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Baby Sign Language

Updated on November 10, 2014

Communicating with Your Baby Through Sign Language can be Simple and Rewarding - For Both of You

Learning to communicate with your child before they can talk (or talk very well) has a number of advantages, not the least of which is reduced frustration for both parent and child because you can understand one another much better.

I'd heard about how helpful signing is for parents and their pre-verbal infant or toddler, but I was intimidated at how to go about learning sign language and teaching it to my daughter. In actuality, with some great resources, teaching my baby to sign was not only much simpler than I'd thought, it was really enjoyable and helpful for both of us. My little girl got to communicate her needs and wants from an early age, and it took a ton of the 'what do you want?' game off of the table. Total win-win situation for baby and parent. While my daughter's a preschooler now, she still likes to sign sometimes, and yes, she has an excellent vocabulary and verbal skills.

In this site you'll read about the benefits of using sign language with your baby, learn how to teach sign language to your child in an easy and fun way, find answers to some frequently asked questions about baby signing, and get more resources about signing with your baby or toddler.

photo credit:

The Benefits of Signing with Your Baby

One of the most immediate benefits for both parents and baby is a lowered amount of frustration in communication. Many of the tantrums and frustration that a toddler experiences have their roots in frustration over not being able to communicate well. For a pre-verbal baby or child who does not yet have a good grasp on verbal language yet, signing is a means to communicate with their parents in an understandable way.

For example, a baby who knows even a few simple signs can clearly communicate whether they want more milk, more water or if they are 'all done'.

Parents who sign with their baby may also experience:

* Deeper bonding with their baby because they have greater insight into their baby's mind

* A higher level of trust from their baby because he or she knows that you understand what he or she is trying to tell you

* Satisfaction. What a great feeling it is to know that you can effectively communicate with your pre-verbal infant

Scientific studies suggest that "typical" children who learn to sign:

* have higher IQ scores

* are better adjusted

* read at an earlier age

photo credit:

Does Signing Really Reduce Tantrums?

In my experience, yes. Signing gives young children the ability to express themselves by saying what they want, like milk or a ball, and also how they are feeling --sad, mad, etc. instead of resorting to tantrum behaviors. It doesn't magically eliminate tantrums, but it definitely helps a ton to provide a language that both toddlers and parents can understand even before a child can speak.

Getting Started with Baby Sign Language

Finding a fun, helpful way to learn interactively with your child

I'd heard from other parents about how much signing had helped them in communicating with their babies and toddlers, but wondered about how to learn to sign to be able to teach my daughter. How would I know what signs were best to teach? What method would work well? I found huge books on teaching children to sign, but when would I have time to read them on top of all the other responsibilities of caring for a newborn (and books that went along with those!) Signing is communicating and relating, so it made even more sense to learn in a more interactive way.

One learning method that some friends tried were baby signing classes in our community. Those seemed like fun, but they were both expensive and you only went a few times. While I'm not a mom to plunk her child in front of a video for hours at a time, I found that the Baby Signing Time DVDs by Two Little Hands Productions extremely helpful because they were designed for babies/toddlers and their parents to watch together and facilitated our learning to communicate better.

Signs are taught within the context of catchy songs that are arranged by topic. For example the first song in Baby Signing Time Volume 1 teaches all about signs for some of the most common words you'd use around a baby's mealtime. You and your baby see signs for Eat, Drink, Cracker, Water, Cereal, Milk, Banana, Juice and Finished (All Done) demonstrated both by the warmly appealing teacher, Rachel, and several toddlers. There was another song about pets, one about teaching the sign for 'more', a song about families (mommy, daddy and grandparents), the 'diaper dance' song, and a tune that teaches signing for showing where something hurts. All very useful for everyday life.

