Baby Sign Language Quick Start

This guide will have you ready to start teaching your child Baby Sign Language in just 5 minutes. It includes:

  1. Starter Signs: Learn mom, dad, eat, milk, and dog.
  2. Teaching Signing: Learn how to teach your child the signs.
  3. Signing Kit: Get guaranteed faster results with the Baby Sign Language Kit.

Baby Sign Language Basics

1. Your First Five Signs

We start by introducing signs that you baby will use frequently every day, and that your child is motivated to learn. We recommend the following five signs:

(If those signs don’t make sense for your family, there are other great  starter sign options on the Top 10 Starter Signs page.)

Top Five Starter Signs (Mom, Dad, Eat, Milk, Dog)

2. Teaching Your Baby

These four principles show you how to teach sign language to your baby:

  • Fun – Keep signing playful and focused on motivating signs.
  • Repetition – Incorporate signing in your daily routines.
  • Encourage – Reward progress with praise & attention.
  • Expand – Grow vocabulary, based on baby’s interests.
Teaching Baby Sign Language Quick Start

3. Sign Faster and Easier
with the Full Kit

Our award winning Baby Sign Language Kits get your baby signing faster.

  • DVDs -Your baby learns to sign while being entertained by the music of Rachel Coleman & the Signing Time Crew.
  • Flash Cards – Extend your baby’s vocabulary to people, foods, and animals with these sturdy flash cards.
  • Teaching Guide -Utilize advanced topics for faster results, potty training, and transitioning to speech.
  • Signing Dictionary – Have the right sign at your fingertips to satisfy your child’s curiosity.
  • Wall Chart – Help grandparents, babysitters, and caregivers learn the basic signs

67 Responses to “Baby Sign Language QuickStart Basics”

  1. Samantha

    My 9 month old son has learned the sign for eat. It took a couple weeks, but I’m noticing he’s been doing his variation of it now. When I taught him, I only focused on eat. Should I continue teaching him one word/concept at a time? Or can I try teaching multiple words at the same time? Thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Samantha,

    At nine months your baby should be able to handle up to five contextual signs at the time. Give it a try.

  2. Lexi Rose

    Hi, my cousin is 4 years old and is half deaf in both ears. The doctor said she’s going to need hearing aids and I was wondering if it would be good for me to learn sign language for her. I watched she show Switched At Birth and have picked up some stuff on that. I just want to learn more.
    Thank you,
    Lexi Rose

    ADMIN-Hi Lexie,

    We encourage to learn as much as possible. Sign language will help you communicate with your cousin and give you an additional life skill.

  3. Nicole

    Our second child is now 5 months. Our first born is 9 years. I read a few studies on baby sign language. Then my sister had her first child and raved about it. So I figured we’d give it a shot!!! And we can not get enough!! My 9 year old is as excited as I am and we learn at least 3 new words a week. We are practicing using signs in our everyday life and so look forward to our youngest signing back. We do this only to expand the world for our children. And this website is the best I’ve found to help with that. You truly should make an app as we reference your site multiple times a day! Thank you!

  4. milagros

    Hi, I have 10 years old boy which has a angel man’s syndrome, he is non verbal. Some specialist said that he can’t learn sign language, but at school they teach him sign language and he is learning a lot. Do you think that he is able to learn more if I put him at sign language school? Thanks

    ADMIN-Hi Milagros,

    I am unable to provide you guidance on this matter. I encourage you to contact the speech therapist and special education coordinator for your school they will let you know what is the best path to follow as far as improving his communication skills.

  5. Linni

    My granddaughter will be 2 in June. We watch the Baby’s first channel, and one of the shows on there is” I can sign. ” Oh my goodness! She loves it! In the last two months she has learned milk, eat, ear, ( she already knew that one, haha) father, ice cream, sit, ball, and a few others. I used to know sign language. If you don’t use it you lose it. Anyway, we have no hearing problems in our family, but I think it is a great thing for her ( all of us really!) to learn! I’m excited about this!

