How to: Baby Sign Language

Today I wanted to go over something that I use to get on Pipers level. (and Addie’s when she was this age) Piper is just nine and a half months old now, and this can be a difficult time when it comes to understanding what it is that she wants. Her cries are different, and you can tell when she is clearly frustrated or angry as opposed to tired and hungry, but I believe babies are capable of more than just a few basic emotions, they just cant convey them in a way we understand. Just as they can learn to read the tone of your voice, facial expression and even copy your movements, they can learn to sign. (I will put a link with each sign so that you can see it done for reference!)

I started teaching Addie basic signs when she was about 9 months old. She was mobile, more vocal and she was asserting her independence. So naturally, with all these fun new things they do, comes an opportunity for you and your child to be on the same page more of the time. This comes in handy not only when they want something, but also as a way to get your point across to them in a simple and understandable way.

For instance, when Piper is going for a cord or some other thing she shouldn’t be near, I get down on her level and say “No, Piper.” in a stern voice. She usually goes for it a second and third time, and I repeat the same thing, all while showing her the sign for no. If after the third scold she goes back, she gets a bump on the hand or bottom. It will startle her and her attention is on me, so I show her the sign again, and I move her somewhere else. We do this dance about forty times a day, but one day it clicks eventually. Addie was a much easier child in general and Pipers will is much stronger.

Another of the first signs I introduce is “Please“. One way I have been going about this with Piper is that if she has something in her hand, I will ask her for it while holding my hand out and sign (and say aloud) “please, can mommy see your toy?” She usually puts it in my hand. So from there I take her hand, and have her sign please and give her the toy back. It’s kind of a game we play through the day. Addie gets involved too, which Piper loves.

Next is another helpful one, that is easy to learn. “all done or finished” can be used in all different aspects of your day. From meal times to play time. When you are finished with a meal, bottle, or snack show them the sign for “all done”. This works with playtime too. Sometimes we don’t realize a kid is completely over a situation until the meltdown comes. This sign can be helpful in avoiding an overtired, overstimulated catastrophe.

So, these are just a few of the signs I start teaching at a young age. This is what works for our family, and I thought I would share with you!

Do you practice sign language with your kids?


  1. says

    I should have done this with my daughter. She learned a few hand gestures just because we did them a lot, but it was never on purpose. It probably would have made things easier.

  2. says

    I don’t have any kids (yet) but the concept of baby sign language has always intrigued me. It’s definitely something I’ll be looking into when we start having babies! Thanks for sharing your experience – it’s always better to hear stories from real people than just reading something in a book :)

  3. says

    Baby sign language is so cool. My brother and sister in law didn’t use it with my niece and it was always so frustrating to figure out what she wanted. But my cousin’s kids use it and it’s so cool to see them communicate.

  4. says

    I LOVED using sign language for both of my boys when they were babies. My favorite thing was that even once they were very verbal, they continued to use signs for a long time and it was just the cutest thing!

  5. says

    There are some hand gestures in our language that my little learned early on, and that was pretty helpful, but now he’s speaking and still using the gestures! :) It’s very cute and helpful – great post! <3

  6. says

    I’ve seen baby’s in the past do sign language and I love it. I think it’s brilliant. I don’t have kids yet but I know it’ll be something I’d like to implement for them to communicate to us.

    This is kinda weird, and sorta off topic, but my dog knows sign language, and it’s super helpful. Especially if/when he goes deaf as he ages.

  7. says

    I know a bunch of people who have used sign language with their babies, and when i have kids, i hope to teach them some signs! i really think it can help remove frustration on the child’s part…teaching them a way to communicate thats nonverbal can be an awesome tool!

  8. says

    I think teaching your baby sign language is such a great idea. I’ve taught my daughter ‘I love you’ in sign language. I wish I could teach her more, but that’s all I know.

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