Sometimes, you CAN forget the rules
Back in the day, the American Sign Language signs that early baby sign language books recommend for parents to start with included the signs for “more”, “eat” and “milk”. After your baby mastered these three signs then, you were told to introduce other signs.
I'm not a good rule follower and because I knew more than those three signs, I signed with my son, Joshua, and showed him any sign that I knew related to his interests. Joshua’s first sign was “fish”. His first successful attempt at symbolic communication wasn't to make a request for something he wanted. It was an attempt to share and comment about a book that I was reading to him. He wanted to connect with a character in the book and he could do it using clear language at 9 months of age! Although our first signing experience wasn't at mealtime, it can be a great time to begin signing. Introducing signs at mealtimes keeps the experience fun, interactive and encourages more of a connection with the experience.
How to sign at mealtime
Use the ASL sign paired with spoken words to talk about, describe and comment on what’s on the table. You can label the foods on the table, talk about quantity, color and the sensory components of the food. Play a game by signing hot or cold and see if everyone can find a food on the table that fits the description. You can do the same with color signs. Be sure to practice please and thank you to work on manners. Teach more, eat and all done to empower your child to read their own cues and communicate that to you. The signs to use at mealtime are limitless!
to sign “hot”, place a clawed handshape in front of your mouth and twist it out and down quickly as if being thrown away from the body.
To sign “cold”, place both fists at the side of your body and shake your arms, as if shivering.
To sign “different”, cross your index fingers in front of your chest and then separate them lifting up your two fingers standing straight up.
Remember to keep things fun while you learn the signs together! Need more ideas? Purchase your copy of The Baby Signing Book by clicking the link below. What signs are YOU planning to start with?
Sara Bingham is the founder of WeeHands and the author of The Baby Signing Book. She has been studying American Sign Language (ASL) since 1991 with the Canadian Hearing Society, the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf in Toronto and at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario. Sara has worked with the Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services and as instructor within Durham College's Communicative Disorders Assistant program. Sara is the mother of two and a frequent contributor to parenting magazines and baby-related professional websites.