  6. sabrina

    Hi I am a parent of a 1 yr old who is on the autism spectrum non verbal is it to early to teach her sign language so we can communicate

    ADMIN-Hi Sabrina,

    Is never too early to begin introducing a child to any and all potential communication tools. Speak to your language therapist and put together a plan that may include baby sign language as well as pointing to flash cards.

  7. Abbie

    Hi, I’m 14 and I am partly deaf, I started learning sign language from a very young age. Now I help out at deaf primary schools in my spare time with my mum.

  8. Tiffany Brown

    My daughter is 2 and she can say a good few things. She is pretty expressive. But, when she encounters new things, or things that resemble something she recognizes she becomes frustrated trying to communicate the new word. Would sign language be a good way to help her as she grows? She is quite sharp and eager to learn.

    ADMIN
    Hi Tiffany,
    Baby sign language is very empowering for the pre-verbal child. Combined with augmentative communication through the use of flash cards you will begin to see really speedy progress and reduced frustration when trying to convey an idea or word. The terrible twos are often rooted in frustration and improved communication can truly help.

  9. vladimira

    Hello,

    I am an English teacher in Brazil. I’ve just started teaching kids – 6 and 7 yo, 8 and 10 yo. They do not speak or understand any English and I cannot use Portuguese with them. I was wondering if I can use baby sign language to teach them English words :)

    Thank you :)

    ADMIN – Hi Vladimira,

    We have received numerous examples where the flash cards are used as a transitional language in multilingual environments. Give it a try.

  10. Stephanie

    My son is 2 years old. He is delay in speech. Will this help him. He doesn’t talk much at home. But is talking a lot at preschool

    ADMIN – Hi Stephanie,

    Many little ones with speech delays benefit from using signs as a transitional language. But, in you case it seems like he can talk, he just is choosing not to talking at home. Sometimes they don’t talk at home because in the early days talking is hard, and they have easier ways to communicate and have their needs met.

    If you know he has already acquired a word, you can encourage him to use it at home by asking him to use it when appropriate instead of pointing or crying. For example, if he wants water, and just points, make him say water. “Do you want to drink some water? Say water.” The first few days can be tough, but hang in there. At first you can be very loosey goosey about pronunciation, but over time be more strict in requiring proper pronunciation.

    As always with speech delay, make sure you are working with a speech pathologist to put a plan together that meets his specific needs. Speech delays are usually not a big deal when caught early, but can become serious if you let them run too long.

  11. Lynn Kidd

    I have a 3mo old with down syndrome. Ive read that teaching him to sign would be helpful with his communication skills. What is a good age to start teaching him to sign?

    ADMIN
    Hi Lynn,
    It depends on his developmental milestones. You may want to start signing now but do not expect results until your baby is significantly older. This does not mean that he does not understand, it simply means his motor skills may be slow to develop.

  12. Nelida

    Hi. My baby is 6 moths old is now a good time to introduce the baby sign language kit?

    ADMIN – Hi Nelida,

    Six months old is a great stage to introduce your baby to signing. Consider using the first month for you as a mom to become familiar with the teaching methods and begin contextual signing as soon as you are comfortable with the concepts. In addition to contextual teaching with flash cards you can support your baby’s learning environment by encouraging the use of the Baby Signing Time DVD when your baby turns one.

  13. Sonja

    Hi. I will be ordering next week, your simple kit to start learning sign language because I just found out my 6 month old has serve-profound hearing loss. Hopefully this will help myself and him to communicate better and when he gets older it will be natural for us both. Looking forward to start using the kit once I order it :)

  14. Amanda

    Hello,

    I was wondering if teaching you baby to sign language would actually discourage them from using real words, therefore delaying their actual speech. I love the idea of baby sign language and want to teach my little one, but my husband is not 100% on board with it.

    ADMIN – Hi Amanda,

    Studies show that baby sign language does not discourage speech, rather children that sign speak earlier and develop a larger vocabulary. Signing forms a foundation, and like crawling leads to walking, learning to sign makes the transition to speaking easier and smoother.

