Once you’ve been signing with your baby for several weeks or months and your baby has mastered the basic signs that cover his or her needs (such as milk, more, eat, drink, etc.), and perhaps a few other signs (such as dog) you will probably want to expand his or her signing vocabulary (as well as your own).
The world around you and your child award you with countless opportunities to do just this. You can teach your baby a sign that has significance to almost any situation you may find yourselves in.
Family members are a great way to start expanding your child’s vocabulary. Starting with “mother” and “father” plus any siblings is a good way to begin, and you can create name signs for family members. One good suggestion I’ve heard from parents is to use the first letter of the person’s name in a way that reminds you of that person. Say Aunt Samantha is a nurse – you could use the letter “s” on the wrist to combine the first letter of her name with her occupation.
Holidays and events are also interesting ways to spice up the signing activities. Think of objects you baby may see around your house that he or she may not have seen or noticed before. For example, during Christmas, Corbin learned the signs for “Santa,” “tree,” “lights,” and “party.” It’s also a good way to introduce your child to your culture and/or religion.
The natural world offers many things to learn about. Take a walk and teach your baby the signs for the animals he or she sees and signs for “flower” or “tree,” “sky” or “clouds.”
Night time is a good opportunity to show your baby the sign for “moon,” “bed,” or “sleep.”
Take advantage of your daily routine to add signs to your baby’s growing vocabulary.
Animals are a very popular subject matter for young children. Learn the signs for as many animals as you can before you go to the zoo (or take along a dictionary or set of flash cards). Watch for critters out your window. Visit a farm. Watch animal videos.
Books are a great source of inspiration for us. We have books of all kinds, and the ones Corbin likes to sign with the best are the animal books.
Television may not be the best activity for your baby or child, but when you do watch TV together make the most out of it by signing the things your baby sees on the screen. This way the TV becomes an interactive learning tool for your child.
All you, as a parent, have to do it recognize good opportunities for signing and act upon them when they present themselves. If you use ASL, look up signs beforehand and be ready to use them when the opportunity arises, and if you make up your signs, it’s as easy as using a little creativity.