Updated: Jun 18, 2019
Ok, So, you've just heard about baby sign (or quickly read this previous blog if you haven't!) and you want to try it out but, where do you start? What do signs to you use? how? and When?......
Here are Five of the easiest and most common/ useful signs to start with:
Before we get there though, I'd like you to know that the signs I'm showing you here are Makaton signs from the Makaton South Africa system. Makaton is an International Charity that teaches signs and symbols that follow the spoken word and that are based on the sign language of the country you are living/ learning in; So, in our case.... South Africa.
Now, Without further ado, The signs:
Most children when they first learn to sign are under the age of 2 years old and therefore are still drinking a lot of milk. As it is frequent and comforting, it is a very motivating first sign with many opportunities throughout the day to use it.
To sign "milk" we essentially mime milking a cow with both hands. This is however not always practical when caring for a child as we usually have either them or something else in one hand so only have one hand to sign with - DON'T LET THIS STOP YOU!!
In this case, just sign with one hand, open and close your fist with you hand in held in the direction as in the picture. Always say the word that you are signing whilst signing it. When you are starting out: point to the bottle, sign and say "milk". If you have two hands available hold the bottle and sign "milk" with the other hand whilst saying it at the same time. Use the sign every time you say the word and repeat it often during the feed or bottle time.
From the time your little one starts solids, you can start using this sign. It is simple and extremely intuitive. Simply bring all your fingers up to the corner of your mouth at the same time, and say "eat".
This is the universal sign to eat, it's easy, everyone understands it, even babies! Sign it every time you say it. "what shall we eat?" "let's eat!" "You are eating." "Good eating!" (Do you get where I'm going with this?)
It is important to be consistent with the sign though. There are many variations of signs so, choose ONE and stick to it. Make sure everyone in the family uses the same sign for that word so as not to confuse the little one (or anyone else for that matter!!)
In the same vein as "eat" The sign for "drink" is a) intuitive and b) pretty universal.
Take your hand, as if holding a cup, to your mouth, tip your head back slightly as if drinking from the cup and say "drink".
This can be used for milk or any other drink to begin with. Once your signing journey is well under way you can then start adding more complicated concepts in such as juice or water. However, to start with, just stick with a simple "drink".
When starting off with baby sign, we only ever sign the most important word in the sentence. That way, the little one hears the whole sentence, but only has the most important message emphasised by the sign.
"Do you want some more?" E.g. "more" tickles, "more" cuddles, "more" games, "more" stories, 'more" food: the list is almost endless of ways to use this sign.
Bring the bunched fingers of both hands together in the middle of your chest.
When starting out with baby sign this sign is great. At meal times especially as, you can say it and sign it before each spoonful! You can also use it, initially, instead of "again" (the sign for "again" can be added later with the addition of more complex ideas).
5: All Gone/ Finished
This is SUCH A USEFUL sign! The number of times this has been a life saver in our household is amazing!!!! Babies need to know what is happening. in our family to grab one of the boys and take them out of the bath without warning was apparently a sin punishable by inconsolable screaming and followed severe sleep deprivation.
If we remembered however, to say "we're nearly finished" and "the bath will be finished soon" signing "finished" each time, we were usually able to avert a nuclear melt down when the time finally came for " the bath is finished/ it's all gone."
Just remember that you are learning these signs too so Don't beat yourself up if you forget to use them, just use them when you remember - SOMETIMES IS BETTER THAN NEVER.
We can't always get everything right all of the time, but soon these signs become second nature and you will find yourself signing to your pets! (and the woman down the street who might look at you strangely but PLEASE don't let that put you off!!!)
Right! Get going!!! You CAN do this! It may take time so don't expect miracles (both my boys took 5 months to sign back but once they did there was NO STOPPING them!)
Be Consistent - choose a sign and stick to it
Never Silent sign!
Sign only one word per sentence
Please come back and let me know how it goes!! Any trials? and Tribulations? Share them and I'll be happy to help you out.