April 30, 2024

How to teach baby sign language

How to teach baby sign language


The journey of parenthood is a beautiful tapestry woven with a myriad of emotions and experiences. Each day brings the pure joy of watching your child grow, as they experience new things and reach new developmental milestones. But along with this joy often comes a common concern - How do I understand my baby's needs before they can even speak?

This is where baby sign language comes into play, serving as an effective bridge between parents and their preverbal infants. Teaching baby sign language to your infant or toddler to communicate not only empowers them to express their needs but also strengthens the parent-child bond between you and your little one. So let's embark on this beautiful journey together, walking you through everything you need to know about baby sign language - from the basics to benefits, common signs, how to teach baby sign language, and so much more!

What is Baby Sign Language?

Baby sign language refers to the use of hand gestures allowing infants and toddlers to communicate emotions, wants, and objects long before they can speak. These are simple symbolic gestures to communicate or signs that denote common words or phrases in everyday life. It is an effective communication tool for you and your baby.

It’s important to note that this isn't a full-fledged language in itself but rather a set of symbolic gestures or signs tailored for the communication abilities of infants and toddlers. So, no worries if you're not fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), the simplified signs used for babies are easy to learn and incorporate into daily communication.

Baby sign language provides a window into your little one's thoughts. It opens up exciting opportunities for early communication – including reducing frustration for both of you!

When Should You Start Basic Sign language For babies?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), introducing baby sign language can be done at around 6 months old. However, starting earlier may not yield results until later on. Hearing babies who are taught ASL signs usually begin using hand gestures to communicate at around 8 or 9 months old.

How to Teach Baby Sign Language

Teaching your baby to use signs or sign language doesn't require setting aside extra time or attending special classes. Here are some simple steps to get started:

  1. Choose commonly used words: Start with basic signs related to food like 'milk', 'more', and 'all done'.
  2. Repeat, repeat, repeat: Use the sign every time you say the word throughout the day for best results.
  3. Accompany, not replace: The sign is meant to accompany, not replace, the spoken word. This helps your baby link the visual gesture with the verbal sounds. You should make the sign at the same time as you say the word.
  4. Add signs as you go: Once comfortable with basic signs, expand your repertoire based on words that you frequently use and are relevant to your baby’s care or interests. You can refer to a baby sign language chart to make things easier.
  5. Be patient: Patience is key as it may take some time before your little one starts using these signs effectively.
  6. Include other caregivers: Let your child’s other caregivers know how to perform the signs. This ensures your baby is understood when they start signing back. You can also share the baby sign language chart you refer to, to keep things consistent.

Exploring the Benefits of Baby Sign Language

The use of baby sign language goes beyond bridging communication gaps. It brings a host of potential benefits for your hearing baby, from minimizing frustration to encouraging cognitive development.

1. Curbing Communication Frustration

Before they can talk, babies naturally use gestures to communicate (like pointing or reaching). When caregivers respond to these non-verbal cues, babies learn that their actions have meaning, which motivates them to continue communicating. Baby sign language takes this a step further by giving them a more defined method of expression, thus reducing their frustration arising from unfulfilled needs or wants.

2. Enhancing Bonding Opportunities

The process of teaching baby sign language and practicing can provide unique parent-child bonding opportunities. It allows you as parents to tune into your child's interests and nurture a deeper connection with them.

3. Promoting Cognitive Development

Anecdotally, it's common to hear that kids who use baby sign language have larger vocabularies and better skills in spelling and reading. One study even suggested that baby sign language used during infancy was associated with higher intellectual functioning in early school years.

4. Understanding Hunger and Satiety Cues

Using signs like 'more' and 'all done' can help parents understand when their child is hungry or full. This can encourage healthy eating habits right from infancy!

Common Baby Signs

A good starting point is to teach your child signs for common words or activities relevant to their daily lives such as 'milk', 'more', 'all done', 'bed', etc.

  • For instance, when it’s time for breastmilk or formula you can ask your baby if they’re ready for milk while squeezing your fist at the same time you say “milk.” At the end of each meal, you can be “all done” while turning your palms toward them and then back toward you.
  • Incorporate the sign for 'book' during your bedtime routine. So, your little one will understand that after storytime comes sleep time.
  • Also, using the sign for 'morning' can help distinguish between nighttime and daytime if you have an early riser.
  • Other signs like 'eat', 'diaper', or names of common animals can be introduced as your baby's interests and activities expand. For instance, if they show a particular interest in the family pet, teaching them the sign for 'dog' or 'cat' can be a fun way to communicate this interest.

There are many online resources and basic sign language charts available for you to get started.


Teaching your kid basic sign language for babies is a beautiful process that opens up new avenues of communication between you and your child. It's not just about aiding communication before speech develops; it's also about creating a deeper bond with your child and empowering them to express themselves. So why not give it a try? You might just find that it makes life easier (and better!) for both you and your baby!

And remember, at Raising Superstars, we're here to support you every step of the way with scientifically backed programs designed to promote child development in a fun, engaging manner! Our Prodigy Challenge program, designed specifically for young babies, takes this into account. The program acts as a building block for early years development such as memory, crawling, and more. This includes the introduction of basic sign language for babies in the form of fun activities.

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