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Baby Sign Language – 15 Easy Signs to Teach Baby

By Molly Thornberg |

Teaching baby sign language can help better communicate with your child.

Teaching baby sign language can help better communicate with your child.

While infants and toddlers ant to communicate their needs and wants, they can’t. Since hand eye coordination develops sooner than verbal skills, babies can learn simple signs for common words.

We started teaching baby sign language with our first child, who’s now 8 years old. At first I thought it would be some hokey bologna but gave it a try. While she didn’t catch on until she was around 8 months, it was amazing to see. It was one of the first realizations of a parent that I can teach my child and they will do it. In addition to of course understanding more of what my baby wanted or needed. Our second and third child were also introduced to baby sign language. Our toddler, while he talks – still emphasizes words with signing.

Baby sign language experts suggest starting use of signing around the age of 6 months.

Here are 15 Easy Signs to Teach Your Baby:

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Baby Sign Language - How to sign with baby

How to Baby Sign: Mom


Open your hand and move it towards your mouth - thumb facing you.
Images from babysignlanguage.com - visit to download a free chart

Download a free chart here.

Have You Taught Your Baby to Sign?
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Molly blogs about technologymom style and geekery at Digital Mom Blog. Follow her on Twitter @DigitalMolly

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About Molly Thornberg

digitalmom

Molly Thornberg

Molly Thornberg is a wife and mother of four. She worked in web design and social media marketing before quitting to pursue blogging full time. On Digital Mom Blog, Molly shares "geeky" DIY projects, discusses the latest technology news, and talks about her life as a parent. Read bio and latest posts → Read Molly's latest posts →

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20 thoughts on “Baby Sign Language – 15 Easy Signs to Teach Baby

  1. www.shotgunkorea.wordpress.com says:

    We’ve been using sign language when we talk to our son, but so far he hasn’t responded– it’s still pretty early though, he’s a couple weeks shy of 6 months. I am so excited for when he signs back!

  2. Holly says:

    Both my kiddos signed over 75 signs regularly. My son started at 6 mo and my daughter at 4 mo. By the time they were 16 months they were signing like crazy. So much fun!!

  3. Mary says:

    I was wondering if using sign language make children speak only a little later than usual.

  4. Jasmine says:

    @Mary- no. It’s shown that signing (and using the word out loud) can actually help them speak sooner.

  5. Christina says:

    Mary- It’s not shown to. I used signs religiously and my daughter knew over 100 before she was 2. Her speech is still delayed at 4, but I will not say it was baby signs. My son is only 22 months and we don’t use it as much, but he knows abut 15 and is talking up a storm as well. :)

  6. HeyBeckyJ says:

    My daughter’s day care encourages signing, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have attempted it. However, at 14 months, I can say that signing has helped tremendously! I can tell that she understands a lot of what I say (she’s great at following basic directions), and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to not be able to express herself back. But knowing just a few signs can drastically cut down on the frustrating guessing game of “what do you want?”

  7. Ann says:

    All of our speech therapist have said teaching sign can delay speech BUT it also can aid children with delays by decreasing their frustration. We do some signing and it does help a lot!

  8. Jenny says:

    Signing encourages communication and decreases frustration. Most children will naturally drop signing on their own as their speech development improves. They quickly learn that spoken words are much more efficient than signs (i.e.you can’t “yell” in sign language and you can’t get mom’s attention with a sign if she is not looking at you, etc.) While it’s certainly not necessary for development, baby sign language can be very beneficial. It does talk a lot of consistancy and effort on the parent’s part, but it was totally worth it in our family. It’s worth a bit of research at least. There area lot of good books and programs out there about baby signing.

  9. Jenny says:

    I should add (like another commenter above) about teaching and using baby signing correctly. You repeat the word out loud every time you do the sign. Since you should repeat the word and sign several times in a row to empasize what you are communicating (especially when first introducing a new sign) the child is probably hearing the spoken word more than if you were simply speaking normally. i.e. “Do you want some milk?” (show sign) “Milk?” (show sign) Milk (show sign) in a sippy cup? Here is some milk (show sign) for you.” “Can you say milk? (show sign)
    This may be part of the reason signing is not shown (at least in some studies) to delay speech.
    I hope that makes more sense! :)

  10. Heather says:

    My oldest didn’t start talking till he was almost 2 but at 21 months he still said only 2 or 3 words. My second was a talker as soon as she was walking at 15 months. With number three we’ve done a bunch of baby signs and he LOVES to be able to communicate. He’s just over 18 months and has 15 or so signs that he loves, especially animal signs. He’s still quite verbal because we do talk to him as much as we sign with him, but he’s so much happier than the other 2 were at his age, just because he could let us know when he wanted food or drink or milk or a nap. And now instead of trying to figure out what his baby sounds mean, we have a sign that lets us know instantly whether he wants a book or some food. It’s AWESOME and I recommend it to everyone.

