I started teaching my son sign language when he was 4 months old during mealtimes and then expanded to other activities (e.g. bath time and play time). I decided to teach him sign because I knew his receptive language would develop quicker than his expressive language and I wanted a way for him to communicate his needs. The two signs that I was most consistent teaching him were, "more" and "all done". Those two will be the focus for this blog post and video.
When my son was about 4 months, we started feeding him very small amounts of baby food. There were some foods he loved more than others. I took that opportunity to teach him "more". Whenever there was a puree he enjoyed, I would say and sign "more" and then guide his hands to do the sign while saying "more" and immediately feed him the food. I did this about 2-3x during every meal time. This continued until he was about 6-7 months and he then began to imitate my hand motions. When he began to imitate my hand motions, I no longer guided his hands. When mealtimes were over I would say and sign "all done" and guide his hands to do the same motion while I said "all done". I would immediately remove the food. Now, at 10 months, he is able to do his own version of the signs "more" and "all done". He does not have the fine motor skills to pinch his fingers together to sign "more" or flip his hands back and forth repeatedly to sign for "all done" (you will see this in the video) yet. I can say "more" and he will move his hands together to tell me he wants more. When he starts throwing food or his spoon, I ask him, "are you all done?" and he will sign that he is all done.
We are still working on him doing this independently without him needed me to say, " all done?" or "more". He is sooo close!
4 Tips to keep in mind when teaching sign:
1. Motivation: your baby should be motivated to want more of food or an activity. The same is true for teaching your baby "all done". There should be motivation to want to end a mealtime or activity. Try to teach this at the beginning of a preferred meal or an activity as motivation is higher at the beginning. Baby will not sign more if he/she is full or bored of an activity.
2. Control the Environment: when teaching the baby to sign "more", avoid having all the food or materials from an activity easily accessible to your baby. If they have access to everything, there is no motivation to sign. They can just grab what they have without the need to sign.
3. Imitation: If your baby is able to copy your hand motions then instead of grabbing their hands to show them how to sign, just have them imitate you. Even if they attempt to copy you, honor that.
4. Accept Approximations: The baby's hand movements won't be perfect initially. If you start to teach this at 4months like I did, the baby will not have the fine motor skills to do the correct hand motion. Accept hand movements that are similar (i.e. approximations) to the actual sign when teaching this.
Bonus tip: Be patient with your baby. This will not happen over night. It will take some babies more time than others.
Disclaimer: This post is solely my opinion and how I taught my son to sign "more" and "all done". This is not to be taken as speech, ABA or medical advice.
Thank you for reading and watching!
Let me know if you have questions.