How to Get Started with Baby Sign Language

baby hand isolated backgroundYour baby’s first words won’t come until around 9 or 10 months of age, and her speaking vocabulary will be very limited for several months after that. But, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t understand what you say to her, or that she’s unable to communicate. Baby sign language is surprisingly easy to teach and learn, and can help to eliminate frustrations for both you and baby.

When to start

You can start teaching your baby sign language at any age. While she may not be able to make signs herself right away, learning the basics now right along with the corresponding spoken words will make the process easier.

Learning the signs

Before you can teach your baby to sign, you’ll need to learn the baby signs yourself. Fortunately, there’s an app (or a dozen) for that, as well as lots of helpful websites and videos to help you learn anything from the most basic baby signs to more complex and obscure words, if that’s your thing.

Basic signs

The best signs to teach your baby are ones that will help her communicate her wants, her needs and her emotions. These tend to revolve around food, physical sensations and things she wants (or doesn’t want). Some good starting signs are:

  • Milk
  • Eat
  • More
  • All done
  • Hot
  • Cold
  • Hurt
  • Up
  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Sleep

In addition, some of the most fun for your child to master can be things like “dog” or “cat” if she has a favorite pet. There’s nothing quite like seeing your baby excitedly signing “DOG DOG DOG!!!” when she sees Fido.

As she gets older, she can grasp more abstract concepts, and you can work on signs like:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • I love you
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Diaper
  • Play

How to start

Pay attention to the words you tend to use the most when talking to your baby—useful words that represent something important in her life. Then, just try to make the sign every time you say one of those words aloud. Repetition and consistency are key, so don’t be discouraged when baby doesn’t immediately begin signing back. It takes time, but it takes much less time for her to learn the signs than to learn to make the words with her mouth.