Baby Sign Language Quickstart

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

  1. Starter Signs: Learn mom, dad, eat, milk, and dog
  2. Teaching Signing: How to teach your child the signs
  3. Signing Class: sign up for our FREE advanced class
  4. Signing Kit: 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 more good 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. Make it:

  • Fun – keep signing playful and focused on motivated signs
  • Repetition – embed signing in your daily routines
  • Encourage – reward progress with praise & attention
  • Expand – grow vocabulary, following baby’s interests

Teaching Baby Sign Language Quickstart

3. Sign Up for Our FREE Baby Sign Language Class Class

Learn Baby Sign Language in just seven easy lessons! Get our Baby Sign Language Class (reg. $49.95), FREE for a limited time.

  • Advanced Quickstart – an intensive session covering the fundamentals, and learning your first 10 signs.
  • Taming Tantrums – extend baby’s vocabulary to people, foods, and animals with these sturdy flash cards.
  • Combining Signs – combine signs to create more complex phrases such as eat apple.
  • Transitioning to Speaking – ease toddler frustration to help toddlers make choices and start to exercise control.
Baby Sign Language Kit

Where Should We Send Your FREE Baby Sign Course?

4. Get The Kit,
Sign Faster & Easier

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

  • DVDs – baby learns to sign while being entertained by the music of Rachel Coleman & the Signing Time Crew
  • Flash Cards – extend baby’s vocabulary to people, foods, and animals with these sturdy flash cards
  • Teaching Guide – 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

43 Responses to “Baby Sign Language QuickStart Basics”

  1. 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+.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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).

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. Christine

    Hello. Thank you so much for the amazing site! My daughter is 4 1/2 months old and I’ve been using the sign for “hungry” instead of the more commonly used first sign of “milk,” as it seems like a more useful sign moving forward. My question is: do you know if the sign for “hungry” is any more difficult for an infant to make than the sign for “milk”?

    ADMIN – Hi Christine,

    Using the more general sign, hungry is fine. It is also a very easy sign to make. Starting at your daughter’s young age, it would be perfectly normal for the signing to take a little longer.

  28. Melissa

    I have been using about 5 different signs (milk, more, all done, eat, change) for 3 months now, my son is 9 months old but isn’t signing back, how long will it take?

    ADMIN – Hi Melissa,

    Children’s developmental windows open at different times. Some children take a little longer. Stick with it and you should see something soon. Until then, just keep on with the repetition.

  29. Julie

    I was first introduced to baby signs when I worked in a daycare. Now expecting my first child I’m excited to sign at home. Since I’ve already seen baby signing in use I already know it works. Thanks for the free site and videos!

  30. Kristi

    Thank you so much for a wonderful website. I knew when I was pregnant that I wanted to use baby sign language because I had seen the benefits with my niece. When my son was born, we discovered that he is hearing impaired and so it became even more important for us to begin sign language. He is now 6 months and your website has made it so easy to learn basic signs and the chart made it nice for his sitter to also be on the same page. I look forward to the new signs that you have coming. Will there be an alphabet chart coming? The videos are great for helping us to know we are doing it correctly.

    ADMIN – Hi Kristi,

    Thanks for your kind words. We had no plans for an alphabet chart, but we will be doing flash cards and videos for the alphabet and numbers.

  31. Stephanie

    I have always been interested in baby sign language. What age is appropriate to start teaching my son?

    ADMIN – Hi Stephanie, to learn when to get started with baby sign language visit our FAQs, We are also available on Facebook where you can engage in conversation with many signing moms and dads.

  32. Kathy

    Hello Everyone and thank you for all of the info. My daughter moved in with me recently with a 6 yr old, 3 yr old and 6 month old. For the present time I am in charge of mostly the baby but also am teaching my daughter parenting skills. The baby is very frustrated and I believe that this program would help quite a bit. Are there any books or DVD’s that you would suggest. At the moment the Alphabet Blue’s Clues is her favorite. Any help would be greatly appreciated for a very tired but determined Nana! Thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Nana,

    We have a good book on Baby Sign Language. As for DVD Baby Signing Times is a awesome and a similar kind of format to Blue Clues. Go ahead and print our free downloadable signing for babies flash cards to get started and have something tangible. You can also involve the older children. Join our Facebook page and ask the the girls what they are currently using.

  33. Jameka

    My son is 9 months and I have read that this is the optimal time to teach him sign language because they are anxious to express their needs and have better fine motor skills and coordination. I just don’t really know how to get started. I notice that he knows words that we say to him already, like “Come here” “Eat”, “Bottle”, and “More”. Should I start signing these first? Also I really want to do the sign to put him to sleep. But I know it’s a different one for “tired” and “sleepy” and “bed”, which would be best to use?

