Top Ten Starter Signs

When first starting out with baby sign language, you will want to do just a few signs that you repeat over and over.  Once your baby learns these first few signs you can expand your repertoire. You want to start out with signs that you can use frequently and that represent something compelling to your baby.

A. Friends & Family Signs

Signs referring to important people in your baby’s life are early favorites. Not only will your baby love signing them, adults love teaching baby their sign – so you will get help from your partner, siblings, and relatives.

A1. Mom

Mom in Baby Sign Language
Mom in Sign Language

Mommy is signed by tapping your thumb on your chin. In ASL female signs are usually below the nose, and male signs above the nose. See video …

A2. Dad

Dad in Baby Sign Language
Dad in Sign Language

Dad is signed by tapping your thumb on your forehead. The signs for mom and dad are similar, however, the mom sign is performed on the chin and the dad sign is performed higher up on the forehead. See video …

if you have friends or family that spend a lot of time with your baby, they are perfect collaborators to help teach your baby another sign.  Have them sign the appropriate sign when they approach your child. For example, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandmother, or grandfather.

A3. Grandmother

Grandmother in Baby Sign Language
Grandmother in Sign Language

Grandmother is similar to mother. You tap your thumb on your chin, but make a double motion away from your face. See video …

A4. Grandfather

Grandfather in Baby Sign Language
Grandfather in Sign Language

Grandfather in ASL is similar to father. You tap your thumb on your forehead, but make a double motion instead of a single motion. See video …

Pets are of great interest to babies. You can capitalize on this natural interest, so if you have a family pet these make great starter signs.

A5. Dog

Dog in Baby Sign Language
Dog in Sign Language

Dog looks like you are calling a dog, by tapping your hand on your thigh. See video …

A6. Cat

Cat in Baby Sign Language
Cat in Sign Language

Cat looks like you are a cat, outlining your whiskers. See video …

B. Food Signs

Babies love to eat, so start with some signs associated with favorite foods. Learning these signs is very useful, letting baby signal that they are hungry in a constructive way without fussing.

B1. Milk

Milk in Baby Sign Language
Milk in Sign Language

Milk is signed by making opening and closing your hand, like you are milking a cow. This is a very useful sign for babies who are breast feeding or on formula. See video …

B2. Eat

Eat in Baby Sign Language
Eat in Sign Language

Eat looks like you are putting food to your mouth, with you thumb to your fingers. Eat is particularly useful for babies on solids. See video …

B3. More

More in Baby Sign Language
More in Sign Language

More is signed by tapping your finger tips together. This is a very versatile sign useful in many contexts, and is often the first sign learned. See video …

B4. All Done

All Done in Baby Sign Language
All Done in Sign Language

All Done is signed by twisting your hands back and forth. It allows baby to tell you they are finished eating (without flinging food). See video …

You can also select starter signs associated with one of your baby’s favorite things or notable sensations. If a child has a favorite toy, such as a rubber duck or teddy bear. A child that enjoys story time would enjoy learning book. Diaper is also very useful for babies that dislike having a soiled diaper and want a way to communicate when they need a change. Finally, happy is a great celebratory sign that you can do with your baby after you have had a good giggle together.

Get The Kit & Sign Smarter

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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 them entertained. This Emmy Award nominated program, teaches all the basics in a fun musical format. Your baby will learn:

  • Food Signs – never miss when they are hungry, thirsty, want more or are all done
  • Utility Signs – skip tantrums and understand when they are too hot, too cold, or need a diaper change
  • Family Signs – greet grandma and grandpa

Reg. $94.99

Flash Cards: Expand Vocabulary

Flash Cards expand your baby’s signing vocabulary giving them more ways to communicate and express their creativity.

  • 52 Cards – add family, home, and animal signs
  • Illustrated – pictures on the front, the sign on the reserve
  • Durable – board mounted & includes a hard case for storage

Reg. $24.99

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baby sign language kit

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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

Reg. $19.99

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

Reg. $19.99

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

Reg. $24.99

Associated with higher IQ

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69 Responses to “Top Ten Starter Signs”

  1. Samantha

    My daughter is 7 1\2 months. She is very vocal but has difficulty forming her basic sounds. I’ve tried to teach her basic signs since she was 4months but she hasn’t grasped it. Is there something I can practice with her to help her advance in her signs and speech?

