Step 7 – Sign Combinations
Babies will often start to combine vocal words (the baby talk begins!) as they progress in their learning. This is the same for signing children.
If you sign with your baby long enough, and even when he becomes a toddler, he will most likely start combining signs. This may happen at 12 months, but will most likely happen around 24 months. Most children are combining at least two words by 24 months. Combining these signs allows your child to develop more fluent communication skills, and is truly very impressive!
This progress doesn’t stop at two words either; baby talk can continue to include three, four, and even five word combinations! These combinations help eliminate guesswork. If your child has two stuffed bears, when he wants the blue one, he will be able to tell you!
Some common combinations include:
- color + object
- “more” + another sign
- “down” + another sign
- object + “mine”
- “again” + another sign
- person or object + “go”
- “up” + another sign
Signs and Speech
Along with your child being able to combine signs, he will soon learn how to combine signs and spoken words in the same sentence. Oh what fun!
Most children start speaking before they are finished signing. You will notice that your child will replace signs with spoken words. Your child will pick up on spoken words quickly and use signs to fill in the gaps in his spoken vocabulary. This can come about even right after your baby says his first word.
Children who are exposed to baby sign language will often learn spoken words at a fast pace. This is because they are already acquainted with the action word, object, or concept, and now they just need to exercise their more advanced vocal muscles!
Your child may also continue to use a sign for a word that he can already say. This is usually out of habit (wonderful!) or to get your attention (he probably notices how excited you get when he signs).
Bridging the Gap
With all of these combinations, your child is able to comprehend sentences. Now comes the time when you move into more fun and advanced stuff.
When children learn how to speak, they use a speech pattern that generally includes the important words in a sentence–the nouns, verbs, and some adjectives (this is called Telegraphic Speech). Even though you use and need to model complete spoken sentences with your child, you can use the Telegraphic Speech pattern to choose the signs you will use to emphasize your words. When signing, choose the important words to focus on.
For example, let’s look at the sentences: “Look at the rabbit! It fell down.” Earlier in your signing, you would sign “rabbit.” But more advanced signing will include the sign for “down” as well.
You can really expand your child’s vocabulary this way. If you sign more than one word in a sentence with a toddler, he may be able to pick up more signs.
Have a Baby Sign Language Success Story?
If you have had success with baby sign language, please share your experience! So many parents are unaware of the true success of signing with your baby.