One of the nice things is that I could play as many or as few of the songs as I wanted to reinforce the signs that I wanted my daughter to focus on learning at the time, both for me and for her. When you got down to it, watching the Baby Signing Time DVDs with my daughter as an 8-month old initially learning the signs was really a lot more helpful for my learning. Plus, the songs and word picture descriptions of the signs got stuck in my head. I'd find myself singing them in my head (sometimes a bit too much ;), but it made me remember easily so I could use signs naturally when I thought of that word.

At 20 months old, my daughter would sign 'baby' to ask for the Baby Signing Time DVDs every day. At this point in her language development, the signs came more easily for her, and she added new signs to her ASL vocabulary each week. They tended to be centered around her interests, which at that stage were anything having to do with the outside, motion, vehicles, and anything that resembled a ball.

Starting off With Some of the Most Helpful Signs

Baby Signing Time Volume 1 DVD
Baby Signing Time Volume 1 DVD

This collection of signs has some of the most essential signs. If you're going to just pick a few signs to do with your baby, you'll most likely choose at least one or two of the signs taught on this DVD like 'more,' 'eat/food,' 'all done,' and 'milk.' You and your child will also learn 'mom' and 'dad', as well as some types of pets. It was helpful for our family to know signs like 'cereal,' 'cracker' and 'water' in communicating with our daughter too. These are all signs that very young children can pick up on and learn to do.


A Sample of How a Sign is Taught From Baby Signing Time Volume 1. - The sign for 'bird'. The rest of the song, 'The Pets I Love' teaches signs for other common

Other signs taught in Baby Signing Time Volume 1 include: Eat - Drink - Cracker - Water - Cereal - Milk - Banana - Juice - Finished - Mom - Grandma - Dad - Grandpa - Diaper - Potty - More - Bird - Fish - Cat - Dog - Horse - Frog - Hurt - Where

A Sample of How a Sign is Taught From Baby Signing Time Volume 4. - The sign for 'happy', taught in the song 'Can You Feel It'

Other signs taught in Baby Signing Time Volume 4 include: Friend - Play - Share - Nice - Feel - Happy - Laugh - Sad - Cry - Hot - Cold - Yes - No - Me - You - Dirty - Clean - Apple - Pear - Carrot - Peach - Juice - Bubble - Balloon - Telephone - Music - Game.

Your Thoughts on Baby Signing - Please feel free to leave more comments in the guestbook further down the page. I'd love to know what you think.

Will you teach your baby/toddler how to sign?

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Taking Things From the Screen Into Real Life

How to make the learning process more fun and integrated into your daily life

Studies have shown that babies learn much better from interactions with real people than from videos alone, so once we (at least I) knew and could use the signs from Baby Signing Time, I started using them in real life.

Rather than just sitting down and having signing practice sessions, I found it easier, less time-consuming, and more effective to just do the signs along with the spoken words in their normal context. My daughter found it a lot more fun to watch mommy's hand while she was talking about what we were doing too.

When it was mealtime, I would tell my daughter that it was time to eat and sign 'eat' at the same time, or ask her verbally 'would you like to eat?' while doing the 'eat' sign. As I'd give her bites of food, I'd say things like 'you're eating!' and sign 'eat', and 'yes, we eat cereal' (of course signing 'eat'). At first, this was a very deliberate action on my part to help me remember too, but after awhile I started signing 'eat' more naturally as I talked with my daughter. After awhile, she caught on, and she started signing 'eat' when she was hungry or in response to my questions of if she'd like to eat, just like the little boy in the photo above is signing 'more' for his dad to give him another bite of rice cereal.

When she learned each sign, she smiled and seemed very happy with herself for learning how to do it, and that mommy and daddy understand her. Of course, sometimes she was happy because the sign got her food or a toy more quickly, but who can blame her? ;)

P.S. in the photo above, the baby is signing 'book'

photo credit:, used under a creative commons license

More Signing with Your Baby or Toddler

The rest of the Baby Signing Time collection to help your child communicate with you. The animation and music is friendly, fun and helps the concepts stick.

