A toddler can learn to communicate with baby signs before he or she can communicate with words.
Parents do not have to buy a special book or take a class to teach baby signs to their toddler. Toddlers and parents can make up their own intuitive signs for some basic needs.
Signs related to feeding can be used as an important way to communicate with the toddler whose language skills are still emerging. The toddler from 12 months to 18 months is capable of beginning to understand and use baby signs. Every baby is different, and some will pick up signs and words earlier than others.
Baby signing will neither speed up or slow down the talking process, it is simply a way to cut down on the frustration felt by toddler’s who need something and parents who are struggling to understand them.
The key to effective baby signing is being consistent with the sign, saying the word with the sign, and letting any other caretakers know the signs.
Is the Toddler Hungry?
One common baby sign is for hungry. There are different variations on this sign, and parents should find one they like and use it with their toddler. One way to indicate hungry is to place your fingertips together, including the thumb, and gently tap your own lips, while asking, “hungry?” one or two times.
The toddler may simply ignore the sign and go about his or her playing. Or, the hungry toddler may repeat the sign back to the parent. A hungry toddler may not always repeat the sign back, but may instead communicate or react in another way that lets the parents know he or she is indeed hungry.
The hungry toddler may walk towards his or her highchair and try to climb in. He or she may simply walk to wherever they are normally fed. A toddler may also point to food, or to where he or she knows the food is kept. All of these are ways of telling the parents, “Yes, I am hungry.”
Does the Toddler Want More?
Another eating-related sign that toddlers will pick up on quickly when it is repeated to them is the baby sign for more. Again, the parent places the fingertips together. For this this sign, place fingertips together on both hands, and gently tap the fingertips of the right hand and of the left hand together while asking, “More?”
The toddler might pick this one up fairly quickly, with repeated gestures from parents. The toddler may repeat this sign when he or she does want more. The toddler may also use the sign simply because he or she knows it does something. Parents may need to discern when this really means “more” or if the toddler is looking for another response.
It takes time. Sometimes placing a little more food in front of the toddler will give you an answer. If he or she continues eating, then more was what he or she meant. If the food starts hitting the floor or becomes a toy, the toddler is probably finished.
Is the Toddler All Done?
A baby sign for “all done” is another useful sign that can be used during feeding. The sign typically used is two flat hands, rubbed together, as if wiping off crumbs. Again, saying “all done” while using the baby sign will help baby connect the words with the sign. The sign may evolve into a clapping, for the toddler who likes to clap his or her hands.
The all done sign is one that the toddler sometimes initiates on his or her own.
The all done sign can also be used to indicate “all done” as in enough is enough and the baby should stop a certain behavior.
Parents and toddlers can also make up signs for any other important daily tasks that could aid in communication. By having a way to communicate some basic concepts related to everyday activities like feeding, each day will go a little smoother.