Baby Signs

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby on. Posted in BABY, New Mom Experience

I wanted to write a quick post ( as quick as this type of posts can be) about BABY SIGNS.

I was first introduced to the concept by some TTC books I was reading before we got pregnant and then saw a real life example in my friend’s daughter who was a little over a year at the time and using signs freely.

I always thought it was a good idea and was very excited about it, but I didn’t realize how truly awesome teaching your baby sign language can be until Alexis signed her first signs.

I am sure by now everyone has heard of BABY SIGN LANGUAGE, a system that allows your baby to become an effective communicator well before they are actually capable of using real words. This is made possible by the fact that their language center is developed pretty well before they can make their mouth pronounce words. Your baby understands everything, he just can’t say it. Many kids, in fact, invent their own sign language. Signs for hi and bye, yes and no are nothing more than sign language.

As a parent you have two options when it comes to teaching your baby sign language You can use ASL signs, some of which are slightly harder for a baby to sign, but teach a real life skill. Or you can use baby signs developed specifically for baby sign language that help them learn sign language more effectively at a younger age.

Not only do the signs help them express themselves and make your life easier (it definitely beats guessing whether they want to drink or to eat and what it is they are trying to say), but it reduces tantrums and frustrations on their part, as well as helps them with language development and makes communication between you so much more special.

Here is our experience with baby signs.

I read the Baby Signs book by the same author as one of my favorite Baby Hearts book ( I would strongly recommend that every parent reads AND re-reads this book several times over the first 5 years of their kid’s life) when Alexis was 4 months old. Despite the fact that in most cases babies are unable to sign until they are 9 months old (there are super rare cases of babies signing their first sign at 6mobths), I decided to start signing right then, at 4 months.

The recommendation is to start around 9 months so they begin using the signs around 12 months. However, there is absolutely no reason one cannot start as soon as they want. The fear is that one would get discouraged with the lack of response from a younger baby before they are even able to sign. But as far as I am concerned, the extra time is helpful to get parents accustomed to using signs in their daily routine as well as the baby to get as exposed to signing as much as possible.

To be completely honest, I was hoping that Lexi would pick up sign language sooner. I was dying to see her communicate back with me after months of signing to her. Some months I would do a lot of signing, others I’d get tired and forget to sign much. I made sure to really get serious with signing around 8-9 months. She might have signed her first barely recognizable signs earlier, but the true use of signs came right at 9 months when I was supposed to have just begun teaching her.

It is really an amazing accomplishment for such a young baby to be able to communicate and the best thing about it is that everyone can do it. If your baby is over 12 months, it is possible for him/her to start signing back to you within 2 weeks.

The first few signs should be the most frequent ones you use, the ones that are the most important to you and the baby and the ones that the baby is most interested in.

For example, our first few signs at 4 months and on were:

BOOBIE – I used the sign for milk, but said the word for BREAST in Russian. ( the most frequent thing we did)

ALL DONE/GONE – the most important and easy sign for Lexi

MORE – Important from the standpoint of communication.

EAT – Again important for communicating needs

CAT – One that she was interested in.

CHANGE – Important for communicating needs

The first one she picked up were MILK and ALL DONE/GONE. The latter on being the one that she still uses THE MOST and gets the most pleasure from.

MORE came in later and she uses it mostly to indicate that she wants to read more books or recently she signed that she wanted more swinging.

CAT is a difficult one to sign, so she is just now starting to sign it.

She still doesn’t consistently sign EAT or CHANGE. {edit: a few days after writing that she has begun showing eat sign, and a few times attempting change sign, however it’s a pretty difficult sign to make}


After the initial signs came the ones that she was most interested in. Whenever there was an animal she displayed interest in, I’d look up a sign for it. At this point (11.5 months), she can sign or attempts to sign HORSE, BIRD, LIGHT, TEDDY BEAR, BALL, DRINK, DOG, CLEAN UP, BOOK, SLEEP and maybe a few more I am not remembering right now. She attempts to sign (but doesn’t have the right form yet) GIRAFFE, CAT, CHANGE, BALL.

From our early experience, I would recommend incorporating LIGHT, CLEAN UP and SLEEP as some of your initial signs. They are VERY easy to do for little ones and are somewhat important for them. You should see her face when she signs either one of those. Actually, you should see her face when she signs ANYTHING! So proud and happy to be communicating!

LIGHT becomes important because it’s a very simple sign and all babies are fascinated with the “phenomenon” of twinkling lights and lights getting turned off and on. She will point at EVERY single light she sees (even light streaming from the window) and sign LIGHT with an excited expression on her face (even mid-sleep). Whenever we turn on overhead light in her room, she happily signs light.

CLEAN UP is our new sign and she gets such a kick out of it. We love it because it warns Lexi that it’s time to wash her hands and face which she thoroughly despises.

SLEEP is obviously very important as well, especially if your little one likes to fight bedtime and isn’t clear with his/her naptime cues. Whenever I say the word sleep, she signs it back if she wants to nap. She often simply signs it to indicate that we need to go upstairs and go to sleep. She even signs it when she plays with toys and we “put her teddy to sleep”.

So there is not much to teaching your baby sign language, but it is oh so important and rewarding. She won’t be speaking in sentences till she is closer to two, but she has already shown her first sign sentence by asking for “MORE BOOKS”.

Again, I’d recommend the BABY SIGNS book to get you started. It’s simple, it brings up studies about benefits and talks about myths of sign language ( like delayed speech), and it covers both ASL and baby sign language. Once you’ve started the process, you can continue looking up signs online. I use this resource to look up new words on my iphone because it doesn’t have videos with sound but is still clear in its pictures or occasional video, so I can look it up while I am putting Lexi to sleep, which is usually when I learn new signs.



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