Baby Signing Time Volume 2: Here I Go DVD
Baby Signing Time Volume 2: Here I Go DVD

Learn to sign vehicles like 'car' and 'airplane', bedtime signs like 'bath' and 'book', and my personal favorites...'please,' 'thank you' and 'sorry'. My daughter loved to be able to tell us when she saw an airplane, and learning how to sign 'please' was really instrumental in helping her learn to ask in a non-demanding way. You'll also learn signs for 'ball,' 'bear' and 'doll' to help your child communicate about their toys.


A Toddler Shows What She's Learned from Baby Signing Time

Baby Signing Time 4
Baby Signing Time 4

The signs for feelings such as 'happy,' 'laughing; and 'sad' are taught in this volume, as well as 'share,' and 'nice'. My favorite signs in this volume? 'Yes' and 'no'. It's nice for a young child to have something to sign to answer 'do you want this?'. Very helpful in my experience. There are also some signs for more common toys.


Using a Book to Teach Your Baby to Sign

There are a number of large, thorough, well-organized books that show many of the most helpful signs for babies and young toddlers to learn, and many also give their parents and caregivers tips on teaching signing as well. Personally, though, I think one of the drawbacks to using a book is when you'd have time to read it on top of all the other responsibilities of caring for a baby. Maybe that's just me, but I prefer a more interactive means to learn something myself, and if my child and I are learning together, that's even more efficient and fun.

A big bonus of having a book with lots of signs in it, though, is having a great reference on hand if you're wanting to remember specifically how a sign is done.

Will Signing Delay My Child's Verbal Development?

No. Research has shown that there are no developmental speech delays in hearing children due to signing. In fact, the opposite has been indicated by several clinical studies. Hearing children who sign tend to have a 'jump start' on speaking, since research seems to point to a connection between communication functions of signing and verbal development.

In my personal experience, learning American Sign Language has been fairly similar to learning a new verbal language, but in this case we've had the benefit of some great tools to teach it to very young children, so I've learned the words more quickly and easily. I guess I learn better at a young child's level too. :) If you are interested in reading more, there is a link to a research summary in the 'More about ASL and Signing Section' further down this page which provides more detail about the benefits of signing.

A Parent's Review

"The Baby Signing Time songs are catchy and reinforce the signs for both kids and parents. Rachel's clear, child-friendly descriptions of each sign help you remember how to do them, and her animated delivery catches young childrens' attention. My daughter and I liked watching the other babies sign as well as the cute animation along with the songs featuring Rachel, Leah, Alex and baby Hopkins the Frog."

Why Use ASL (American Sign Language)?

Can't I just make up signs for my child and I to use?

You or your child can make up 'specialized' signs for just your family to communicate amongst each other, and it would help you understand one another. At least one book I read focused on this method of 'signing', which argued that when the child makes up their own signs, they remember them better and use them more. Not only is that assertion is debatable, there are far more practical advantages to using ASL. They also say that ASL signs are harder to learn, which is true in some situations. However, the ASL signs that small children would be most likely to use in everyday life tend to be very simple to do and easy to pick up.

Since ASL is a real language used by thousands and thousands of people, both hearing and deaf, why not give your child the advantage of learning actual words in a second language. Hearing children who sign as babies have an easier transition into communicating with deaf children and adults. You never know what future interests and opportunities that ability could open up....interest in other languages, a job as an ASL interpreter, or an advantage getting a great job which views ASL knowledge as a positive.

The clincher for me about using American Sign Language with my daughter is that she can use it to communicate with people outside her family RIGHT NOW. With the growing popularity of teaching ASL to children, many caregivers, doctors and other families are familiar with common signs. For example, my daughter's favorite lady in our church's childcare knows what my daughter means when she does the ASL signs for 'more' and 'all done', which makes my little girl all the happier there knowing she's understood.

photo credit:


Does My Child Have to Do the Signs Perfectly?

No, many kids start off doing the signs as best they can with what they can do physically. As their fine motor skills develop, their signs can improve. Just keep demonstrating them correctly and encouraging them.

