Baby Signing (The Fun of Teaching Your Baby to Sign)

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By JustMommies staff

What is baby signing?

Baby signing is using gestures or signs to communicate with your baby. Many moms use American or British Sign Language when teaching their babies to sign but it is perfectly okay to create your own signs. The purpose of baby signing is to communicate with your baby. Babies are able to use hand gestures much earlier than they can communicate with words. Not being able to communicate can be frustrating for baby and mom. Teaching your baby signs gives her the opportunity to communicate with you possibly months before she can actually talk.

Why sign with your baby?

Communicate with baby earlier:

Babies who sign can communicate their needs sooner because they can communicate before they are capable of talking. This is particularly helpful for children who have speech and language delays. Some kids do not begin talking till they are two years old or older; therefore, baby signing gives them a way to communicate their needs.

Decreases baby's frustration and mom's: Some researchers believe that babies may cry, have tantrums or bite because they are frustrated and cannot communicate their needs. Have you ever been around a crying baby and just wanted to say "what do you want!" because you can't figure out what the problem is? Teaching your baby to communicate with signs or gestures will help her express her needs and hopefully lead to less frustration for mom and baby.

Helps your baby learn to talk: Many parents and skeptics are concerned that baby signing will delay talking or discourage a baby from using words to communicate. According to a long-term study conducted at the University of California and funded by the National Institute of Health, babies who use signing have an easier time learning to talk. (source

May help your child to communicate with the deaf community: If you choose to use American or British sign language, baby signing is a good introductory course for learning traditional sign language. Of course, baby signing is rudimentary and does not teach the sentence structure for American or British sign language but if you would like to pursue further studies in sign language this will certainly help.

Helps baby to communicate with siblings: Teaching your entire family to use baby signs will help siblings to bond and get along better. Big brothers or sisters usually like being involved with teaching their younger sibling to sign. It helps them feel connected and to communicate with each other.

Improves bond between mom and baby: Seeing your baby sign her first word is so exciting. Baby signing gives mom and baby a special way to talk to each other. Its fun: Why not teach your baby to sign? Its fun!

Getting Started

When should I start baby signing?

You can start signing as early as you want but eight to nine months of age is a good age to start. It won't hurt to try earlier but baby may not start to sign till later.

What signs should I start with?

Milk, drink, eat, mommy, daddy, more, up, down, cat, dog (or other family pet). These are all good signs to start off with. When you start introducing a sign, you will want to say the word as you sign it. Be very repetitive. Part of learning language is done through repetition. The more your baby hears and sees the sign, the more familiar she will be with it. For example every time your baby wants to nurse or take a bottle you can ask her would you like some "milk" and sign "milk". Do this several times so she associates milk with the sign milk. She may watch you sign for quite a while before she actually starts signing back to you.

Do I have to use American or British Sign Language?

Not at all, a lot of moms create their own signs that are simple for baby to understand and use. In fact, if you are using the Baby Signsä program it uses a combination of simple ASL signs and signs that baby and parent have created.

Should I use signs if my baby can talk?

That depends, if you are interested in teaching your child ASL or BSL in the future you may want to continue signing. However, if you are using baby signs as a language bridge to encourage talking then it is best to drop the sign once the baby knows how to speak the word. It is good for your child to sign but if your goal is to get her talking then it is suggested that parents should stop using a sign once baby knows how to say it.

What if my baby doesn't sign the word correctly?

That's okay. Babies will often sign the word differently. It doesn't matter. As long as baby is consistent with the sign she uses and you can recognize it as a distinct gesture for the word she is signing, than count it as the sign for that word. Continue to sign the word correctly and she will either get better at it or find her own way to sign it.

Where can I get information on baby signing?

Here are some great resources for baby signing Justmommies Baby Signing Message board American Sign Language Browser

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