that at all resembles a sign you have been using with her. If you suspect she might have signed, react! It is better to react to nothing than to miss a chance at acknowledging her accomplishment.
Positive reinforcement works because children want the approval of their parents. Giving your child a lot of praise for a job well done also helps to instill in her a sense of pride. This pride in her own efforts and approval from you will encourage her to continue to sign.
Most importantly, never demand perfection from your child’s signs or force her to sign in order to get what she wants. This will only frustrate her and cause her to want to give up. With patience and encouragement, your child will learn to sign.Pile on the Praise
Praising your child for making a sign will probably come naturally to you. In fact, the first few times she signs, you will probably have a hard time containing your glee. Some great ways to praise your baby include clapping, telling her what a great job she did, offering a big smile or laugh, or hugging her. She will take great pride in herself when she sees that you are getting excited about something she has done. This praise will encourage her to sign over and over again. It is also a good idea to involve others in the praise. If both Mommy and Daddy are in the room, then they should both praise baby for a job well done.Reactions Speak Louder Than Words
As important as praise is, the way you respond to your child’s sign is even more important. Because every sign represents a word or an action, the best way to reinforce that comprehension is by reacting appropriately every time your child signs. When she forms the sign for EAT, feed her. When she makes the sign for DIAPER, change her. If you respond to her request quickly, she will soon learn that sign language is an effective way to get what she needs.
There may be times when you are unable to respond immediately to your baby’s sign. For instance, if you are in the car in busy traffic and she makes the sign for DIAPER, you may be unable to change her right away. In a situation like that, acknowledge her request: “Oh, do you need a diaper?” Then assure her that you will change her as soon as you can stop. This will not be as effective as immediately giving her what she wants, but it will let her know that you understand and that you are acknowledging what she has said.
During this early stage of signing, it is particularly important that everyone who plays a role in your baby’s daily life is familiar with the signs you are using and that they know how to react appropriately if your baby should sign. You wouldn’t want your baby’s first sign to go unnoticed because an unknowing caregiver missed it.
Your baby will soon discover that she can get what she wants—simply by signing. This dawning will be the start of her signing adventures. With this knowledge, your baby will want to learn as many signs as she can.