A lot of parents deal with a fussy baby during meals. Shouting, throwing food, spitting, tossing cups, arching their back and swatting at the spoon… it can be stressful when your child is frustrated and the whole meal time feels like a flop!
We use sign language for meal time that I really think help curb fussiness. When we help our children communicate they might not feel so frustrated which means less meltdowns! I love using signs in a lot of different situations, especially transitions like cleaning up, waking up from a nap, getting ready for a bath, or getting dressed.
We started signing with Baby Babe around 4 months or so. For several months we just signed to her and then one day she started signing back! “Baby Signs” are the same as American Sign Language (ASL). I learned the signs from books that I found at our library. Some signs have several different versions, and you might notice your baby has their own version of a sign. I say, go with it! They know what they are talking about!
My favorite book is Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate With Infants Before They Can Speak by Joseph Garcia. I love the illustrations, the index, the variety of signs, and there is a great DVD to go along with the book.
Some of my best tips:
- Sign AND Speak. This will help reinforce the meaning of the sign and encourage your little one to use their voice.
- Be consistent! Sign, sign, sign, sign…. then sign some more! Young children learn and pick up on ideas through repetition so even though you might feel like it’s not sinking in, keep at it!
- Sign where their eyes are looking. A lot of times before signing I say, “Look!…. (sign and say) Thank you!”
- Recognize their efforts. Babies often make up their own version of a sign, or they might not do the sign as specific as you see in a book, but that’s OK! Recognizing their efforts and immediately rewarding them or praising them is VERY, VERY helpful and encourages their behavior. If your baby kind of signed milk, acknowledge it immediately with your words and repeating the sign. If it’s not appropriate timing you can still recognize their effort and redirect. For example, Baby Babe and I are in the process of weaning from breastfeeding. If she signs/ says “milk” I respond with, “You can have milk later. Would you like water or a snack?” I don’t want her to feel ignored and I want her to know that I understand what she is saying.
- Be playful. If your child is fussing or looking away don’t make it a chore, wait for another opportunity. Add some signs into playtime or music time. One day we were working on “Thank You” and Baby Babe was feeling grumpy about it. I asked her for a bite of her food and when she gave me some I did a silly “thank you! thank you!thankyouthankyouthankyou” signing game. The silliness snapped her our of her grump and allowed me to show her the sign.
We started with: milk, more, eat and all done. “More” and “all done” are useful during playtime! After Baby Babe started using those we added: please, thank you, help, and drink. She started doing drink on her own and she uses it for “water”.
Some other signs that we use are: duck, bird, silly, bath, out, shoes, socks, hot, and hurt.Share it!