Getting Started With Baby Sign Language

To get started on baby sign language, begin by learning your first few signs. (Mommy, Daddy, Milk, and the rest of the Top Ten Starter Signs are a good place to begin). You only need a few signs to start with, anywhere from three to five is fine.

Video: Overview of Baby Sign Language

Once you have learned your first few signs, it’s time to start teaching your baby the signs. We have a four part method that we call FREE.

Fun – keep baby sign language as an enjoyable thing you do together
Repeat – the secret to teaching baby sign language is to do lots of repetition.
Encourage – when baby starts to sign back, give her lots of encouragement
Expand – once baby learns her first few signs add more to expand her vocabulary.

Next Page: Step One – Make it Fun
Previous Page: Baby Sign Language Basics

baby sign language kit

36 Responses to “Getting Started With Baby Sign Language”

  1. Jillian

    Hi I have a almost seven month old and I have not yet shown him sign language yet but he has seen it. I have noticed he use his hand and says want at random times I really want to teach him but not sure how.

    ADMIN – Hi Jillian,

    Children often develop natural signs of their own. To get started, enroll in our free seven day baby sign language class.

  2. Christina D

    I would like to know around how much time is recommended each day to successfully learn baby sign?

    ADMIN – Hi Christina,

    Zero. I wouldn’t spend any special time on Baby Sign Language to start, I would just integrate signing into your everyday routines. So things like, signing milk before, during, and after you give them milk. You want lots of repetition of the first few signs, but you want the repetition to be in the context of their everyday routines.

    So you are really just spending a couple of seconds here, a couple of seconds there. What isn’t very useful in the early days is trying to have some dedicated signing time where you are working on BSL like it is a classroom. It isn’t developmentally useful at a young age, they just don’t have the attention span, and it isn’t how babies learn.

  3. Susan Asher

    If we are teaching our boy both French and English wouldn’t it be easier to use a form of sign other than one in French or English? Thanks for this informative site. Susan

    ADMIN – Hi Susan,

    We usually use the same sign for both languages. That way the signs act as a bridge between the English and the French words.

  4. Catharine

    I have been using signs with my son since he was about 5 months old. He is now 15 months old, but still only does the signs for milk and more. I have frequently used signs for all done, all gone, bath, car, animals, hurt, hot, cold, mommy, daddy, etc. Could it be that he is just not interested? Could I have been doing something so wrong that he isn’t learning any of them? I know other people have been very successful using signs with their children and I had hoped for this as well.

    ADMIN – Hi Catherine,

    Doesn’t sound like anything is wrong with your teaching or your son, different children have different development trajectories and different interests. (You know the old ditty about being either an early walker or an early talker) From what you say, he understands the basics, he either doesn’t want to or his language window hasn’t started to open. He is old enough that you can try being a little more pushy and set the expectation to do the sign before he gets what he wants, and see if that is helpful. (So if he wants you to pass say his toy car, you could ask him to do the sign car, before you do what he wants.

    Personally, if he is happy, and doing fine in hitting his development milestones, I would not be at all concerned.

  5. Eden Benedict

    We have been signing to our son pretty much since birth (~2 weeks). He is 14 weeks now and today I noticed he was opening and closing his fist (like the sign for milk) around the time I thought he should be getting hungry. He stopped playing with his toy and got grumpy soon after. Is it possible that he signed “milk” and was hungry? P. s. We use the milk sign 30+ times a day (I BF and he unlatches multiple times and each time I resign milk before putting him back on). Thanks!

    ADMIN – Hi Eden,

    It would be very early, but it is certainly possible he has made the association between the sign and feeding. If he keeps doing it when he is hungry, you will know he has made the connection!

  6. Paloma

    Hi – I plan to teach my baby to use sign language, she’s due end of September. But we want her to learn Spanish first before English. Do you have this kit available in Spanish?

    ADMIN – Hi Paloma,

    We only have the kit available in English, but I am sure you can find other baby sign language kits in Spanish. Baby Sign Language is great for bilingual kids, because it gives them a way to bridge between the two language, glad to hear you will be signing!

  7. Anne Marie

    Our household is bilingual and I often hear people say that children from bilingual homes begin speaking later. That was however not the case with me (who also grew up in a bilingual home).

    Anyhow, with our daughter (from the time she was 9 months old) we would speak each our language but always do the same sign.

    Our experience is that she began speaking earlier than children her age and that now (4yrs) she continues to have a wider vocabulary than most her friends.