At the right is my daughter signing 'more' with her knuckles rather than her fingertips to ask her grandpa to bounce her in the water again.

The Baby Signing Time videos show real kids signing, and while you can tell what the children are saying, the signs naturally like how a little kid would do them rather than the more precise signing that an adult is capable of. Just like with spoken language, a child can say 'mama' before they say 'mother.'

My daughter (age 4) signing 'fish' at the koi swimming around in this fountain

My daughter (age 4) signing 'fish' at the koi swimming around in this fountain
My daughter (age 4) signing 'fish' at the koi swimming around in this fountain
Baby Signing Time 3
Baby Signing Time 3

So many kids love to go outside, so they learn the sign for it on this DVD. Our family loved learning the signs for 'tree', 'grass', 'bug', 'leaf' and 'flower' to talk about things we saw on walks. When she learned the signs for 'stop' and 'go', my daughter took great delight in signing them at traffic lights.


Signing Time is designed for children ages 1-8, but it's a very fun, effective way to introduce anyone to ASL

Now in preschool, my daughter is completely engaged by these videos. For that matter, so am I. It's an easy way to learn a second language that expands her vocabulary, word usage and builds some great pre-reading skills. I'm excited to see where they take us. We've also used signs for words like 'please' and 'thank you' as silent reminders for her to say them in social situations.

So far, her favorite episodes of Signing Time have been the ones with animals (Leah's Farm and Zoo Train) as well as ABC signs. Big plug for ABC signs: a FANTASTIC alphabet song where Rachel teaches the ASL alphabet along with words that begin with each particular letter. The song's incredibly catchy, funny and vocabulary-building all at the same time. My family has a lot of inside jokes based on it, so you can guess how many times we've watched that video and have signed the alphabet.

Below I've got just a tiny sample of the Signing Time videos (there are several seasons of the show that cover topics such as school signs, around the neighborhood, food, etc., etc., etc.) They also offer alphabet and number practice videos that mix up the questions/activities to help kids learn.

Signing Time Volume 4: Family, Feelings & Fun DVD
Signing Time Volume 4: Family, Feelings & Fun DVD

I'd really recommend this one for starting out with helpful signs, especially if you have a toddler or preschooler who might have a hard time expressing their emotions through words just yet. Several of my friends whose children have language and/or developmental delays have also used Signing Time and other resources like it to help their whole language skills.


Learning the Alphabet with Signing Time

Signing Time Volume 5: ABC Signs DVD
Signing Time Volume 5: ABC Signs DVD

My entire family has had huge amounts of fun learning the ASL alphabet with this video. Not to mention it's an engaging way for preschoolers to learn the alphabet in general and increase their vocabulary. The song, the visuals, and making the signs with your own hands stimulates visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. As my daughter got the alphabet down, she loved the challenge of trying to race through the ABCs with Alex and Leah. Preschool through school-aged children can all watch this together and get a lot out of it with no one feeling like it's too babyish or that the littlest ones can't get anything out of it.


So What Do You Think? - Your feedback about baby/toddler signing, about this site, or your input on other helpful resources. Would love to hear what you think!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens. I made use of sign language videos from when my child is 13 months old and it wasn't long before she caught on and started signing back : )

    • sallemange profile image


      6 years ago

      What a great idea. It seems so natural. I was thinking of learning signing for adults and it never occurred to me that it could be so helpful with children.

    • delia-delia profile image


      6 years ago

      We have a niece who taught both of her children when babies to's amazing how intelligent they are now, I'm sure it has to do with signing...It should be taught to all kids, it's so beneficial.

      ~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing~

    • reginaaj2gerica profile image


      6 years ago

      This is just Amazing!

    • reginaaj2gerica profile image


      6 years ago

      This is great, I can't wait to send my daughter the link to your lens so she can see this for herself. Thanks for the information

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Fascinating stuff. The videos were great. Blessed.