    ADMIN – Hi Samantha,

    At 7.5 months all babies have difficulties forming basic sounds. The fact that she is making sounds when interacting is a sign that she is on the right path. Continue to encourage her and help her by modeling the signs while holding her little hands. (Our book has several advanced methods you can use to accelerate learning progress). Your baby will most likely have an explosion of signs and words between 9 to 14 months.

    Keep us updated

  2. Laura

    I have a 2 year old son who doesn’t say any words. He should have been saying mama and dada by now and I am starting to get worried. His pediatrician says to wait 6 months and if he still doesn’t say any words then my son has to begin speech therapy. I want my son to avoid that and a friend of mine whose father and two sisters are deaf recommended that I teach my son sign language. My concern is it too late to teach my son sign language at this late in stage?

    ADMIN – Hi Laura,

    This is a fine time to start with him if he isn’t talking. Often speech pathologists teach signing to children with speech delays as a way to prime the pump and start activating communication pathways in the brain.

  3. Allie

    Hi! I have 2 children, and my youngest was born deaf. Our speech therapist suggested we begin ASL, and I found your website. My youngest is 18 mo., and my oldest 3. I was wondering if it’s too late to start teaching them both ASL?

    Hi Allie,
    No, it is not too late but please keep in mind that some of our signs are simplified ASL to adapt to the motor skills of babies. You may want to combine our kit with an ASL dictionary to help your son transition.

  4. Dianne

    Can I start this with my 19 month old?

    Hi Dianne,
    Yes, you may start the baby sign language program at 19 months old. Chances are your little one is already verbal but knowing the signs will help with motor skills and creating associations between gesturing and concepts.

  5. brittany

    My daughter is 28 weeks she has started to walk and is very advance for her age. However she gets very frustrated really weasy when I comes to eating or not getting what she wants ( most of the time it is because we are unsure of her needs) she will cry just because. We want to start doing baby sign language to help her frustration with communicating but not sure when to start or even where to begin anything you could recommend would be great! As she is our first this is all new to us to as well. We have already started transitioning to a sippy cup (with formula in it) so anything would help thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Brittany,

    When you are dealing with a gifted child who is reaching her milestones way earlier than her peers you have to play it by ear. I know a number of moms and dads who introduced sign language at birth, were consistent and saw their first signs at 20 to 24 weeks. Go ahead and get her started with basic signs to help her express her needs. Use contextual teaching and support it with flashcards. If your baby is showing a proclivity toward music get her The Baby Signing Time collection. At her present age you are likely to see quick progress and should have a signer in your hands within a month or two.

  6. Emily

    Hi, my name is Emily and my son was born deaf. We are trying to decide if we should do sign language or Cued speech. He just recently got a cochlear implant but he has inner ear malformations so we are not sure how well he will benefit from them yet. Any opinions?

    Hi Emily, I have seen various instances where cued speech is combined with sign language to further equip the child to communicate particularly during early stages. It is best that you talk to his speech therapist and create a personalized approach that best fits his specific needs.

  7. Alexis Scott

    My son is 21 months old. He’s struggling with communicating. He says words like mom, dad, nana(grandma), papa (grandpa), and not really anything else. We’re looking into speech therapy, but WIC and some family said he may benefit from learning to sign. Do you think it’s too late?

    ADMIN – Hi Alexis,

    Not at all. A child can learn sign language at any stage in life and obtain the benefits of having an alternate tool to communicate their needs and ideas. Many speech therapists will teach signing as a bridge to speaking with children that are having trouble talking and incorporate a lot of signing into their curriculum.

    I would also encourage you to see a speech therapist sooner rather than later if you have concerns. Speech issues (if your son has one), are much easier to correct when they are identified early.

  8. Elisa

    Hi! My son is 8 months old and I want to start teaching him BSL. At home we speak two languages Spanish and English. However, we tried to speak only spanish to him. Having a niece that had serious speech problems ( now she’s 8 years old and fluent in three languages ), I’m afraid to try to teach him in English BSL. One of the things the speech therapist, at that time, said to my sister was to only speak one language at home. What would you recommend? Teaching him BSL in English or Spanish vs. both? Thank you so much!

  9. Emily

    My son is 9 months old. Is it too late to start signing with him? If I do start signing with him, will it take him a while to understand it? Just curious.


