Do you know how to start teaching your baby sign language?

Easy guide to get started teaching baby sign. 5 Simple steps to get started.

When you are preparing to have a child, you have checklists and guides for what you need when you go to the hospital, what you need the first 24 hours with a baby home and what you need to baby-proof in order for the home to be safe. But there are not many guides out there on how to get started teaching your baby sign language.

When my husband and I decided to teach our child-to-be baby sign because we knew the benefits of her learning it, I started to research baby sign and I didn't see many resources for getting started. As time grew closer to having our baby, my focus eventually shifted to other preparatory things and baby sign got lost in the mix.

It wasn't until our daughter was about 6 weeks old. She was asleep in her bed and I was finally taking a minute to myself. My husband casually asked me if we were still going to start baby sign language and when we should get started. I looked back in my Pinterest at an article I had pinned and it said to start early. I started to worry that I was starting too late...I was crazy, she wasn't even 2 months old yet.

I had no idea where to start! I restarted my research and saw websites that sell videos and books, but I really wasn't prepared to spend that money at that moment. I needed a plan. So I did what I do best, I started an in depth planning session, that had we researching and planning for several all-night sessions.

I finally had my plan of attack, well a couple. I had several trial and error moments and multiple pieces of humble pie being served my way. After weeks of working at a plan, I finally had come up with a simple way to get started and not feel overwhelmed.

Below I will provide you with the step by step guide that I used when introducing baby sign to my daughter. My hope is that it will help guide you in getting started with this important, but potentially overwhelming, skill for your child.

5 steps to getting started with Baby Sign

  1. Start with a list of basic baby signs you would like your baby to know. I just used an index card and pencil and listed about 10 signs I wanted to try to teach our baby. Don't go crazy! I initially had about 30 signs and it was way too overwhelming, especially because I had never done sign language in my life!
  2. Order the signs in an order that you would like to teach them. For example: First, 'milk'. Second, 'more'. Third, 'bath'. And so on. This list will be completely different for everyone. This should be an order of importance for you and your family. It will also help you focus. 
  3. You Tube is your friend! I started to search on You Tube for these basic baby signs I wanted to teach my daughter. I started with the first 5 on my list. I would watch the videos over and over to make sure I understood how to do the sign. I found Not an Exact Science and Linguistics Girl to be especially helpful. 
  4. Teach the association between the word you are saying, the word you are signing and the action. So for example: When it is time to nurse or give a bottle, say milk, do the sign for milk, then give them the bottle or nurse. I would even say in the middle of that feeding, "You are drinking milk" and do the sign as I say the word. 
  5. Start slowly. Starting with only 2-4 signs would be best. If you are starting them as infants, these 2-4 signs should be the only signs you teach them until around 4 or 5 months. If you are starting signing around 4 months or older, I would start to introduce 5 at a time for about a month and increase from there. 

Consistency is key for teaching your baby sign language. Try to do the sign every time you say the word. My husband and I even started to do the sign for please when we talked to each other without our daughter in the room!

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I hope this helps you take a breath and start with ease. This should be a fun time of learning for you and your child.
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27 comments

  1. Using sign language with my kids was such a helpful and rewarding experience! It's wonderful to be able to communicate with them before they can talk well. I would encourage everyone to give it a try!

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    1. It really is super helpful! Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  2. Hi I am visiting from BoBB's. My Mom taught me sign language as a small child, and I still use it to this day.
    If you start while kids are young the brain is a sponge. Nice topic!

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    1. That is amazing you still use it! I have learned so much myself! It was great meeting a mom the other day at the children's museum who was deaf and I was able to communicate with her a little, so was my daughter.

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  3. I am so glad I used sign language with my first born. It really helped a lot. We loved watching the Baby Signing Time Videos from the library (and youtube). We didn't do as much with our second, or perhaps we were signing but it was more natural by then. I'm due this month with another child and I can't wait to sign again as it's been a few years. PS I saw your post on the Mom2Mom Monday Link up

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    1. Love the Baby Signing Time Videos - we stream them from YouTube via ChromeCast. Thanks for visiting from Mom2Mom. So nice to meet another signing mom. And congrats on your little one to be! Good luck!