    • jdwheeler profile image


      6 years ago

      I believe in this 100%. We had some sign language videos, "Signing Time with Alex and Leah", and she picked up on signs at a little over a year old. It was amazing.

    • sebo246 profile image


      6 years ago

      My baby just signed back at my for the first time... I'm glad I did this! Though I wish I had done it with my older kids.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 

      6 years ago from Keller, Texas

      I used baby sign language on my 5th child when it was just starting to become fashionable. I started her on it a little late, but loved when she would catch on and use the signs. I do think it helped ease communication frustrations. Can't wait for grandchildren!

    • rachelscott profile image


      7 years ago

      So interesting lens.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      7 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Fascinating topic! Would love to be able to share this with my grandson. :)

    • yourselfempowered profile image

      Odille Rault 

      7 years ago from Gloucester

      What a wonderful lens! I think an introduction to baby signing should be part of every pre-natal class.... and then they should hand out the URL for this lens! :) Thoroughly blessed by a Squid Angel. :)

    • Spiderlily321 profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent lens! I learned ASL in college and taught my 3 yr old son as early as a few months old. He had a bit of a speech delay due to his epilepsy and would sign the things to me that he couldn't say. I love ASL and I thnk more parents should give it a try. I have added you to my list of favorite featured lenses for parents of children with special needs. I am trying to create a type of virtual support circle for these parents and for others who just want the information. Thank you so much for sharing!

      here is a link to my lens that I am featuring you on:

    • TheMotherSquid profile image


      7 years ago

      Signing helped us so much! Babies and toddlers have so much frustration trying to communicate. This helps them relax and express their needs.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I really enjoyed the lens. I am looking for different ways teach my 22 month old to communicate with me. I am working on verbal but this is a great alternative. Can't wait to try it.

    • DeannaDiaz profile image


      7 years ago

      Another lovely lens!

    • beaworkathomemom profile image


      7 years ago

      Helpful lens! A really great communication technique to help you better understand your child, a happy child is a healthy child!

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      7 years ago

      Years ago I worked with a nonprofit daycare that had a large number of deaf and hearing-impaired children in it, so all the kids learned a fair amount of sign language just in the course of their day's activities. It struck me at the time how much easier it made it, having a smattering of ASL, for the very young ones to communicate with adults and older children, whether hearing or not; and very interesting how quickly the parents picked up signs from their toddlers, too. :) Great lens!

    • OrganicMom247 profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool lens! I think this can really help in communicating with the kids. Great job!

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 

      7 years ago

      I suppose gesturing as part of the process of speaking - whether it is to a child or an adult - is an in-built human trait. Some of these gestures are ethno-specific, region-specific, community-specific, or family-specific. Yes, with some children, using sign-language as a distinct means of communication does help in connecting with them more effectively. Very interesting topic and a well-made lens.

    • WaynesWorld LM profile image

      WaynesWorld LM 

      7 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • BunnyFabulous profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @maurissam: Actually, many parents have found signing to be very helpful for their autistic children in learning to communicate. Signing Time has a page of resources for families with autism: Hope this is helpful.

    • maurissam profile image

      Chocolate Pickney 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Another great lens from you, My daughter is 3yrs old and autistic. I'm not sure whether signing is a good thing for her considering I have to try my best to teach her to talk. Overall I thing sign language is great.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for mentioning us in the Lens! We love to see people using Baby Signing Time!

    • DogWatchColumbus profile image


      7 years ago

      Going to attempt this with my 11 month old. Thanks for the info...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Oh, and I added you to my Lensroll. Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My wife and I have definitely started teaching our baby sign language. I think that your page could benefit from a graphic demonstrating the simple signs to teach you baby at first. Keep it up!

    • profile image

      jseven lm 

      8 years ago

      Very cool! I just saw this come up on my related lens. I'm lensrolling it! Great job. :)

    • wolley811 profile image


      8 years ago

      I love you site! I wish I'd found this site a couple of years ago when I was just teaching my baby to sign! :) Still, this will be helpful when I get my second baby! :)

    • BunnyFabulous profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @tiff0315: What an awesome internship!