    Hi Emily,
    At nine months your little son is primed for learning. You will see really quick progress specially if you focus on meaningful signs that meet his basic needs. At nine months old we like to use the sturdy flashcards to allow baby to have something to hold and interact with.

  10. Lo

    Hey my daughter will be 2 in December and she says some words but not many. Her doctor thinks that she might have a mild case of autism. I have been trying to teach her sign language and she doesn’t seem to be picking it up. Is there anything that I can do to help her communicate better?

    ADMIN – Hi Lo,

    Keep working with her. If there is potential for a learning disorder such as autism, I would get a referral to a specialist and see if she would benefit from working with a speech therapist. Communication issues are much easier to fix when caught early.

  11. Annie

    I have a 2 year old Daughter who started talking at 3 months old and has been fluently talking since she was 1 year. She used to use a little bit of sign language but she stopped when she turned 1. How can I start reacquainting her with the use of ASL?

    We like to incorporate baby sign language to games. This is particularly useful with a highly verbal child.

  12. Carrie

    I just came a across ur website and I love it. My nephew is 16 mo old and unfortunately we only see each other “physically” every few months. However we do “see” each other via FaceTime many times a week. I was wondering if you had any thoughts/advice on how to start using ASL via FaceTime, is there anyone who has tried this before with success? English is not my sister in laws native language and I would love to incorporate ASL into “our” routine when on FaceTime so as she can continue at home. Thank you….

    ADMIN – Hi Carrie,

    We have done BSL via Skype with my niece. We use flashcards, songs, and small toys on both sides as we practice together. Her mother is very supportive and signing adds dimension to our relationship.

  13. Mia

    Hi, my daughter is 14 months old. She can sign sleep, bird, book, eat, dog, rabbit.
    My question is, she says “papa” already, but doesn’t know the sign yet. Should i still teach her the sign? Also a few other words that she already says, like “water”, “cat”.

    Hi Mia,
    Many parents approach us with a similar question. We find that integrating signs to words that toddlers are already using enhances their ability to use their whole body for expression. I would incorporate the signs in the context of games as an additional skill above and beyond verbal expression. We like to do it in games of matching the word to the sign or the image in the flashcard to the sign and word as expressed verbally.

  14. Jessica Hamilton

    My 17 month old loves bsl. Her favorite sign is thank you. Since we started signing with her we’ve noticed her tantrums are not as often. Also it is important my daughter knows how to sign since her older sister is deaf.

  15. Amanda Nour

    My son is only 3 months old and already knows/uses (sort of, hand control still a little wonky) the signs for Mama, Milk, and Tired. It’s AMAZING! I travel internationally a lot with half my family speaks a language I can not (and vice verse), and my son is not use to, but he still lets them know what he needs and it makes everything so much easier. My mother-in-law and sister-in-laws are just amazed when he does the signs. Thank you for making my multi-lingual family better understand my son’s wishes!

  16. Alicia

    I have an 11 week old son and I am SO excited about teaching him BSL that I have been using more than the 4 words recommended. He seams to recognize when I say mama and kiss but I’m not sure if by introducing so many words at once if I am impairing his abilities to learn BSL.

    ADMIN – Hi Alicia,

    Congratulations! It is helpful to a have a core of around 5 words that get a lot of repetition. You want to avoid is doing a lot of words with little repetition for each word (because that way the child doesn’t end up getting enough exposure to learn any of the words). If you end up doing more signs, that is great. But, make sure there is a core set of signs that is used many times during each day.

  17. Kim

    My son is 11 months old. Is it too late to start signing now?

    ADMIN – Hi Kim,

    Yes, you can start at 11 months. As long as they aren’t at an age where they are speaking easily and confidently (say 18 months) signing will be a big help in helping them communicate.

  18. LISA

    Thank you for an awesome website. My son is two years old and is in perfect health but he is refusing to speak. We have just started doing some of the signs like eat, more, and drink and its working. We are starting to communicate. I love the videos of the person signing. Please keep up the good work.

  19. Julie

    I am a mother of four and have two children with Learning Differences and sign language helped with frustration and the verbal language delay. Now I am a pre-school teacher and use ASL with all my children even if they are verbal. It’s very helpful with children from different countries who are learning English as a second language and need help bridging the gap!

  20. barb

    I like the variety of teaching tools you provide to assist a child with learning to sign. I will return to your site to gather other ideas in the future.