    I am so excited to use baby signs with her 5 month old brother. This time around I started using the signs sooner and he actually stops crying when I sign milk to him (which gives me a couple of minutes to prepare his formula).

    It was so much fun sign-comunicating with my daughter long before she could talk, and I am sure it will be as much, if not more fun now.

  8. Phyllis VanGossen

    Just wanted to tell you that I am ordering the set of learning tools. I will, along with all of the grandparents, be learning this to communicate with our 2 1/2 year old grandson. He is non verbal and having some testing for apraxia. We are hopeful, but realistic to the fact that we need to learn with him. I can’t wait for the day when he tells us anything. Thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Phyllis,

    I hope you find the resources useful for your grandson. Many speech therapists use Baby Sign Language for children that are late in verbalizing, as it is a nice intermediate step. It also make a lot of sense to get him tested to see if there are any underlying conditions. Let us know how it goes.

    PS – I liked the part of your note about all the grandparents joining in to help your grandson with his talking. Great to hear, I bet he and his parents appreciate the extra help.

  9. Nancy Richburg

    This site is awesome, it is easy to maneuver around on and so easy to follow. I am blessed with being able to keep my only grandchild, Rie, who is 2. I had a very close friend growing up whose parents were deaf. So when Rie came I decided to teach her to sign. Not only is it another language but we live in Austin Texas and have one of the largest deaf school in the country. So we have a large deaf community.

  10. Liz

    I am really excited to teach my baby sign language and know that it helps speech development but what if the baby is being raised bilingual? I’m hoping it will help him with his development because I know bilingual babies can take much longer to start talking?. Should I teach him to sign using English and French when I speak or is that too much information for him to process? And should I wait longer or start earlier with 2 languages being spoken at home?

    ADMIN – Hi Liz,

    With bilingual children, we use signs as a bridge between the two language. We will use the same sign for the French and the English word for bird. That helps baby understand the two words have the same meaning and makes being bilingual a little easier. You can start whenever you are ready.

    I would not teach him two different signs (i.e. the French Sign Language sign for bird, and the American Sign Language sign for bird), that is going to just cause confusion.

  11. takeawalk22

    I have been using the sign for ‘eat’ and ‘more’ for about 2 months now, my son is 9 months old and he shows no interest in signing what so ever. I am having a hard time finding information on how to help teach it when a baby is not interested.

    I try to make it fun and very repetitive, but he just never even tried. The only thing he will do it a mixture of ‘eat’ and ‘more. Both hands together going towards his mouth, however, that is rarely while he’s eating. When I try to hold his hands and help him with the sign for more food he gets frustrated and pushes me away. HELP?

    ADMIN – Hi Takeawalk22,

    Sounds like you are doing all the right things! Just like walking and talking, they will sign back when they are ready. Nothing unusual to see a child not signing back at 9 months. Stick with it, keep having fun, and it will come.

    Some children will let you manipulate their fingers into the sign, others hate it. If he doesn’t like having his fingers shaped into the sign, don’t push the issue – they aren’t learning when they get frustrated.

  12. lilb

    My son is 6 mths i just started trying this yday and it was so much fun and it felt good to have something more were we could bond together
    Love it

  13. Abby

    Can’t wait for my baby to start signing. She’s only 3.5 months but I’m doing milk right now in case she starts early!!

  14. Carl Beall

    I learned about signing before attainment of verbal skills back in the 1970′s. Our daughter Jennifer, now 41 and a Mother of 7 month old twins, was speaking when we first learned about signing. However, our son Kristofer who is now 37, learned to sign a couple of months prior to using verbal skills. My third child, Frazier (daughter) now 14, learned signing post infancy but well before developing verbal skills. There is almost nothing as exciting as signing with your child.

    Frazier and I will babysit the twins between the last week of June and the 1st week of July. When Jen and Andy return from their trip I fully expect to have the twins communicating using BSL. Frazier and I are sooooo excited we can hardly stand it!

    ADMIN – Carl,

    That is too cool. Three generations of signers. Tell us how it goes.

  15. Amy

    I started signing with my 7 month old since she was 6 months old. I do have 2 other children but this is my first attempt. When do I add more signs to her? Is it when she can physically sign? I do milk, more, cat , mommy, daddy, and maybe a few others. I noticed when I do the milk sign and say what it is she knows what it means but just hasn’t physically done it, same as with cat. Should I be waiting to add more signs till she physically does one? Should I just mainly work on one till she does it then go onto another one?

