Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Signing "More" for More than More!

I have a signing question for you. My 10 month old has started using the sign for "more" but she often uses open hands, more like a clap. My problem is she also claps to show she's agreeable, so at the end of a meal, I sign all gone to which she claps but I don't know if she's happy we're done or asking for more. How do I tell the difference and also help teach her?

Great question, Tiffany I love that your 10 month old is signing…so wonderful! Babies learning to sign will often produce signs the way we do just a little differently. This doesn't happen with all signs but babies will often use what we call an approximation to the “correct” way of making a sign (I’m pretty relaxed about that word “correct” – there shouldn't be a strictness about teaching language but we do need to provide good models for our little ones).

ARTICULATING SIGNS

The sign for “more” is produced by using a specific hand shape (two flattened “O”s); a body space (generally at about chest level) and a movement (tapping your fingertips together twice.

Now babies, because they have “wee hands” often get the body space and the movement correct but may have difficulty recreating the hand shape that we use. It makes sense – they have such wee little hands! What babies often do is approximate the hand shape – they may not use two flat “O”s but may use two flat hands, or one flat hand and a pointer finger, for the sign for “more”.  

When your little one does this following these steps:

1.    Acknowledge what they are trying to communicate, “Oh, you want MORE!”
2.    Respond appropriately and quickly, e.g., give them more bubbles, more cookies, more tickles!
3.    Model the correct sign and spoken word for them!
4.    Smile and make it fun!

Hey, that spells ARMS! Yes, use our long established ARMS principle (okay, I really just made that up – but it works doesn't it!)

Watch how this 9 1/2 month old baby approximates the sign for "more" while his mom, Sharon Weisz, responds, models the correct spoken word and makes it fun!



OVERGENERALIZING LANGUAGE

You also mentioned that she is using this gesture at different times, e.g., when the sign for “finished” might be a better sign. Children often overgeneralize words then they first learn them, every four legged animal is a “dog” (or a “cow”) and every man is “daddy”.

This happens whether words are signed or said. Your little one may be doing just that. She may be thinking,

Hey, mommy, likes it when I move my hands like this. Good things happen when I move my hands like this. I should move my hands like this all the time!”

When this happens again use our tried and true ARMS strategy:

  1. 1.    Acknowledge what they are trying to communicate, “Yes, you are FINISHED!”
  2. 2.    Respond appropriately and quickly, e.g., showing her the empty bowl, removing her tray.
  3. 3.    Model the correct sign and spoken word for them!
  4. 4.    Smile and make it fun!
What signs does your little ones use? What signs would you like to teach them? 

Sara Bingham is the other of The Baby Signing Book and the founder of WeeHands, a sign language program with instructors across North America. She is a frequent contributor to parenting magazines and baby-related professional websites.
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