Baby Sign Language – Why? How? When?

Magical Mama Blog Sign Language How Why and When

Baby Sign Language – Why? How? When?

I’m sure you parents out there have heard the term “baby signs” thrown out into the universe a time or two.

Some of you may wonder why on earth you would spend the time teaching your baby sign language if they’re not hearing impaired.

Some of you may think that a baby knowing signs will keep them from developing speech… I’m here to respond to all of the rumors!

Magical Mama Blog - Why you should teach your baby sign language

Why you should teach your baby sign language

So why on earth would you want to teach a baby sign language?

The capabilities to communicate through sign develop much earlier than the capabilities to communicate through speech.

What does this mean?

Your baby can be communicating with you months before they can start forming the words to tell you what they need…therefore, reducing temper tantrums from frustration. (SCORE!!)

Even when baby begins forming words, they may not be able to form as many words or the right words that they need to get a point across to you.

So called “late talkers” can be helped immensely by learning sign.  Once they figure out that a sign communicates something for them, they eventually begin using the word with the sign, then drop the sign all together and simply say what they need.  It can be a great stair step to help their communication.

From personal experience, my husband and I would sit there trying to guess what our little girl could possibly need as she would be crying her eyes out. She had been changed, fed, napped, played with…

We introduced signs to her and within a month or two, she was able to tell us “more food, please” “milk, please” “all done” “play” and more!

Instead of having a melt down, she would literally sign to us exactly what she needed!

If that, in itself, is not enough reason to give it a go, I don’t know what is!

Baby sign language has been proven to have great benefits later on such as a higher IQ, better grades, and a larger vocabulary! Ivy Leagues, here we come!

Bonus!  If you are a bilingual family and you are trying to teach your little one two words for things, the sign can be the bridge between that can help them discover that the sign means one thing and has two names. (For example, if you do the sign for water, you can say water and agua)

Magical Mama Blog - When to start teaching your baby sign language

When to teach your baby sign language

It is never too early or too late!

Developmentally, babies can be aware of sign by 4 months of age…this does not mean your baby that cannot even sit up yet will start signing back to you.

This is a great time for YOU to get used to the signs and begin associating the signs with the words.  Not only will you associate the word and sign, baby can too.

They may not have the fine motor skills to mimic you until 6 to 8 months, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t watching!

We really started enforcing signs around 12 months and our baby has picked them up like wild fire!

Magical Mama Blog - How to teach your baby sign language

How to teach your baby sign language

Start slow.  Trying to teach a baby 50 signs all in one day will be far too overwhelming for everyone involved.

Start with 3 or 4 that will be useful to you like, “milk” “more” “food” or “all done”.  Once they master a few, try introducing two or three more.  Get ready to repeat, repeat, repeat.

Step 1 – Implement it into your conversations with them.  When you say one of these words, use the sign as you say it. “Are you all done with your food?”

Step 2 – Sit down with baby and say the word while doing the sign.  Make sure baby is focused on you.  Take their hands and help them form the sign.  Say the word while you help them do the sign.

Step 3 – You say the word and do the sign and have them try the sign on their own.  They may have a quirk or two that needs fixing which you can help them with.

Step 4 – Try saying the word and see if baby can recognize the word and can do the sign.  If they don’t try right away, use the word in a sentence then go back.  “Do you want some milk?” “Can you show me milk?”

Step 5 – I like to go the extra mile.  When my little one uses a sign on her own, I say the word and do the sign to let her know that I understand her.

This is especially if I can’t get her what she wants right away.  If we’re on the car ride home and she signs “milk“, I’ll say and sign “milk” back and then let her know she can have it as soon as we get home.  Eliminating emotional break downs in the car? SCORE AGAIN!

 

Resources

If you’re curious about what the sign for a certain word is, or you’d like more information, head to www.babysignlanguage.com

They have a dictionary with over 600 common signs as well as explanations, diagrams and short videos of how to perform each one.

They also have flashcards, wall charts, DVDs, and books if you’d like to really dive in!

Get Started

Here are links to learn a few simple (and useful) signs to start with:

Milk

Food/Eat

More

All Done

Please

Thank You

Play

There will be a magical moment that your baby will start signing without a verbal cue.  They will stop what they’re doing, look at you and sign something that they want… communication and no meltdown!

There was a day that my daughter was playing and drinking from her sippy cup, she suddenly stopped, looked at me, and signed “more, please”…her cup was empty…she asked for more water without crying until I figured it out!  Success!

It takes no time at all.  Just adjusting your hand gestures when you speak and BOOM, you have communication!

 

 

I hope this is a helpful beginners guide and I hope you explore it!