    ADMIN – Hi Amy,

    It is great that your little girl can recognize the signs, that means she is well on the way to learning to sign. Soon she will be signing back. If she can recognize and understand the signs, you can slowly add a few more signs now.

    You might also want to try giving her a nudge to help her understand that she can sign too. More is a great sign to work on with her. You can try moving her hands for her. Then when she makes the sign, give her more of the snack she was working on.

  16. Brandy

    Hi! My 3 1/2 month old son has Down Syndrome and the experts suggest in order to increase his verbal skills teach him sign language. We are doing this as a family and my 4 year old daughter is so excited about it. She walks around signing sister all day. She is having so much fun. We learn at least one new sign a day. I appreciate you having the videos on line as I’m such a visual person and I love to be able to see exactly what to do. I’ll let you know when Otto makes his first sign! Thank you!

  17. Lisa S.

    Thank you for this awesome site! Was very easy to find! I used baby sign language with my son who is now 5 when he was 6 months old. He picked it up quickly and still remember a lot of signs. He ended up not really talking much until he was 3! Is this because he didn’t need to use words? I now have a 4 month old girl who I have started signing with, she seems very interested. I also plan to make flash cards with the words on them in hopes she will learn to read the words as well! This site is a great refresher and it also has a lot of signs I never learned before.

  18. Shay

    Hello, my son is 3 1/2 months and I decided to start teaching him sign language. Only problem is, my husband thinks it will mean our son will be “stupid”. I tried telling him the benefits of sign language, but he’s got such a thick head and won’t listen. I really would like support from him and other people so my baby can learn. I can’t be the only one showing him the signs… what should I do? BTW, amazing site!!!

    ADMIN – Hi Shay,

    LOL. I would just stick with it, lots of people are skeptical until they see the first sign. You can talk until you are blue in the face about how it has been endorsed by pediatrician, all the amazing studies showing IQ benefits, and show all the videos you want of other children signing and you aren’t going to persuade someone whose mind is made up. But, ince your son starts signing, you husband will come on board (and probably tell you it was his idea).

  19. Devon

    Thank you so much. My little man will be eight months old in a week and a half and already knows the sign for milk thanks to this site! We are working on mom, dad, more, and diaper. I really appreciate free resources like this and I have passed the site onto my sister-in-law, also to my best friend who is expecting in December.

  20. Mia

    gosh i can’t believe it took me this long to find your site. I studied Sign in college and said i would teach my daughter when she was old enough but i was never able to find a website that gave me exactly what i was looking for as far as how to start her off, i knew parents were important as well as milk and i’m soo excited to try to teach her now that she’s 8 months :) thank you!!

  21. Vaani

    Thank you do much for this website.. I just learned about sign language for babies and I’m so excited about it. Sounds so much fun.. Im starting signing right away with my 7-month old daughter..! Thanks Again!

  22. Angelica

    Hello, I live in Colombia and I read about this when my daughter was 15 months, she is now 18 months and sign milk, more, dog, cat, eat, drink, hurt. Did I start too late teaching my toddler the signing language? Should I continue doing it?

    ADMIN – Hi Angelica,

    If she is having fun with it, keep on going. At 18 months, she is going to be starting to make inroads into speech, but the transition will take at least another year, and baby sign language will help her bridge the gap.

  23. jessenia

    My son is 6 months and he has been using the sign for milk since he was about four months only one I’ve taught him so far. But works great!

    ADMIN – Cool. I think in the next 3 months you will notice that his language window will start opening soon and he will developing an insatiable appetite for new signs (and milk!).

  24. Zoozin

    Hello, i love you website, thanks for having a very extensive excellent site.

    I have been teaching my baby daughter signing since she was 4.5 months old.
    she is now 7 months old and i have been teaching her milk, eat, more, mommy,
    daddy, dog, cat, bird..

    Since a few days ago, she suddenly makes her hands exactly like the milk sign but at random times. I don’t think she knows it means milk. It seems like she just happened to learn that hand movement and is so interested in doing it over and over. i don’t know if she knows or not and tried to give her milk when she did it but she didn’t seem that hungry..

    And yesterday, when i was feeding her and signing her ‘more’ she did the same milk sign instead. I thought she meant for more so gave her more food.

    Can you help me how I can help her do the correct signs at the correct times?
    I am so thrilled that she is doing it correct but at the same time anxious coz she doesn’t use it properly..