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  4. I used sign language with all three of my kids. I had no idea just how helpful it was for us when we started- two of them have autism so one was a late talker and one lost speech completely for about a year. Without learning sign language so early, they would have had no way to communicate with us! All three kids now have advanced receptive and expressive language skills, and I think the sign language had a lot to do with that.

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    1. Wow! You never know the reasons behind why we do some things. I am so glad it really worked out for you with your children's special situations. I am sure that signing and communicating early does help later, even though people fear the opposite. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

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  5. I'm so sorry you found such little support to start your signing journey! Thank you for doing everything in your power to offer such a precious gift to your fmaily. I'm not sure what area of the world you call home, but I encourage you to look for Signing Smart classes in you area. Even though you've started on your own, I think you'd find the play classes a great way to meet other signing families and further your communication journey!

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    1. I will for sure look into those classes. I would love to meet other signing families. Thanks for the tip!

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  6. This list is the basic way we taught Baby Boy to use some sign language when he was younger. Part of me wanted to teach so many more signs, but we quickly found that he was picking up verbal language quite quickly and liked that better, so we let him! :)

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    1. Absolutely! I am teaching my daughter now more and more signs. I teach her the word and the sign. Sometimes she picks up the word and sometimes she picks up the sign. We let her use which ever is more comfortable for her now that she is more verbal.

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  7. As I age and my hearing gets worse, I think I need to learn to sign.

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    1. This made me laugh Jeannie! I think it would be beneficial for everyone at any age! One person commented on my last Baby Sign post that they need to do it with their grandchildren for the same reason!

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  8. I signed with my sons when they were babies. I stopped around a year when they began talking more and more but I found it very useful particularly for communicating about feeding.

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    1. I agree. Now that my daughter is 18 mos and is more verbal, I still teach her the sign along with a word. Sometimes she gets the word, sometimes she does the sign. I let her decide. I know eventually it will be all words, but I would love to continue with signing after she is verbal, just to give her a different perspective (& language).

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  9. My daughter is over one and a half and I had her start sign language tutoring a few months ago. Now we have moved, so we need a new tutor. In the meanwhile, I'm taking a sign language class online through Ed2Go and I will teach my baby girl what I learn there. We plan to conquer all of ASL! It is our first homeschooling subject.

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    1. I will have to look into the Ed2Go. I will be posting some resources in the future (soon I hope) to help you out. I am working with my daughter still on signs and words. I will also continue because I think this could be very beneficial!

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  10. I worked in the early learning field for several years and sign language was ALWAYS encouraged! My sister actually uses it with my nephews. He was having full conversations with her before he could even speak!

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    1. Isn't it amazing that they can understand and communicate so much more than we imagine?! I know that my cousins did sign language in daycare too.

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  11. This is great information! My son AJ (age 3) has Childhood Language Apraxia and doesn't talk yet. I would highly recommend taking the time to teach baby sign language to your toddlers.

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    1. That is such a good point! Teaching them signing at any age is beneficial in my opinion. I think it's wonderful that you have taken the time to teach him so he can communicate with you and the world.

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  12. I love this! Our baby girl just turned 3 months. I would love to start introducing a couple of words to her!

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    1. That is the perfect time! I hope this helps! Sign up to get more of the posts as they come. :)

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  13. I have been trying to teach my baby sign language for about 6 months now and she wants no part of it! I don't know what it is. We tried more during dinner (she has quite the appetite!) and she instead slams her open hand onto the table or pulls her plate up and hits it on the table.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you are having trouble. Our daughter didn't start signing back to us until about 10 months and we started from 6 weeks (as you see above). There is very little feedback at first. Just be consistent. When she did start signing back to us, it was only milk and more. We knew she could do it and almost made her. When she would get upset we would tell her to tell us what she wanted. She would do a sign and we would give it to her. Now when we tell her to tell us what she wants, she immediately stops crying/whining and communicates it to us. It is hard, but the benefits are wonderful. Email me if you want to chat some more :)

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  14. LOVE this! My 10 month old has recently started signing more and more. He is super consistent with 'milk', but I haven't been able to get him to do any others yet. I was so excited the first time he signed, because it truly did feel like a breakthrough. I am beyond excited for him to start signing more(: Thank you so much for sharing <3

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