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Six to eight months old is a good time to start.
The younger you start signing, the earlier your baby will start signing back. But when you start very young, you need to be more patient. With a newborn, for example, it may take six months before that child signs back, while a six-month-old may only take two months to sign back.
Starting later, for example, when a child is 18 months’ old, is fine too. Children who start later will typically catch on much faster because their cognitive and motor skills are so much more advanced. Many older children will catch on within a week.
On average, it takes a six-month-old baby two months of signing exposure to start signing back.
The amount of time it takes a child to start signing back varies depending on age, the amount of exposure, and the child (in that order). The older the child, the more exposure you give them to signing, and the earlier the child’s language window opens, the earlier they will sign.
Generally, girls start signing a little sooner than boys.
Some of our readers have children that sign in just a few weeks. For other readers it takes several months. All our readers agree, however, that when signing happens for the first time, it is a wonderful experience!
Five minutes per day.
Integrate signing into your regular daily activities. Sign when you greet your baby, when you are reading a book, and when you are eating. Babies learn from observation and these regular repetitions of the sign in context will help them learn the connection between the sign and the meaning of the word.
As your baby grows older, you can start playing some games that revolve around signing, like playing with animal flash cards. But, you are never going to have long, formal lessons with your baby – babies learn better from observation and play.
Start with five signs – those that your baby will have many opportunities to see during the day and will be motivated to learn. We recommend practical signs like mom, dad, eat, milk, and a fun sign like cat, dog, or fan. You can find more good starter signs here.
You may start with more signs if you wish, but it is vital that you have a core set of signs your baby will be frequently exposed to. Doing one sign fifty times a day is much better than doing fifty signs only once per day. Once your baby learns his first few signs, he will quickly develop a curiosity for new signs, and that is the best time to expand his vocabulary.
It reduces tantrums. It is a lot of fun. It has cognitive benefits.
Babies often get frustrated because they can’t communicate their needs to their parents. This leads to tantrums, fussing, and irritability. Baby sign language lets your baby constructively communicate what he wants. Every parent has those moments of frantically trying to guess what a screaming child wants. Baby sign language means having fewer of those moments.
Baby sign language lets you get closer to your baby. You can get a better understanding of what she is thinking. And knowing that you understand makes your baby feel closer too. Not only is signing with your baby a lot of fun, studies show that signing families report a closer bond.
Baby sign language is associated with a range of cognitive benefits, including a higher IQ, better grades in school, and a larger vocabulary.
Yes, the signs are American Sign Language (ASL).
The signs we teach are 99% American Sign Language (ASL), the language used by deaf people in the United States. In a very few cases where the sign is complex, we have used a common simplification to make the sign appropriate for a young child.
Like English, ASL has regional variations and sometimes there are multiple signs for each word. In these instances we have chosen the easiest and most common sign from among these variations.
Most people should use ASL.
Deaf people in different countries use different sign languages. For example, Australians use AusSign (Australian Sign Language) and the British use British Sign Language. But, for Baby Sign Language, most families use American Sign Language (ASL) irrespective of where they live.
ASL is used for baby sign language because of the wide range of available resources to teach ASL. There are plenty of books, tapes, flash cards, and DVDs for infants that are available in ASL. Other sign languages have fewer resources, and it can be hard to find good resources to help you teach.
The exception is if you have deaf family or friends that you would like baby to be able to sign with. In this case, it makes more sense to learn your local sign language.
Use the same sign for both languages.
Bilingual families use signing as the bridge between the two languages. When you use the same sign for the word in both languages, it helps your child understand that both mean the same thing.
Get the Kit & Sign Smarter
The Baby Sign Language Kits bundle together everything you need to get started with signing in one box at a steep discount. The premium kit includes (1) Baby Sign Language DVDs & CDs; (2) Baby Sign Language Guide Book; (3) Baby Sign Language Dictionary; (4) Baby Sign Language Flash Cards; and (5) Baby Sign Language Wall Chart.
Signing Time DVDs: Learning Made Fun
Baby Sign Language DVDs teach your baby to sign while keeping her entertained. This Emmy Award-nominated program teaches all the basics in a fun musical format. Your baby will learn:
- Food Signs – never miss when she is hungry, thirsty, wants more, or all done
- Utility Signs – skip tantrums and understand when she is too hot, too cold, or needs a diaper change
- Family Signs – greet grandma and grandpa
Flash Cards: Expand Vocabulary
Flash Cards expand your baby’s signing vocabulary by giving him more ways to communicate and express his creativity.
- 52 Cards – add family, home, and animal signs
- Illustrated – pictures on the front, the sign on the reserve
- Durable – mounted board with a hard case for storage
Get the Kit & Sign Smarter
Teaching Guide: Get Faster Results
Teaching Guide our best information on teaching Baby Sign Language. Topics covered include:
- Pepperberg Method – teach signs twice as fast
- Phrases – combining signs to make simple phrases
- Transition to Speech – transition to talking
Signing Dictionary: 600 Signs at Your Fingertips
Signing Dictionary puts over 600 signs at your fingertips. Always have the right sign available to match your child’s interest.
- 600 Signs – have the right sign available when you need it
- Illustrated – each sign includes two diagrams with both starting and ending positions
- Letters & Numbers – start counting and alphabet games
Wall Chart: Reminder for Caregivers
Wall Chart provides a quick reminder of the basic signs. Let babysitters, grandparents, and other caregivers understand the signs.
- 14 Signs – all the basic signs
- Glossy Coating – wipe clean waterproof coating
- 24″ x 36″ – large format poster