  15. Monique Fourie

    Good day

    We ive in South Africa and really want this product. Please can you tell us how much extra the shipping will be and how long it takes to ship to Centurion in South Africa. Our baby is now 4 months old and we want to get started on the deluxe program as soon as possible.

    If its shipped internationally, who do you ship it through?

    Very excited to get the payment and shipping done so we can start our little genius on this product.

    Kind Regards

    ADMIN – Hi Monique,

    Congratulations on your newborn. That is a nice age to get started.

    Shipping to South Africa is a flat $20. We ship using USPS (United States Postal Service). Shipping typically takes a month.

  16. Giovanna

    Hi, I live in the UK, is there a British baby sign language or can this be used universally? Thank you

    ADMIN – Hi Giovanna,

    Around the world, most Baby Sign Language programs use American Sign Language (what we use on this site).

    This is for primary two reasons. First, there are a lot of resources available for (American) Baby Sign Language that aren’t available in other local sign languages. Second, since everyone uses (American) Baby Sign Language, it makes it easier if your child is communicating with a caregiver, at school, or with another child because they are using the same language.

    Only use the local sign language if you child is learning to sign so they can communicate with a deaf family member.

  17. Maragete

    Is there an average amount of signs my baby should be doing at a certain age? Like there is an average amount of words they should say at said age. My daughter is 16 months and can sign 24 words, I think that’s amazing!

    ADMIN – Hi Maragete,

    That is epic! We are so happy to hear that your family is enjoying the experience.

    There is a wide variety in signing vocabulary for young children. Some babies have their language window open earlier, and they will sign tens of words before 24 months. Other children have a language window that opens later and will sign only a few words in their first 24 months.

    In much the same way that some children will crawl and walk at different ages, you get a lot of differences in early signing proficiency.

  18. cortney

    hello I was wandering what is a good age to start my children out with this? I have a month old a two year old and a five year old.

    ADMIN
    Hi Courtney,
    Most moms start at month five but we encourage you to integrate basic signs to your routine with baby, toddler and even your five year old. It will be fun for all and it will help baby progress quicker.

  19. Melissa

    I am left handed and my husband is right handed. Does it matter which hand is used to make the signs?

    ADMIN – Hi Melissa,

    The main action is done with your dominant hand. So if you are right handed, the main action is done with your right hand. And if you are left handed, it is done with your left hand.

  20. Kelly

    My child is 16 months old. Is he too old to start this? Will he benefit from it even though he is older? I want to use it while introducing potty training. Thanks!

    ADMIN – Hi Kelly,

    If your child doesn’t say more than a few words, you are going to see a lot of benefits. If they are already confident with their words, the benefits are going to be less pronounced because it is less developmentally challenging.

  21. Andy

    Our little one is 3 1/2 months old and we want to start early developing her communication skills. We are a bilingual family. Do you believe it would be too much to add the sign language on top of it or do you think it can actually be beneficial for her to link both languages because of signing?

    ADMIN – Hi Andy,

    A lot of bilingual families use signing as a bridge between the two language (so the baby knows that the sign milk, the spoken word milk and the spoken word leche are the same)

  22. Jennifer

    My little girl is almost 10 months old. I started working with her about a month or two ago and she can sign a little she knew how to wave when I started that was a no brainer. She signs dog and come here sometimes. She has signed I love you cat and milk once. I keep doing the signs but she doesn’t repeat them and she hasn’t tried any other signs. What should I do?

    ADMIN
    Dear Jennifer,
    Your baby is in the right path. I am so impressed with her progress. The key is to focus on core signs that are relevant to her and be consistent in using the signs contextually and incorporating the signs to play and daily activities.

    Before you know it she will be signing with more frequency and will start using her signs to meet her needs or wants.

  23. Olesia

    Hello,
    My son is 16 months old. Is it too late to teach him baby sign language?

