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How to get Faster Results when Teaching Your Baby to Sign

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 6 views
by Joann Woolley

Signing with babies enhances the bonding experienced by new parents and babies. Plus by effectively having their needs met, it builds a child's self-esteem. Most children at their first birthday are speaking 3 to 5 words. 
What if your baby could sign 25+ words in addition to their quickly building verbal vocabulary? You and your baby would be less frustrated as you tend to their needs. Here is a simple process to follow when introducing new signs to your baby.

Begin teaching your baby to sign as early as possible. Signing instructors agree that when we utilize the fun approach to signing there is no reason to wait until a baby is 6 months to begin the joy of communication. With all of my children I began signing MILK from day one. Others wait until their baby begins reaching out for objects which is between 4 and 5 months old.

Pick 3 to 5 words to sign to your baby on a regular basis (meaning daily) that will be easy enough to remember and thus not feel like work. These choice vocabulary starters should be things that your baby finds great interest in rather than vocabulary that serves the needs of the parents.

These would be considered motivating signs. Some examples of good starting signing vocabulary are:

  •  - MILK
  •  - RATTLE
  •  - MUSIC
  •  - PHONE
  •  - KEYS
  •  - WATER
  •  - BATH
  •  - LIGHT
  •  - BALLOON
  •  - BUBBLES
  •  - ANIMAL - not the sign for animal, but whatever animal you have started to see your baby has an interest in... be sure for this step you incorporate the sound associated with the animal; i.e. quack quack for DUCK.

If you do not know the signs for these words, use the easy on line baby sign language dictionary at

These are items just about every baby shows interest in, therefore a good way to get started. After your baby has shown a couple of signs from your starter list, you can build in vocabulary that helps parents to fulfill baby's needs such as eat, more, all done, diaper, sleep etc...

Once you have picked the 3 to 5 signs you want to start with, use them in context, preferably before providing your baby with the object. It is far easier to create the association that signing the item will result in the item being produced than trying to get the baby's attention off the item they already have to show them the sign.

During the instances your baby's attention is grasped by your signing, draw out the experience and make it a game. Play to a baby is the primary way to learn after all. Creativity will go a long way with this step. Here are some starter ideas:

  •  - Sign WATER before carrying your baby with you to fill your glass with water. As your baby reaches for your glass, set it down and sign WATER again.  Next ask your baby if they want some WATER on their hand and turn on the faucet and allow them to get wet. Turn off the WATER and see if your baby looks eager to get some more WATER. This can go on for a 2-5 minutes depending on their attention span and temperament.
  •  - As you wiggle your baby's toes recounting This Little Piggy, sign PIG and do your best piggy snort with each toe being wiggled. Repeat on second foot.
  •  - Notice your baby is enjoying music these days? Before you turn on the MUSIC, be sure to sign it and ask if your baby is ready to dance. Feel free to stop the music periodically during your baby boogie time so your baby's attention turns to you and you can again demonstrate MUSIC and resume baby dancing. The more animated we are in enjoying music and dancing will reflect in our baby's excitement for music so drop your guard in the sake of learning and bonding!


Be genuinely encouraging and excited when your baby makes an attempt at any sign, even if it is not entirely accurate. These are signing approximations and a baby will over time develop more dexterity where the sign is easy for everyone to distinguish. What is important is that you know what your baby means when they sign..Enlist the help of anyone who sees or cares for your baby regularly. Sometimes giving Dad 2 or 3 signs that he signs with the baby special will make a difference in picking up new signs. Or if Grandma is the one who blows bubbles for the baby every time she visits, have this be their special activity as well as special signing experience..Demonstrate a sign when your baby is in a good mood. If you've missed the feeding signals from a hungry baby and they've begun to cry, this is not the time to sign MILK..Sign in your baby's sight line goes without saying, however, if your baby happens to catch you using a sign when they were not looking, and this happens often enough, guess what? Your baby is going to learn to look at you more often when you speak, in the event you use a sign they might understand more readily than your verbal words..Always speak as you sign, this is for many reasons. The overall goal is verbal communication. Using sign and verbal language will engage both sides of the brain. You want to be sure your baby is creating the association between the object, the word, and the sign..Using facial expression and the practice of "motherese" when signing with your baby to optimize their learning. Babies will stare at the human face for longer periods than any other object, and they love the sing song repetition of the high pitch tone mothers innately use with their babies. It is a true language stimulus, so use it to your benefit with signing..Do not ask your baby to sign out of context, this will confuse them... and they are not likely to sign on demand..Do not require that your baby sign in order to have the item in question. This is negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement works far better, especially for babies..Do not stop signing in a particular situation once you have started as repetition is how babies learn everything!

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