Teach Your Baby Sign Language

12 Easy Steps for Communication with Your Baby

Baby Sign Language

Let me guess…your baby is crying uncontrollably and you want to know what he wants so your ears can take a break. No?

Maybe, then, you want to learn how to keep that from happening.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Teaching baby sign language to your baby will probably be the biggest stress reliever during those early months of your beautiful baby’s life.

Sign language for babies can be learned simply by following these 12 steps:

Step 1 – Introduction

Step 2 – Getting Started

Step 3 – Start Talking

Step 4 – When Things Don’t Go the Way You Planned

Step 5 – Caregivers

Step 6 – More Signs

Step 7 – Sign Combinations

Step 8 – Taming Stress

Step 9 – Advancing

Step 10 – Your Growing Child

Step 11 – Finding More Signers

Step 12 – Conclusion

Yes, it’s that easy!

Just to show you, let’s start with STEP 1 – Introduction

And don’t forget to check out:

Baby Sign Language Success Stories

Hey! I Got Hands Too!

by Janeel Hew (Molokai, Hawaii)

Babies have been doing things with their hands even before they were born. (Moms you know what I’m talking about)

When I was getting my son’s room decorated, I put up two alphabet posters. One with the letters and objects, (A apple) the other was in sign language. I hung them both low to the ground, so that they would be more at his eye level.

I also had set up my mirrors so that I could keep an eye on him when I wasn’t in his room at night. (First child, can you tell?)

Anyway, one evening he was being very quiet, so I started watching him from the mirror. He was just sitting there looking at his hands then looking at the wall. His little fingers would wiggle and he would turn his side to side. Then all of the sudden he stopped. He just kept staring at the wall. I almost went to see if he was alright.

Then he made the sign for “A” with a big giggle after! Then “B” an even bigger giggle! That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the wall..it was the poster he was looking at. I couldn’t help but to laugh. He stopped and looked toward my room, so I went in and he was so excited to show me…not so much that fact that he could make the sign, but that he has hands too! He went to the poster and put his hand on each letter sign. He was so interested in that poster, that he ended up teaching himself the whole alphabet. He started reading at the age of two. He will be 18 this month, and can still sign the alphabet better than me.

Teaching My Daughter ASL: Small Effort, Big Result!

by David (Switzerland)

ASL Princess

ASL Princess

I started learning ASL via the internet, and especially via the Start-American-Sign-Language page when my daughter was about six months old. I started signing to my daughter as soon as I had memorized the first signs, and then I kept repeating them to her whenever I got a chance. I managed to do this perhaps three or four times per week during dinner and then for her bath time, when I was home early enough to be there for it.

I also spent a little bit of time on the weekends looking up a couple of new signs here and there, and then showing them to her. The first signs I learned were “eat”, “drink”, “bath”, “splash”, “water”, and “milk”. I only did a few of the lessons on the internet, and unfortunately I haven’t gotten beyond them because of time and priority constraints. But I did keep adding signs to my repertoire just by looking them up on the internet, and then I applied them in appropriate situations with my daughter.

I didn’t spend all day, every day, doing nothing but learning ASL and then teaching it to my daughter. I’m a working man, after all! But I did a little bit at a time, and on a regular basis. And of course whenever I made a sign for something, I said the word for it at the same time.

I kept signing to my daughter for the next ten months or so, and I started to wonder if it had any effect or if I was not signing to her often enough, since she wasn’t signing anything back. But she had understood one sign, “splash”, and whenever I made it she would splash her hands in her bath water or at the pool, so I knew that at least she was starting to make the connection between signs, words, and meanings.

Finally, when my daughter was about a year and a half old, around the same time that she started walking and talking, she also started making signs back to me. She started making the sign for “shoes”, “apple”, “baby”, and “dog”. Some of these she had only seen me sign a few times, and it had already been a couple of weeks since. But suddenly, when we saw a baby, she made the sign! If I had been wondering earlier whether or not she even noticed that I was making signs or if she understood what I was doing, it became very clear to me that not only did she notice, but she understood very well! The effort had clearly paid off.