    Kind regards,

    Olesia

    ADMIN,
    It is never too late to teach a little one a new skill

  24. Casie Rizza

    Hi there – I am totally intrigued by this. My baby is 7 weeks old. Do you think I should start now?
    Seems like this would be so helpful!

    ADMIN – Hi Casie,

    Signing earlier is always good, it gives your child more opportunities to make the association and become familiar with the signs. Deaf families sign with their children from birth, which is why children in deaf families sign so early.

    The only disadvantage, is that it takes a newborn much longer to respond, than if you started teaching them when they are six months old. So you need to be more patient when it comes to seeing results.

  25. Diana

    I have to tell you that sign language for infants is the best thing ever invented. My daughters are proof. All three benefited. I started at birth and now my five month old daughter can already sign ” milk”. Eat or food. And sleep. She’s such a happier baby for it. A+.

  26. Jessie

    Hello, I want to know is that a good idea to creat my own signs. Because I found that when I use the signs created by myself is more effective.

    Thank you.

    ADMIN – Hi Jessie,

    The goal of baby sign language is to equip you and caregivers to quickly understand baby during the pre-verbal stage. Many moms create their own signs and customize signs based on the motor skills of their little ones as well as specific cultural needs in the household. Since your baby will transition to spoken language it is perfectly OK to create your own signs as long as those around him understand the meaning of the signs. On the other hand if your baby is at a daycare where baby sign language is part of the core curriculum you may want to stick to standard baby sign language in order to better equip your little ones to communicate with their peers as well as caregivers.

  27. Gloria

    Hello! I wanted to know how early can I start teaching my son sign language? his is five months old……… I may a comment to my old sister she has two kids a 3yrs and a 1yrs well she just laugh and said it a waste of time is that true? do baby really learn it well?
    thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Gloria,

    While most moms and dads start signing at about five or six months old we have had many testimonies of babies exposed to signing as early as birth. Last month we ran a poll and discovered that many babies are already signing by month six. Here is the link to the poll.

    Signing can become a natural part of your daily engagement with baby and it is not difficult to start at all. Print the flashcards for the words that are most important to you and baby and post them in strategic places around the house.

  28. Lauren

    We started teaching our daughter the starter signs at 6 months old, she is now over 10 months and still not using any of them. Could there be something that we’re doing wrong? Should we keep trying or give up and assume that she has no interest in signing?

    ADMIN – Hi Lauren,

    Every baby has a different learning pace and style. We use contextual signing and during the early stages we mainly focus on food items. Keep working with your baby and she will soon surprise you. Don’t get discouraged.

  29. Lucinda

    I am interested to know the typical progress of a baby learning signs. Is it likely they would use a sign they’ve seen, out of context in the beginning? My 9-month old has been seeing the “milk” sign for many months each time he breastfeeds. Now when he is sitting in his high chair eating solids I’ll often see him reach out his hand and squeeze. I wonder if this is his way of associating eating with what we are doing. I can’t really pull him out of the high chair and breastfeed every time he does this sign to reinforce it, so how do you suggest I encourage his learning in this case?

    Thank you!

    ADMIN – Hi Lucinda,

    By your description it appears baby is making the connection with food. I would use the opportunity to teach new signs in context.

  30. ana

    Is there a difference between baby signing and adult signing?
    My father is deaf and doesnt know proper signing most of what
    he knows is made up,I would really like to teach him a few words.

    Thank you

    ADMIN – Hi Ana,

    There are differences between baby sign language and adult sign language. Mainly, baby sign language is a simplified form of American Sign Language adapted to the motor skills of little ones.

  31. Brenda Rodriguez

    Does Sign work in any language I am bi lingual and tend to speak more spanish that English to my son which is wierd because my first language is English!!!

    ADMIN – Hi Brenda,

    Baby Sign Language is a great transitional tool, In our blog we have fantastic examples of bilingual learning. I particularly love Amelie signing and practicing french.

