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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81 Responses to “Top Ten Starter Signs”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.


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