Two signs which she understood really quickly were “knock”, and of course “more”. It took her exactly once to understand and give back these two signs. When she realized that by making signs she could get stuff, it became even more interesting for her to learn new signs.

It’s important to mention that my daughter is growing up learning three languages at the same time. I live with my wife and daughter in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and my wife speaks German with our daughter. And I guess you could say she’s learning a fourth language by learning ASL. But then, I use ASL just to help reinforce the English I’m teaching her anyway. Considering she knows many words now in all three languages, and since it’s not always clear what she’s saying (it’s still babytalk, after all), it’s good to see her make the sign. It reinforces the meaning and gets across what’s she’s trying to express.

Sometimes, when she’s being mischievous, she’ll take some food off her plate, look over to my wife and me, move her hand over the edge of the table, then quickly drop the food, and immediately start saying “no no no!” and making the ASL sign at the same time. Sometimes we have to keep ourselves from laughing out loud, because even though she’s not supposed to do that (no no no!), it’s just too darn funny.

She loves it when I wear a hat or baseball cap, and she makes the sign for hat when I have one on. Or she’ll bring me my shoes, and then makes the sign for shoes, when she wants to go out. Of course she knows the sign for “hot”, and “oww”, and for “cold”.

Now, my daughter must be the smartest, cutest, most intelligent, and best little girl in the world for her to be able to learn these languages so easily, right?! Well, I certainly think so, but then I’m biased. But that’s not it in the end. I mean, she’s bright like most kids, but I think she’s just really lucky to have the opportunity to learn all these languages at once. At her age, she just soaks everything up like a little knowledge-sponge.

However, considering she was born two months prematurely (and weighed not much more than two pounds at first), it took her perhaps a bit longer to start walking and talking, and so she started signing only at a year-and-a-half. She luckily didn’t come to any harm because of the premature birth, and besides having to catch up a bit in her size and development, she is perfectly healthy and happy. And it seems like regardless, and in addition to all the other languages and stuff she has to learn, she was able to pick up ASL quite easily. If I’m worried about anything, it’s about not knowing more signs for the words she already knows and continues to learn, and about not being able to sign fluently enough. I guess I had better get on to those next lessons!

I’m very lucky to be able to say that my daughter is a very uncomplicated, easy child to begin with, and that we don’t have any major worries about her health or development. But ASL makes being with her even easier, and at this point I can’t imagine what it would be like without knowing the signs to communicate with her. And the more I manage to teach her, the easier and the more fun it gets.

Thank you Start ASL!

ASL with babies works!

by Anna (Evansville, IN)

I purchased a book about ASL before my boy was born. I started reading it when he was a month old and it encouraged me to sign to get into the habit. So I began signing milk and diaper at 2 months old because he was perpetually hungry and hated being wet.

At 2.5 months old HE SIGNED MILK AND DIAPER! We couldn’t believe our eyes! They didn’t look exactly like the signs but his body language to tell us he was wet or hungry changed to a downward tap at his waist and a closed fist instead of what we called “swimming for the milk river.”

He did’t pick up any additional signs for a long time. Then at about 6 months he started signing light and fan. Then nothing for a while and at 8 months dog. ASL took off.

Keep trying and it can work! At 17 months he knows well over 100 signs and can approximate 90 of them himself.

C. Hudson

by Candace (South Carolina, USA)

I am a mother of a five year old nonverbal little girl with cerebral palsy. We have struggled for years, trying everything to help her with communication. I was very interested in her learning sign language but she never could pick it up. With help from therapists and books, I learned some basic signs and the alphabet. Then my cousin started teaching her little girl baby sign language and my daughter started watching her. Then one day she saw a little girl coming out of therapy and she pointed at her. So I signed “baby” and said the word. She immediately copied me! It was so thrilling! After a year and a half she has about 65 sign words and now is using them along with attempts to say the words! We have to constantly work to keep ahead of her questions for new signs…SOOOOO HAPPY!

Milk Mama!

by John (Pensacola, FL USA)

My wife and I learned about the possibility of teaching your baby sign language early in her third trimester of our first son. To admit, we were a little skeptical at first. We checked out a book at our local public library to study on it.

