Tips for Teaching Your Baby Sign Language

If you are asking yourself whether it’s worth it to teach your baby sign language, I’m here to tell you: it absolutely is. I started basic sign language with my youngest two children when they were around 5 months old. They obviously were not signing back at that age but laying that foundation at an early age was well worth my time!


Mom and Baby Signing "More"

Babies have needs, just like adults do. They get hot, cold, hungry, tired, and sick – but they can’t tell us that! They can only cry to let us know something is wrong, and it becomes a guessing game for the caretaker. Imagine the frustration of being unable to communicate what you need at any given moment! Learning sign language at an early age can remove some of that frustration from your baby’s day, which, in turn, leads to better interactions for both of you. Some research has even suggested that learning sign language early fosters speech development!

Think about the signs you would use most often with your baby and start there! Our family started with the signs for “eat”, “milk”, “more”, and “all done”. This helped our babies communicate basic needs far earlier than they would have otherwise. After our babies mastered these signs, we added the signs for “mom”, “dad”, and “dog”. Once our infants were signing regularly, we added the signs for “please” and “thank you” to teach respect for others.


Dad Signing with Son

When my infants were around 5 months old, I started signing for them. I spoke the word, made the sign, and provided the object all in rapid succession. For example, when I knew my baby was hungry, I would both say and sign “milk”, and immediately provide him with a bottle or begin breastfeeding. As he started to get the hang of it, I would gently help his hands form the signs prior to giving him the desired object. Then, he was signing on his own! Consistency is key.

If you don’t know any sign language words, don’t worry! It is SO easy to learn, AND there are hundreds of free resources available to support you on this communication journey. Baby Sign Language is a great site that even has a dictionary with videos to teach you signs for basic words. Hand Speak has a list of the Top 100, 200, and 300 most-used words in ASL, which also has images and videos to help you learn!


Toddler Eating at Table

Need even more? Baby Signing Time is a fantastic resource that you can even watch WITH your baby! You can purchase the videos, or many of them are on YouTube for free. Also, on YouTube – Baby Einstein’s My First Signs is available for free (in several different parts/videos).

Have you taught your infant sign language? What has been helpful and/or challenging for you?

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