Happy signing!

 

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72 Comments

    1. Thank you so much! A few signs is all you need to get started and most of the designated “baby signs” are super simple!

    1. Yes! It’s so beneficial! When they’re this young, their brains are working at rapid paces to grow and soak up so much!

    1. Thank you so much!
      More is super helpful! That’s one tantrum down when they’re still hungry or thirsty and can’t tell you! Congratulations on your early communicator!

    1. My little one is creeping into tantrum age and sign has saved us so many times! You can always see them light up when they realize their wants and needs can be understood.
      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Thank you! Any way to take the tantrums down to a minimum is definitely worth the investment of effort and time!

  1. I have heard of baby sign language, but always thought it was much harder to teach a baby, so I never approached it. It’s actually surprising how easy it is! I would never have known that babies can start learning sign language so quickly.

    1. I thought it would be immensely difficult to teach itty bitty ones, but if you stick with it, they pick up on it and then they become sponges for it so quickly!

  2. Will definitely have to give this a try, sounds like a really good idea. My little girl is nearly two and just starting to tantrum, so anything that could help is worth investigating! 🙂

    1. It has eliminated so many tantrums at our home! She lets us know when she’s hungry, thirsty and ready for bed. Those three signs have made her screaming fits disappear.

  3. This is awesome. Mine know sign language, but I didn’t teach them until they were older. My daughter fingerspells her spelling words every week, it’s the only way she kind of remembers how to spell them. You’re teaching your baby a second language and it will definitely make them smarter!

    1. That is fantastic! Every little ounce of knowledge we can give them while they’re growing so quickly can be great stepping stones for them. I learned to sign the alphabet when I was young, too and I can still do it to this day! It has saved me a number of times. Even if you don’t know sign fluently, if you can spell something out, people can understand you.

  4. I love baby sign language! I think it totally helps limit tantrums because little ones can tell us what they need. And we were slackers with it. I stuck to food, milk, more, all done, please, and thank you. Those 6 words were all we needed. Great post! #wanderingwednesday

    1. As soon as we got food, milk, more, all done and please, the tantrums went away and we were all happy campers in our house.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Baby sign language is so amazing! We teach it to the babies at the school I teach at, it’s so cute to see them signing to us! It helps them so much with communication.

    1. It really is! I was very fortunate to have my baby in day care where the owner is fluent and the teachers all use it. She gets practice and is learning at an incredible rate. I think it’s an amazing tool to have!

  6. This is a great way for both mom and baby to learn sign language. As you start by teaching the basic words you can learn right along with them! I love this!

    1. Yes! I have always wanted to learn sign but it was too overwhelming. Learning along with a young toddler has been just my speed!
      Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much! Any time is a great time to teach them! As long as you’re consistent, it’ll click at some point and then they’re sponges.

  7. We did lots of baby classes with my daughter when she was a baby & they really advocated the use of sign language, it really does work! I am going to try & do it properly this time around with my newborn x #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. It does! I waited until my daughter was a year, but with number 2, I’ll definitely be trying to start earlier so we can start communicating!
      Thank you for stopping by!

  8. Hi Sarah, Carolyn Garcia here love that you are teaching your baby girl(by the way she’s beautiful!)sign languageI believe that it’s so helpful and not only that but, it makes their IQ so hi and more intelligent. I also have been with my malefriend for 28 years and he is totally deaf born that way. I also have 3 beautiful granddaughters ages 2, 4, 6, and they all know quite a bit of signlanguage and spanish also. So I totally understand and agree with you 100%, and my granddaughters are all hearing. So when I saw your site I just had to click on it. Thank you Sarah for sharing. Carolyn.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn! That is fantastic that your granddaughters are practically trilingual already!
      Thank you so much for dropping in on the site! I appreciate your wonderful words of encouragement!

  9. I like the idea of this – with number 2 I got a dvd from the library and thought I’d do it, but just never really had the time. Mind you, I also thought I’d speak to them in French but that also fell by the wayside. I think it would be a love bonding activity regardless…#Stayclassymama

    1. It is! There are such sweet moments when there is a spark of them knowing that you understand them.
      French? Those would be some fancy babies!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I’ve read some amazing posts about the benefits of sign language, especially when there is a speech delay or autism. Another great fascinating read – if I was back there I’d definitely give it a whirl.

    Thanks so much for linking to #coolmumclub

    1. Thank you so much! It really has a bucket load of benefits without too much work. I learned to sign the alphabet when I was in elementary school and can still do it to this day. I am not fluent in sign at all, but knowing the alphabet has been a life saver a few times over the years.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Baby sign language is such a great way for tiny ones to communicate their wants and needs! My first daughter started talking super early so we stopped practicing the signs with her, but we’re bringing them back for our second daughter.