  11. Whozat says:

    My daughter began signing back to us at around 11 months, and by the time she stopped learning new signs at about 22 mos (because she’d started adding spoken words very rapidly) she had over 100 signs, many of which were of her own invention.

    Looking at this list though, I would suggest using an alternate sign for “I love you” – a kid young enough to be preverbal won’t have the dexterity to make the “ILY” hand sign. We just did a “hug yourself” thing when she was a baby – but now (almost 3.5) she does the hand sign, but only does it well with her right hand, the other hand “Doesn’t cooperate very well.” :-)

  12. Lynn says:

    Please don’t let your child make up their own signs. This leads to ” home sings” that aren’t understood in the deaf community.

  13. Diana says:

    I’m surprised “please” and “thank you” are not on this list. :) The 1 year old I nanny has those 2 signs down and it’s great to teach him manners. For please, palms together as if praying and for thank you he puts one palm to his chest. I’m going to start working on some for food and animals in the next couple of days.

  14. Caryn says:

    Which DVD would you recommend to aid in teaching sign language to a 10 month old?

  15. Sheila says:

    I am also surprised please and thank you are not on the list. I have many friends that have done the baby sign classes on base- most of their children are not speaking as well as the other kids their age in daycare, but also aren’t as frustrated trying to get their point across. I guess the “research” is still out on this one because it is relative to each child’s development and honestly with each child we don’t know when or how they will develop until after a milestone has passed, so it’s hard to say we have helped or hindered. I honestly want to start some of them because I want sign language to become a second language for our children. It is important to teach any language other than primary and I think this is one that bridges a gap with the deaf community.

  16. Katelyn says:

    I have a son who is almost 3 and we started teaching him sign language around 8 months, after he started trying to communicate with words, like mama and dada. He picked up on it very quickly. We only did a few words, just to help him ask for things he couldn’t yet say. He continued to develop his talking skills normally, maybe even a little faster than normal, and once he was able to say the words he signed, he stopped signing them. My daughter is now almost 9 months and is babbling a little. We have started signing a few basic words with her as well, and already she has picked up on a couple of the motions. I am confident that she will not have any language developmental delays either. I think signing definitely helps our children reduce their frustration. Children’s ability to move their hands develops before their ability to form their mouth and tongue into words. This is why many babies pick on signing before talking and it really shouldn’t hinder their ability talk.

  17. Courtney says:

    You should add help & hurt to the list.:)

  18. Katy says:

    My son is 21 months old and so far, he says maybe 2 words, randomly with no signs of knowing what exactly the words are. Is there a set age to this or could we start this at any time?

  19. Tami says:

    Love the article and all the comments. I work for our states “Early On” program which is the service of Part C in the IDEA…. or in regular terms… its the service to birth to 3 year olds within their educational needs. It recognizes that the earlier we catch the delays in a child the better we can service these needs and insure educational success down the road. EVERY state must have a program like this as it is part of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)…. that said if your child has NO form of real, intentional, verbal communication by 15-18 months, PLEASE speak to your pediatrician about this…. it does NOT mean that there is a long term delay, but possibly a here and now delay that some speech therapy could assist with! If your doctor does not know where to refer you, call your local school district and talk to their special education director, they will know where to refer you on how they provide services to the birth to 3 years age group.

    All this said…. by all means, always teach your babies sign!! I taught it to my kids, I taught it to my daycare kids when I ran a daycare, and I have studied the deaf and hard of hearing culture. It will NOT keep your child from talking!! It WILL greatly reduce the temper tantrums! The best DVD’s I have found are the “Signing Time” DVD’s by Rachel Colemen. Many libraries now carry these DVD’s as well or you can purchase them through Amazon. My youngest son, who was taught sign from birth, was a huge talker by a year old and by two he spoke clearly and abundantly! His first sign was “more” at 9 months. I now have a grandson who is 18 months and was 8 weeks premature…. his speech has developed a bit delayed, but he has a huge signing vocab and when he gets frustrated you can tell him to show you what he wants and he will usually come up with a sign that is correct! :) It works, take the time to teach it and learn it. Not to mention that many, many school districts are not mainstreaming children that are deaf and or hard of hearing…. wouldn’t it be great if YOUR child was one of the few that a deaf child could have as a friend simply because they know how to communicate with them. What a blessing this would be to so many.

  20. Parenting Babies says:

    One way you can help your child’s learning is with the use of flash cards. Flash cards are an old, yet extremely effective tool in language learning. They can make teaching and learning hand signals a lot easier. – http://parenting-babies.biz/making-progress-with-flash-cards/

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