  32. Marilyn

    We are expecting a granddaughter in July who has Down syndrome and have been told that we need to know sign language as a way to communicate with her. Is there a difference in the order of the words to be learned and is there anything special we should know. Thank you.

    ADMIN – Hi Marilyn,

    The way you would teach your granddaughter is very similar to the way you would teach any other child, but with Down Syndrome you can expect progress to be a little slower depending on the severity. Caregivers for children with disabilities will also tend to focus a little more on more practical utility signs, but it is still important to do some purely ‘fun’ signs.

  33. Christie

    I want to teach my son to sign, he is almost 10 months and has Down Syndrome so its common to be behind in speech. I am hoping that signing will help him communicate before he is ready to talk. He spends more time at daycare than at home and I am wondering what we should teach him to call his daycare lady. Her name is Lori.

    Thanks!

    ADMIN – Hi Christie,

    Begin with teaching your little one objects of interest such as food or toys. Babies with DS learn best by association and by making them part of the process. There is a wonderful blog called theharnishfamily.blogspot.com where you can learn a great deal about the uniqueness and value of teaching baby sign language to babies with down syndrome at an early age. It is amazing to see little ones impacted by learning to convey their needs via sign language. As you work with your baby remember that fine motor skills show similar delays as speech and it is important that you recognize effort even when your baby does not complete the sign with perfect form. We look forward to your progress reports.

  34. erika

    Hola, yo no hablo y tampoco escribo ingles…soy de chile. Me interesan mucho sus lecciones, mi hijita es con sd down y escucha solamente por un oido y muy poco.
    Es por eso que desearia que tradujeran sus lecciones, mi hija tiene seis años y está conectada a ventilacion mecánica, pero no se bien como enseñarle a hablar con señas.muchas gracias.

    ADMIN – Estimada Erika,

    Aunque no tenemos planes de traducir el programa muchas mamás de habla hispana imprimen las tarjetas de aprendizaje y las ajustan al idioma español. Los materiales digitales son totalmente grátis y los puedes manipular de acuerdo a las necesidades de tu hija. Mira lo que esta mamá preparó utilizando los materiales gratuítos de nuestra página:
    http://theharnischfamily.blogspot.com/2011/05/macy-picture-book.html

  35. Jacqui Bampton

    Do I start teaching another sign before bub has picked up all the ones I am teaching or do I continue with 5 I am teaching till she has learned all then start with new 5 thanks.

    ADMIN – Hi Jacqui,

    I would stick with the five starter signs until your baby starts to sign at least one of the signs back. At that stage you can start introducing new signs.

  36. Rebecca

    My son is one year old is that to late to show him?

    ADMIN – Hi Rebecca,

    No, 12 months old is a fine time to start. You will find he will catch on much faster than those that start earlier because his language development will be further along.

  37. selja trujillo

    Hi! I just wanted to know that how can i know that my baby tries to sign back to me? My baby is almost 5 months old and it seems like she is trying to sign “milk” but I’m not sure has she been hungry or has it been just good timing.

    ADMIN – Hi Selja,

    With those first few attempts at signing, it is hard to know for sure if they signed or it is just coincidence. TO some extent it doesn’t matter. If you treat it like it was a sign, and make the sign and word back, and give your baby milk, they will quickly cement the association in their head and help them learn the sign.

  38. Prin

    I am Thai and not very good in English. I just have a son, he is 12 weeks old. I am trying to communicate to him and teach him with baby sign language, it looks amazing, Thank you for this website.

  39. Stephen

    This sounds like fun, but it’s not necessary. We sent kids to top universities without any baby sign language.

    ADMIN – Hi Stephen,

    Baby sign language is not necessary, but you are right that it is a lot of fun and it also averts a lot of fussing and tantrums. There are also studies showing long term cognitive benefits, particularly in language development.

  40. Rebecca

    At what age should you start teaching them sign language?

    ADMIN – Hi Rebecca,

    Six to nine months is a good time to start. Starting earlier is fine, you just need to be a little more patient to see results.