    1. That’s awesome that your little one started speaking so early! Maybe the signing helped her. Hope it goes well with your second!

    1. Definitely give it a try! It’s a ton of fun to see them learn another language so easily!
      Thank you for dropping by!

  12. I’m a big believer in this. When my daughter was little she was able to tell us when she was hungry or different things that she wanted. Made it so much easier to know what she needed #triumphanttales

    1. Just one or two signs for them to let us know what they’re wanting makes a world of difference!
      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. It has made a huge change in communication and we have had a huge reduction in crying which is always nice!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. So cool, I have never heard of it! It may be very useful also to adoptive families who have adopted internationally, who need to start communicating with their adopted child as soon as possible! Thank you for linking up in #Blogstravaganza

    1. Yes, it can be useful in a ton of situations! Kids pick up so quickly and this is a pretty self-explanatory and broad language.
      Thank you for stopping by!

    1. Please do! It’s a wonderful tool to have! You can teach your elder daughter along with number two and they can communicate!
      Thank you for stopping by!

    1. I’m hoping to spread the word a bit more! It’s such a wonderful addition to communication in the early years!
      Thank you for stopping by!

    1. The owner and teachers at my daughter’s daycare are great about teaching the kids and practicing with them. It’s great when kids can observe others in a group using it.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  14. We have never done this, as my eldest started talking at 14 months. Her baby sister has been slower and prob would have benefited but we can understand what she is after most of the time. I’m sure some signs would help though. Thanks for sharing with #bloggersbest x

    1. Congratulations on your early talker! That’s great! It’s never too late for learning sign. It’s always beneficial!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. This is a great little guide. We never did sign language with ours, but looking back we made up own little hand gestures for things like ‘more’. I can see this really useful, especially for navigating the ones and twos, when they want to be more independent, but their language is still limited. x
    #FabFridayPost

    1. My little one has definitely put her own spin on some of the signs, but we both know what she’s meaning to say, so it works!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  16. I find this fascinating and wish I’d pursued it more with my first, as he ended up being a very late talker. We did teach him one sign – more! – which was quite appropriate as he loved his food! We watched an old holiday video of him recently where he was bumping his fists together and saying “more” and it brought it all back. I’m trying out ‘more’ with my 9 month old at the moment, but I’ll see if I can try harder to build on that this time. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. More is my baby’s favorite sign. She loves her food, too! Definitely keep up with it. Even if it’s just more, eat, and drink, they can get across what they want and it makes a huge difference!
      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. I didn’t learn until I was in elementary school, but I learned the alphabet and that has been useful throughout my whole life! If you don’t know sign, you can always spell things out for someone who is hearing impaired and communicate that way. It’s fun to learn the sign alphabet as a family. It’s a way to learn a new language, but in the most simple form, just the alphabet!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #ThursdayFavoriteThings this week. Visit me at https://www.marilynstreats.com on thursday morning to see your feature! All hosts choose their own features from the comments left on their blog so be sure to return to my blog to see your feature. I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please don’t forget to add your link numbers or post title so we can be sure to visit!

  18. Sign language was a HUGE help with our first child and we plan on teaching our soon to arrive second child as well. However we might skip the word “cookie” this time around… Thanks for the great post!

    1. That’s wonderful! Haha We specifically have not introduced that sign and don’t plan to! Congratulations on number 2 and I hope signing is just as wonderful this time around! Thanks for stopping by!

  19. This is such a great post. I did a signing class with my eldest when she was a baby and it made a huge difference. The class was fun for both of us but it also meant I could understand her much younger. It really is such a great thing to do. I always recommend it to people now.
    Thank you for joining #ThursdayTeam

    1. That is fabulous! I wish there were more classes like that! Babies are such sponges! They should be given as much to learn as they can soak in! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story!

  20. This is so wonderful! I love it that you are communicating with your child without tantrum! What a relief this is. I did our communication with nappy training. It was such a success. But this is very different and I can understand why this can also be a success as well. This is such a great article. Thank you so much for putting it together. It is so very useful.

    Thank you very much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost

    1. Congratulations on the nappy training success! Being able to communicate and diminishing the tantrums is a huge relief! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  21. We did a little bit of baby sign with both our girls and it really helped their communication. It was just bits and pieces that I’d picked up from working in a nursery as we didn’t have any courses near to us, but it was so useful. And it’s so exciting to have that way of communicating with your baby! #blogcrush

    1. Just a few signs is all you need to have a big break through in communication!
      Thank you so much for stopping by!

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