  21. Mandi Gutierrez

    I think blanket is just as important, to be lisited with favorite Toys. (comforts)

  22. Angela

    My nephew is 6 months and I want to do my H.S. Senior project on teaching him sign language. Do you think if I start now he will be able to sign one or two things within 6 months?

    ADMIN – Hi Angela,

    I would be confident you could teach him a couple of signs by the time he is one year old – I would expect much more. Of course, all children are different and some have their language window open later than others … but 12 months is a pretty safe bet.

    If you write up the project, send it to us and we will publish it on the blog.

  23. maria

    Thank you so much for having all of the information on the website, I am a prenatal coordinator and I am able to explain better to parents the benefits of sign language.

    ADMIN – Hi Maria,

    Glad to hear it was helpful. And thank you for helping to spread Baby Sign Language, we hear so many great stories from parents about it how it was something they enjoyed doing with their baby, made parenting a little easier and helped their child develop.

  24. Amanda

    I have a six month old and am just beginning to teach her how to sign. I am SO anxious to see her making progress! I think this is going to be a great way to communicate early with my baby, and I couldn’t be more excited. Thank you for having this great site with all the answers I need to my signing questions! I will update on progress later!

  25. Ramona

    I live in The Netherlands and was looking for a good website to find a lot of signs… Thanks so much, I’ve learned a lot. At the moment I’m teaching the American sign language… and sometimes the Dutch signs (just comparing which I find the easiest). Would love to buy the cards, but don’t know if your sending them outside of the USA?

    ADMIN – Hi Ramona,

    Great to hear! We do ship to the Netherlands (and the rest of the world).

  26. geoffrey mcnair

    Hi this is Geoffrey. I have a son who is 4 months old and is not deaf. I am deaf and am using this site to teach him to sign. Thank you.

  27. Patience

    I would like to know some tips on teaching my 18mth old sign language. He is enrolled in Help Me Grow, Early Intervention because he isn’t talking and also may have hearing problems, I was told to check out baby sign language. My son constantly wants me and pulls on me to do whatever he wants and he gets very frustrated when I am not able to understand what he wants. Please send me some tips on starting this journey.

    ADMIN – Hi Patience,

    We have an set of teaching lessons in the Basics section of the website. The biggest tip is to give him lots of exposure and to the signs being performed in context. The more contextual repetition he gets to the signs, the faster he will learn.

    Baby Sign Language is often used by speech therapists as a bridge to talking. As he starts to learn the sings, you can gently ween him off the ‘point and grunt’ method and insist he signs (or talks) to communicate his needs. Our rule is that you don’t have to sign perfectly, but you at least have to try.

  28. Jessie

    I love your site. I have a question though, do you recommend teaching the baby words she already says? My baby says mama and dada, should I teach her to sign them as well.

    ADMIN – Hi Jessie,

    I would start by teaching the signs they already know. If Baby already knows a few words, the signs will be easier to pick up as an introductory signs. That makes a nice bridge to learning new signs via baby sign language.

  29. Michaela

    Thank you for all of the wonderful videos, along with the descriptions! My daughter wants to keep watching them one after another, how many should you work on per day for a 4 year old?

    ADMIN – Hi Michaela,

    For older children like a 4-year old, take your cues from the child. When you a child already knows the spoken word, they can have a very high rate of sign acquisition, 3-5 a day would not be unheard of. I would work on a maximum of 10-20 new signs per day, and wait till she starts to master some of those signs before adding new signs.

  30. heather

    thank you so much ! i have to tell you that my husband was hesitant at first using this, but when our 14 month little girl came up to him and signed more milk , two signs in one :) he smiled from ear to ear and said ok what else can we teach her !! the whole family is now involved, our two older children LOVE it and we have the grandparents doing it too ! so again thank you so much !!

  31. Julie Dickelman

    This site is fantastic! We have been signing with my nephew since he was about 4 months old. Neither his Grandmother nor I have ever signed, so as we learn, he learns. Now we can have actual conversations and know what he needs or if he has an “owie” He loves to sign and right now his 2 favorite signs are More and Cat! Thank you so very much for this site. We love it and now that he is 18 months old, he learns more and more every day. We will continue to sign and get more advanced so that he will be able to have a second language that will help him in his future. He is not hearing imparied nor are we, but he will be able to assist others in his future, and maybe become a translator or educator in this field! Love it!!! You are all awesome!!!!!