When our son was a couple months old, we started out by showing him the sign for milk right before he was going to be breast-fed. Before long, he’d grunt or squeal and hold up the milk sign every time he was hungry.

We taught him several other signs after this, with his favorite combination being “milk mama”. He is now three and still uses signs to talk to us in situations where he needs to be quiet or is too embarrassed to say them out loud.

Mama to Donevon 2yrs, James 4yrs, and Demetrius 6yrs

by Mrs. Shannen L. Heyman (Louisville, KY, United States)

I was so pleased to find this website! I have an aunt that is hearing impaired and I wanted my children to be able to communicate with her. I have taken an interest in educating my children in other languages and this one is very important to our family. My 2 year old has found sign language very interesting. He uses it quite frequently and I am so proud of him. He signs “more”, “eat”, and “mama” so often that he rarely even says those words as much any more. My other 2 children have picked up other words and are attempting to use them on a daily basis. They seem to enjoy a challenge and this is a good challenge for them. They also seem to compete with each other to see who can learn the most words. YAY FOR MY BOYS!!!!!

My Lily…

by Kelly (Clearwater, Florida)

I cant explain how it works so well but I would like to explain how it worked for me. My husband is deaf so we decided to teach my little lilypad how to sign.

Before My little girl could even talk she was signing. Now she can sign better than me, and I have been married to him for two years, she is only five.

In her first year of kindergarten the school she was attending taped her show and tell time. The amazing thing my little girl did seemed so incredible at the time, usually at the school they have interpreters.

But my daughter instead was signing as she talked about her favorite stuffed animal. Now 2 months later she helps the hearing inpaired in her class to understand what the teacher says.

Not only does this teach her vocabulary but it helps her learn at a much younger age words that most young children don’t know. If she can’t explain something using her words she can sign it.

A lot of people may say that it’s better to be able to speak everything, and I used to agree. But now my Lilypad can speak to me at a 10 or 11 year old level while she is only five and she uses signing. I sugest teaching it to your young because it really can help in the future. If nothing else they will have a larger vocabulary guaranteed.

Thank you for reading I appreciate it. I hope this helps you :D

Mrs. Diane Bell, SPED, para

by Diane Bell (Arkansas, USA)

I am a hearing mother of one hearing and one hearing-impaired child. Both are exceptional boys! When my hearing son married, his first child was a beautiful little girl. She is hearing but had a very real love for her hearing-impaired Uncle. She also liked to follow Grandma around the kitchen and “help” cook.

We had always signed and talked (total communication) in our house and did not change that when we talked around her. Before she could say anything with her mouth she was letting us know what she wanted by speaking with her hands. She did not know that this was not the way other homes communicated. She was so comfortable signing! She liked to have me pick her up so she could see what was cooking on the stove. She would point to each pan and sign “open” so I would take the lid off so she could see what was in each. She always looked for the mac and cheese because this was something I would let her stir together for me. At 10 months old, she proved that love communicates young and love communicates well!!

Become Friendly with Your Babies

by Harsh Vardhan (Bengaluru, Karnataka, India)

Hi, I am Mrs. Nehal Harsh Vardhan, and I am a resident of INDIA. I have a baby girl, her name is Aanya. She is just seven months old and believe me she is an angel.

Initially I was having lot of problems understanding her signs, because she was my first baby I was a fresher to new born. Whenever she cried I was very confused that what is her need, what is bothering her; I checked her diaper, fed her, checked her body and searched her bed for any bugs or ants. So, this was becoming a pain for me and sometimes I also got irritated.

But, finally I came to know about this baby sign language. In the beginning it was a little bit hard but I continued to communicate with her through signs. Surprisingly, it just took a month and then she started communicating with me. Now I don’t have any problems. I know when is she hungry, when to change her diaper, when she wants to play and we started becoming friends.

Now everyone asks my secret that how is my baby so quiet all the time. How do you know what the baby needs. So, I am teaching everyone this cool trick and hope they learn fast and teach others.