    ADMIN – Hi Jameka,

    If there are some words he already recognizes and that you use frequently in your daily routines, they would be good starter signs. The words you mentioned: come, eat, bottle, and more are all great starter signs.

    For bedtime, you can use any of those signs, just be consistent. Most people use bed, because it is an easy sign and looks like the universal sign for bedtime ( just put both your hands together and rest your head on them as if they were a pillow. Also for bedtime just pick the sign you feel is a best fit for your baby in terms of motor skills and personality keeping in mind that baby signing is a transitional means to communicate with your baby and provide you with a chronological advantage when it comes to accelerated learning. Also join our Facebook community to share and compare baby sign language progress with other signing moms

  34. Victoria

    if i were you i would use the sign for drink and milk just use the sign for drink then milk cause they could hopefully get the point that it means bottle and maybe your baby will know the difference between milk, bottle, and drink. =)

  35. Victoria

    My mom had a baby a little over a year ago … he is a boy and has a lot of problems … one of which they think he won’t ever talk, and pretty much the only word he says is da-da and daddy. He refuses to say mommy or ma-ma … does anyone know the easiest and quickest way to teach my little brother how to sign? This can help my mom, my baby brother, and me all at the same time because he is learning sign language.

    I am 12 almost 13 years old and just found out my mom has a brain tumor and has to have brain surgery. The surgery she has to have can cause her to loose her voice. So sign language is something we would all like to learn.

    ADMIN – Hi Victoria,

    Sorry to hear about your mom’s surgery, our thoughts are with you. It is great to hear that you are working with your brother to help him learn sign language. As a mom, I would take great comfort in seeing that you are taking on this responsibility when I need you most.

    You can start working with your brother by introducing a few basic signs like mom, dad, more and eat, as you both go about your day. Find lots of opportunities to repeat those signs in your daily routines. Over the coming months he will start signing back, and then you can start expanding your vocabulary.

  36. Justine

    In addition, I thought of just tapping my breast for breastfeeding and using “milk” for bottle/cups if I need to use different signs.

  37. Deb

    Are your signs adapted in any way or are they actual ASL signs? My daughter is deaf and I want to start early with your easy to use site but want to teach her signs that she will be able to use forever.

    ADMIN – Hi Deb,

    In 99% of cases we use actual ASL. Occasionally we simplify where the ASL sign is too complex, or the official ASL is finger-spelled. In these cases we will note that we deviated from proper ASL.

  38. Liz

    Hi I just have a question. I have never used baby signing with my daughter and shes never seen it anywhere but I just wanted to know if a few hand signs she does means anything.

    1. She takes her pointer finger and touches the tip of it to her opposite hands palm and does it several times in a row.

    2. She takes both of her pointer finger tips and touches them together several times.

    I dont know if these mean anything, probably not, but I would like to know if they do so I know what shes saying when she does them.

    ADMIN – Hi Liz,

    If you daughter has not been taught to sign, it is unlikley that she is deliberately making a sign. (She may have picked some up from daycare or some other source outside the home)

    The first sign you describe, sounds a little like again, and the second a little like more. But, again it is likely just a coincidence if nobody taught her.

    If you are interested in teaching her how to sign, you can sculpt the behavior into having meaning. Whenever she makes the gesture, make the sign back, say the word and give them what they asked for. Even though they initially did not have any meaning attatched to the word, they will soon associate a meaning.

  39. Ashley

    Elizabeth, My sister breast fed, and she used milk the milk sign for breast feeding and the drink sign for a bottle, I don’t know if that helps at all.

  40. Rebecca

    What is a good sign for pen or pencil? Our daughter loves them and is constantly wanting one.

    I am very happy to say that by following your guidelines our 14 month old daughter has been able to pick up on 2 signs in just 2 days. This is soooo much better than the grunts we used to hear.

    ADMIN – Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for the idea, we added pen to our list of signs.

    Thanks for sharing your daughter’s story. We often get asked if it is too late for older children to start. Of course with older children, you don’t get to share signing for as long, but the benefit is that they learn very quickly. Your daughter learning her first two signs in two days is unusual, but seeing signing back within a week would be typical at that age.

  41. Elizabeth

    What is a good sign for bottle? Should I use ‘milk’ because (most of the time) milk (or formula) is in the bottle. I am a Nursery Day Care provider and one of the moms has asked me to use Baby Signs with her baby. I wish more of the moms (and the director) were interested. I am so thrilled to be able to teach a baby – baby sign language but I am just learning myself.

    I have been using the ‘milk’ sign and saying bottle because bottle is easier to say than milk. They learn to say ‘ba-ba’ for bottle which is easier to say than milk. This sounds confusing, but I don’t think it really is if I am consistent and so is the mom.

    ADMIN – Hi Elizabeth,

    We use the “milk” sign for when they want a bottle with milk, and the “water” sign for when they want a bottle with water.

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