  32. celine

    I just started signing with my 13month old. She has been really fussy lately with her teeth coming in. In a mater of a week or 2 she knows the sign for eat. Instead of telling me more she just signs food again….. But it saved us a tantrum last night. Will be keeping up at it for sure.


    At what age is it best to start?

    ADMIN – Hi Jessica,

    You can start at any age, but we find 6 months to be the sweet spot. If you start at six months, you can expect to start see some rudimentary signing after about one month.

    Starting earlier is great. But, you have to be patient as results will take longer to appear. For example, many people start at birth, and see the first signs 5-6 months later.

    Starting later is fine too, but if you leave it too late (beyond 24 months) it is not as useful because baby is already talking.

  34. Susan Godare

    I started with eat, mom, and dad and am building up. he’s only four months and doesnt sign back but i know with repetition he knows what to expect. We are now adding dog, grandmother, grandfather, and diaper

  35. Candice Grace Maque


    Thanks for sharing very important information. I have a 1 year old son with down syndrome. Do you think sign language will be of great help to him? will this not hinder him to learn to talk instead?

    ADMIN – Hi Candice,

    Children with Down Syndrome often have fine motor skills that lag behind their gross motor skills, contributing to speech delay. This is a good situation to use baby sign language. You son can use his gross motor skills to start developing his language skills while he waits for those fine motor skills to develop. This will also help when he starts talking, because the signs will help you understand what he is trying to say avoiding a lot of frustration.

    All the studies suggest that sign language acts as a bridge toward talking, helping accelerate speech development in much the same way crawling helps a baby develop their muscles for walking. There has been nothing specifically done on Down Syndrome, but I would expect the same effect. As always I would consult your physician and speech therapist, you and your team will have a much better understanding of the specifics of your child’s situation.

  36. Suvarna

    Thank you for showing easy ways of communication. My son is 5 months old & ‘ll definitely teach him to communicate with sign language. I sure this ‘ll help us both to understand each other.

  37. Jillian

    I just wanted to thank you for a great site! I don’t think we as parents could ever say thank you enough for your great resources.

  38. Lisa

    I have just found your website. I wanted to try baby sign language with my daughter who is two years old now and I never got the chance. I just had my son (a month early) and this time I’m definitely sticking to my word and I’m going to teach him this. It’s going to make things sooo much easier!!! Thanks for it being free :)

  39. shaylene

    Thank you!! I have a twelve week premature baby and this is very helpful for her and I to communicate! We love it and have alot of fun with it! Thank you.

  40. Helen

    I was so happy to find this site. I have an 18 month old who is not talking yet and still babbling. When his speech therapist suggested sign language I was baffled at first. But now he is talking to me and the stress between us is gone. I now know when he is thirsty, wants more or even wants to read a book now. Now if I can get him to sign mommy which we will be working on next now that I know how to do it.

  41. Tracy

    Great website! Keep up the great work…look forward to trying to learn some signs as my son is only 2 weeks old but will be very useful in the upcoming months to come. Thank you for sharing!

  42. Brett

    Why is mother the first word? it seems highly sexist that you assume that the child is a female and that the mother is the most important thing in a child’s life. What about single male parents, and stay at home fathers? I guess its okay to be called the second most important parent if you are a Male. What a disgrace!

    ADMIN – Hi Brett,

    Fair point. Thanks for the reminder.

  43. Leanne

    This is a perfect website.. just what we have been looking for.

    Thanks so so much :)

  44. Krystal

    This site is great…i tough my oldest son sign language with my own knowlege. I forgot a lot of my ASL…and this site has helped me wonders. I will be teaching my youngest signs soon…he is only 7 weeks right now! Thanks for all the great signs! :)

  45. Mey Lau

    Is never too early but in general you won’t see results until she is about 6 months old

  46. Desiree

    My daughter is 3 months old is it to soon to start teaching her the signs?

  47. Shannon

    I have been signing with my 6 month old daughter for a few months now but the only signs i knew where: more, milk, eat, drink, i love you, thank you and the sign for poop. I stumbled apon this website and OMG what a helpful website. i agree with a previous commenter. this is a great clean website. the videos of the woman actually doing the signs is wonderful! and she is so sweet and happy. This website is going to help me SO very much! thanks for a great website…
    keep up the great work!

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