    • tiff0315 profile image


      8 years ago

      I taught other children basic signs in a toddler preschool for children who were slower in their development. It was a part of my internship. It is very rewarding and a great way to form communication with a child who cannot find the words to speak. Great lens!

    • BunnyFabulous profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @ajgodinho: Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, even learning a few signs can be incredibly helpful with young kids. I know it made our lives much easier.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sign language is very interesting and I've seen it at work firsthand with my close friend's children. I've learned a few signs myself and I think it's a great way to communicate with babies/toddlers before they start speaking. Great work on this lens!

    • blessedmomto7 profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent lens. I taught sign language to my last 3 babies and am starting yet again with my new baby. Blessed by a squid angel.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      wow, so much information. Thanks!

    • BunnyFabulous profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Central Florida

      prosperity66 -- You bring up a commonly asked question. Research has shown that there are no developmental speech delays in hearing children due to signing. In fact, the opposite has been indicated by several clinical studies. Hearing children who sign tend to have a 'jump start' on speaking, since research seems to point to a connection between communication functions of signing and verbal development.

      In my personal experience, learning American Sign Language has been fairly similar to learning a new verbal language, but in this case we've had the benefit of some great tools to teach it to very young children, so I've learned the words more quickly and easily. I guess I learn better at a young child's level too. :) The research summary that my lens points to is which provides more detail about the benefits of signing if you are interested in reading further.

      I really appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

    • justholidays profile image


      9 years ago

      This lens is interesting - although I wouldn't have learned this language to my son, but the reason is maybe that I'm from a different culture as yours - but I've one question: when do those children start speaking? Aren't they at the risk of speaking later than others? While signing might be a great way to communicate with your child, it also becomes "easier" to not try to speak. Am I wrong?

      I would like to learn more about it.

      Anyway, I rated 5 stars as I really liked the lens!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      9 years ago

      very interesting lens :-)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love signing with my baby. He is 16 months old and we are learning fun signs now such as "car, ball, bird "and more. We started at around 6 months with signs for "more" (when eating), "water " and "eat." I can't tell you how amazing it is the first time your child signs to you - he was so excited that he was understood and his needs were met. I was so excited that I understood what he was asking for! Plus, it creates a special bond between you...And research shows that signing doesn't delay language development - just the opposite! Signing helps to promote early speech. I can't say enough about it - its fun and educational for the entire family!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I absolutely love the Signing Time series. I think it's brilliant. You should get to know Rachel Coleman a little more, she's fascinating. Her oldest daughter Leah is deaf and the youngest daughter, Lucy has Cerebral Palsy and Spinal Bifda. What an amazing woman she is. I've been signing with my son for over two years and I can't tell you how amazed I am at his IQ. Not only does he know all the ABC's, animals, colors, etc but he uses it in everyday conversation now. It's amazing! Thank you for visiting my lens. I am going to lens roll this one to my Teach Your Children Sign Language lens. Thank you for sharing! I wish that all parents saw it this way.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Coming back to say, You're officially blessed!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      My daughter used some signs as a toddler. She individualized them and made them her own. It was so very helpful to have this avenue to communicate with her. She is a highly verbal person to this day (age 10).

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      It was amazing to see our granddaughter express her needs through sign language. Her parents were able to know when she wanted more food or when she was done. Playtime was enhanced because we could understand when she wanted to do some particular activity some more, or when she was done. While I will never be a parent of an infant again in my life, I am convinced that signing is "the way to go". I am certain that this website will be invaluable to those who take the time to investigate its comprehensive content.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Time spent with our "signing" granddaughter was so much more satisfying because she quickly taught us how to better communicate with her. It was amazing to see how happy and stress free mealtime was for mom and daughter when they could effectively communicate with each other. Awesome website! Highly recommended for all parents of young children.


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