They can sign…

by Sherry (Melbourne, Florida)

When my daughter, now 6, was about 9 months, all she did was whine and cry for things. I was taking a basic signing class at our local library and the teacher suggested I teach her to sign. I told this to my husband and we decided to try it. we got board books from the library as well as baby sign videos and started teaching her.

We could see she understood things we were saying to her but she did not have the words yet to talk back with us. Within a few weeks she was signing EAT, MORE, DONE, SLEEP. We were so excited we continued even when she got her words. She knew her alphabet and numbers to 20. She knew several signs, including bird, dog, cat, tree, flower, car, airplane, helicopter, and we used them daily on walks and other things we saw around us. If there was a word we did not have a sign for we made sure to look it up if she inquired about it.

With 3 more girls after her, we continued to sign, unfortunately not as diligently as with her, to our regret. Our youngest daughter is now 14 months old and signs EAT, MORE, DRINK, BANANA, and a slew of others and we voice what we are signing to enforce what we are saying.

There are times that I turn off my voice to make sure my girls are paying attention. We are by no means professional signers. We just have some of the basics under our belt. It it amazing to be able to communicate with our daughter who chooses not to use too many words as her sisters drown her out.

I recommend it to all parents. It is a great way for you to communicate. My 14yr old son never got that from me as a singe mother, however he has picked up on the things we have taught our girls and at the park when we are out I can communicate with them without screaming my head off and looking like a crazy lady. Except for calling their name, when they do not see me wave for their attention.

Not Ready To Talk

by Aundrea (Oregon)

My son refused to speak. We knew that he could as he had already said his first words and would babble as a smaller baby. For some reason he decided he didn’t want to talk. His Grandma taught him some basic signs using baby signing time. He could finally communicate with me!! He did eventually talk and when he did it was full and thought out sentences. Being able to communicate until he was ready to speak made it less stressful for both of us.

I used it as a baby!

by Addison (AL)

I know first hand that this is a great way to communicate with babies, especially before they start forming words or even sounds! My mother taught me signs like more, food, sorry, please, thank you, all done, yes, and no before I even turned one. I still remember all these today. Even if you don’t plan to use it for the rest of your life, ASL is a great way to start communicating with babies before using spoken words.

6 months and 2 weeks old been teaching her for a week

by Megan (Missouri)

I’ve been teaching my baby for a week now food milk momma and dada and just doing it fun and helping her sign she has learned milk I was so proud I didn’t think she would Learn it for a while but I’m trying she trying to get food but when she gets her fingers to her mouth she chews in them lol but I am very proud and happy that I found this sight.

Have a Baby Sign Language Success Story? Share It Here!

If you have had success with baby sign language, please share your experience in the comments below! So many parents are unaware of the true success of signing with your baby.

Sharing your story may help someone decide to teach their baby to communicate early and lessen the frustration in their home!

2 replies
  1. K. Flanagan
    K. Flanagan says:

    We started using baby signs with our son from a few months of age. He was extremely colicky, and I wanted to give him any way to communicate as early as he could, and he started using the signs around 8 months of age, which helped quite a bit (as did growing out of the colic). He was always vocal but when he hit the age at which toddlers normally start speaking and forming words, he would babble but not actually use verbal words. I kept teaching him more signs while trying to get the speech problem figured out, and unfortunately, some family members told us we were doing more harm than good and that he would speak if we would “let him”. He saw several specialists, including an ENT who wanted to put in PE tubes “just to see if it helps” instead of doing any exams to determine whether it was even warranted, then an audiologist who said they were absolutely NOT warranted (glad I listened to my gut and didn’t put him through that!), and several school district speech specialists who said they were not concerned at this age. When he was 2 1/2, he finally saw a speech therapist that began to suspect apraxia of speech, and took that approach for her treatment. It flipped a switch in him and he almost immediately dropped the signs to focus on his speech. When I expressed guilt over teaching him the signs, his therapist said that using signs with him was the best thing we could have done, since it gave him an effective tool for communication and it really did prevent a lot of tantrums and meltdowns that I’ve heard of with other speech-delayed children. I plan to have him learn proper ASL once he’s older and has made more progress in his speech development.

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