Updated: Aug 15, 2018
Just like everything else in life Baby Sign has rules that need to be applied for all it's benefits to really be achieved. Thankfully though (unlike with the rest of life...) Baby Sign has only 3 rules we need to remember.
1. Never Silent Sign
Baby signing is an alternative way of communicating BEFORE speech not INSTEAD of it. Rather it should be seen as a foundation to speech and language development. It is essential that your little one not only sees the sign but that they hear the word in the context of the sentence as well. This encourages recognition of the word and the sign together.
2. Only ever sign One Word per Sentence
When your baby is little, you only need to emphasise the most important word in the sentence. Anything more than that becomes very confusing for them and difficult for them to determine which sign goes with which word. For example: "Do you want more (food/ drink/ tickles!)?" The word to emphasise and therefore sign here is "more" even though you would still say the full sentence. Repeat both the word and the sign a few more times i.e. "more tickles!" "let's have even More tickles!"
These first two rules help the little ones assimilate both the sign to the word and the word to it's meaning, faster than throwing heaps of signs or silent signs at them. This builds their signing vocabulary as well as their verbal vocabulary (which is, at this point, being very carefully stored for the moment you least expect it!) at a steady but definitive pace.
The final Rule is...
3. Be Consistent
This rule however, has two parts.....
a) Find a sign that works for you and your family (even if you land up making one up) and stick to it! There are over 138 different sign languages (each with their own accents! syntax and grammar) not to mention the different dialects and modified systems used throughout the world. So, it is quite possible that you may pick up/ make up various different signs along the way. There is no problem with this, however, once you have a sign for a word, STICK TO IT. don't chop and change, nor should different people in the family use different signs for the same word, come to a consensus and stick to it.
and b) not as easy as a) but..... use the signs as often as possible.
Do it so that it becomes second nature (I even found myself signing to the cat - who still to this day steadfastly refuses to even acknowledge me, let alone my frantic attempts to communicate with him - but that's cats for you!!!) It goes with any other language the more you use it, the easier it will become but also the more often your little one sees the signs the more ingrained they become and the more likely it is that they will use them sooner.
Please tell me about any trials and tribulations you have had with signing, I'd LOVE to hear them :D