  41. Lauren

    ADMIN – Hi Lauren,

    Yes, stick with your small set of 5 words until he starts signing back, then you can start adding more words. Too many words now, particularly with similar signs can be confusing.

  42. Lisa

    Hi! Not sure if someone asked my question already, but I will ask. I have only just discovered this and I’m so excited by it, but my baby is already 11 months old but I wanted to teach him signing. Is it too late to start? Oh, I wish I’d known about this sooner.

    Thank you so much for the information. This is an amazing website! :) Hope you can answer my question!

    ADMIN – Hi Lisa,

    11 months is a great age to get started. We find that you get the benefits of baby sign language (faster language development, less fussiness, etc) as long as you start before the children become verbal. Once, a child start developing a significant signing vocabulary (18 months – 3 years), these benefits are less pronounced because the child can communicate via words. But, prior to that period, at 11 months you still have a long time to enjoy the benefits of signing, so leap right in. You will find that at 11 months children will usually learn much faster and you may well see signing back as soon as a month after you start.

    Kids older than 3 years who already have big verbal vocabularies often enjoy signing, and will often make short work of learning 50 new signs. For these children signing should be viewed as an enrichment activity.

  43. Lacey Prager

    How early can I start signing with my little one? She is still on the way (due Aug 1st) but I want to be prepared and if starting from day one will help, I’ll do it!

    ADMIN – Hi Lacey,

    It is never too early to start. But, you have to be more patient to see results. Families who start signing with their newborns often see their children signing back at six months. While, if you start later, at say 9 months, you might see signing back after only 1-2 months.

  44. Stephanie

    We just found out our 3 month old grandson is deaf. When can we start teaching him to sign? The whole family wants to learn to help him communicate. He has a sister that is 1.5 years old and like to teach her too. Help Please!

    Stephanie

    ADMIN – Hi Stephanie,

    You can start right now! Deaf families will sign around their children from birth, in exactly the same way hearing families talk around pre-verbal children. The only difference with starting with a younger child, is you need to be more patient – it will take him longer to start signing back than if you started him when he was older. But, particularly if he is deaf I would started straight away.

  45. Meagan S.

    I am a nanny for a one year old boy. His mother and I have recently started teaching him some simple signs (milk, more, eat, please). He caught on very quickly and gets really excited when he can tell us what he wants. This website has helped me to know more signs that I can start teaching him. Thank you for everything y’all do!

  46. Grandma B

    How do you sign “grandmother”?

    ADMIN – Hi Grandma B,

    The sign for grandmother is similar to the sign for mother. You take your strong hand and tap your thumb on your chin, moving it forward twice. You can see a video of the sign in our baby sign language dictionary.

  47. mohammad

    Hello my name is Mohammad – I live in Iran – and I want my baby to learn English and baby sign language in addition to the Persian language. Can I buy her your deluxe baby sign language kit in Iran?

    ADMIN – Hi Mohammad,

    Baby sign language is a great way to bridge between two languages. Speak to your child in both Persian and English. For the words you choose to sign, make the sign for both languages. The consistent sign across the two language will help form a bridge for her across the two languages.

    We ship our kits worldwide (including Iran).

  48. Magnolia

    How do i say “WATER” in baby sign language?

    ADMIN – Hi Magnolia,

    Water is signed by making you middle three fingers into a W, and tapping them on your chin. You can see a video and a diagram for water in the dictionary section of the website.

  49. lisa

    What would you use if a baby is fussing for you or a bottle or something, but you want to say, “just a second, i’ll be right back.” or is that too much to comprehend…… or you are finishing your make-up….and you want to say….just a second”. ?? Any ideas?

    ADMIN – Hi Lisa,

    Wait is a good sign to use to teach baby how to be a little more patient.

  50. Veronica

    Thank you so much for your wonderful website! I am in the process of teaching my almost 6 month old daughter how to sign. So far she understands “milk” and “up”. The signs that you have given on the website are endless. Thank you! Baby is so much more happier now.

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