    ADMIN – Hi Zoozin,

    Babies often will start imitating signs they saw earlier in the day, particularly when they are just starting. You will notice this with lots of behaviors, not just baby sign language. The observe, and internalize, then they will start to imitate over and over again later in the day. This is their way of processing, learning and remembering. Often, this will be out of context. It is a good thing, it means she is starting to learn how to do the signs and knows they are important. In the next month, you will start to see her getting more precise with her meaning.

    Let her practice her signs. When she does it the first time, I would sign back and say the word and then offer her what she asked for. It is fine even if she didn’t want it, she will start to learn that the milk sign means she will get milk.

    If you want to correct a sign, just say the correct word and make the sign. For example if she says milk where it is clear she meant more, say “you want MORE” while doing the more sign. Then give her what she wanted. Again it is very common for them to confuse signs early on or use the same sign for everything. When my daughter started, everything was daddy or dog.

    Your daughter is doing great. Everything is going according to plan. Keep encouraging her, she will be signing up a storm before you know it.

  25. Arwa Miftah

    I live in Syria and I’ve heard about this language from a movie. I googled it and found this fantastic website… I started doing it despite of the idea that everyone here is laughing at me because they think I’m crazy….. thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Arwa,

    Cool. Glad to hear you pioneering baby sign language in Syria. There was a similar reaction in the United States ten years ago when baby sign language was getting started. Now, baby sign language seems to be a lot more common in the US, and most people have at least heard about it. I think many people are skeptical until they have seen it in action for themselves. You will be surprised how quickly everyone will change their tune when your baby starts signing back.

  26. Neil

    Thankyou for this! I had been wondering about signing, and I’m starting right now with my 4 month old. Greatly appreciated! :-)

  27. Rose

    I had seen a dvd set to teach your baby to sign. I thought that was really nice. I came across this site by googling baby sign language. I am glad I did. My granddaughter is not due until July but I intend to learn the signs now along with my husband and daughter and to get into the habit of signing to her.

    Thank you so much for this site.

  28. Rebecca

    My baby girl is 4 1/2 months old should I start now or wait ?

    ADMIN – Hi Rebecca,

    You can start now. You can of course start baby sign language at any time, they will take in the signs and start to develop pattern recognition even as early as a month. The earliest most children start signing back is around six months, so now any time between 3 months and one year is a great time to start.

  29. Claudia

    I am so thrilled about starting my 10 month old baby with sign language. Is it important that I teach her older siblings to use baby sign language to reinforce the learning experience?

    ADMIN – Hi Claudia,

    You don’t have to teach her older siblings, but it will help. Babies, especially once they get into the toddler years, are very impressed by older siblings and see them sign will increase the motivation to sign and give her more opportunities to observe and practice. Older children can be taught quickly, then assigned the important task of teaching their baby sister.

  30. Taylor

    I would love it if you could house a directory of baby play groups for baby sign language. Is there such a thing?

    ADMIN – Hi Taylor,

    Nice idea, we will look into it.

  31. Julia

    I also have an autistic daughter. We have been using babysignlanguage.com as a resource for opening up communication channels with her. In general it has taken two to three days for her to grasp a word. I would like to know if this is the normal time it takes for autistic children to learn a word in sign language. She is seven now and has a vocabulary of 20 to 30 signed words She is non-verbal and uses only sign language to communicate. Thanks for your help.

    ADMIN – Hi Julia,

    That is a question better directed to your physician or speech therapist who would be more familiar with your daughter and the severity of her autism. But, generally if a child is making progress and having fun, I don’t worry about their rate of progress.

  32. Anneke Berry

    Just googled your website. I am trying to educate myself to help my autistic grandson to communicate.
    In therapy they taught me how to teach him to say “more” and it only took a coouple of days, so I am looking forward to learning more on this site. It looks fantastic.

  33. Janet

    Thank you for having this site available free! I’m so excited to try this with my twins. It’s a great site!

  34. John

    Your site is pretty awesome. I’m very exited about having our family learn and use Baby sign Language to communicate with our 11 month old son. Thank you

  35. Leticia

    Hi, just wondering when it would be the latest age to teach? my son is almost a year, so I assume is too late?

    ADMIN – Hi Leticia,

    One year would be a fine age to start. Baby sign language becomes less useful when a child can start to say new words with confidence. But, this does not usually happen until close to two years old for boys. So there is still going to be plenty of benefit for your son over the next 12 months from starting baby sign language now.

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