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Are you still not convinced about the benefits of teaching your baby sign language? If you don’t do anything else, here is a list of 10 baby signs you should try before deciding against using sign language with your baby. If you teach your baby the first sign on this list, I promise you will be back for more. The rewards of having a baby that can communicate their needs can’t be matched by anything else.
Baby sign: Milk
Instruction: Open and close your fist as if you are milking a cow.
This was the first sign I taught my son Logan. From 9 months old, every time I nursed him or fed him a bottle, I would sign “milk” before feeding him and at 10 months he signed “milk” back to me! It was a very exciting moment. You may think that at this early age, they wouldn’t have the mobility to sign back but with my second son Lucian, I started teaching him the sign from the first time I nursed him at the hospital and he signed back to me at 6 months. The key is consistency.
Baby sign: Eat/food
Instruction: Tap your mouth with your fingertips and thumb. Your thumb should be touching your fingertips to form an “o” shape.
This sign is a favorite for babies as they are experiencing real food for the first time and are highly motivated to sign “eat/food”. Make the sign every time you feed them or when you are showing them food items. Try using the sign as well when you are asking them if they want food or to eat. Don’t forget to say the word as well as this will help them to develop their verbal communication at the same time.
Baby sign: More
Instruction: With both hands, tap your closed fingertips together. Your thumb should be touching your fingertips to form an “o” shape, then move your hands together to tap the fingertips.
When my children were toddlers, this was one of their favorite signs. They always wanted more of everything! Try giving your baby something they really like – just enough that they will want more of it. My boys loved cheerios so I would give them one or two pieces, and then inquire, “Do you want more?”. Be sure to sign “more” when saying the word. They often would use this sign for “again” too – which in ASL has a different sign but at such a young age I never bothered to correct them.
Here is a really cute video of my youngest son Lucian signing and trying to say “more” (he is using it in the context of “again” but signs both “more” and “again”) to his older brother Logan. You can see how enthusiastic he is about the sign!
>> 18 month old baby Signs ‘More and Again’
Baby sign: All done/Finished
Instruction: With your hands open and facing you, quickly flip them so that your palm is facing away from you. Your fingers should be facing up.
This sign comes in handy for the little ones when they want to tell us that they are done or finished with their food or bottle. If they want more, this would be a good time to practice the “more” sign as well. My boys could express to us that they didn’t want anymore or that they were ready to do something different. It definitely reduced their frustration. We knew when they were done and did not persist in trying to get them to finish their food. We knew when they were potty training and were done on the toilet!
Baby sign: Hurt
Instruction: With both hands in a fist, point your index fingers and twist them towards each other near the area that is hurt.
As much as we don’t like to see our little ones get hurt, it is unavoidable. Sometimes there are not visible signs. This baby sign for “hurt” lets us know right away when they have a boo boo or when they’re not feeling well. Sometimes they don’t even know why they don’t feel well but giving them a way to express this to us, can allow us as parents, help them to figure out what is wrong.
Baby sign: Bed/Sleep
Instruction: Put your palms together and rest the side of your head on them like you are lying on a pillow.
Babies get tired quickly and need to sleep a lot! Letting them know that it is time for bed or allowing them to show us that they are ready for bed helps us to avoid having an overly tired, cranky baby on our hands. When starting, your baby may begin signing this with one hand on their cheek and tilting their head to the side. When it comes to baby sign language it’s not about accuracy but about expression. If you can understand what your baby is telling you that is all that matters!
Baby sign: Thank You
Instruction: With your flat palm on your chin, bring it forward like you are blowing a kiss to someone.
Teaching your baby to grow up to be a grateful, compassionate and thankful person starts now! Even little babies can show their appreciation for all that we do for them. You would be amazed at how often you will see your child make this sign – it will start to become an automatic response to having people help them and/or when people give them things. You can make this sign fun for your child by blowing them kisses and thanking them whenever they help you, when they’re being cooperative or when they’re showing you kindness . You’ll see that they will start to imitate you and before you know it they will be signing ‘thank you’.
Baby sign: Please
Instruction: Rub your chest with your flat palm in a clockwise motion.
‘Please’ is another sign that helps to promote good manners with your baby. It is never too early for this! In the beginning try to quickly fulfill any of their requests when they make the “please” sign. This will help them to recognize that good manners will be rewarded. Once you know that they can physically make the sign and connect it with the word ‘please’ – you can be more subjective to which requests you will grant. Believe me, they will start begging you for everything! “More” “please!” will be a common combination of signs your baby will start making – a true testament to the connection between baby sign language and early language skills – demonstrating that you’re baby is capable of forming short sentences!
Baby sign: Mom/Dad
Instruction: With your palm open, bring your thumb to your chin (for mom) and to your forehead (for dad) and tap twice.
I’ve added the ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ sign closer to the bottom of the list because most likely your baby will already have mastered how to get mom and dad’s attention either by making ‘ma ma’ and ‘da da’ sounds or just pointing at the person they want. Nonetheless, it is a fun sign to show your child so that they can clearly let you know which parent they want. This comes in handy at night when they wake up crying and dad goes running to help but they really just want mommy to cuddle them back to sleep. You will easily avoid a 15 minute crying and fussing session with your baby, trying to guess what is wrong, when they just sign ‘mommy’ to you when you come into the room.
Baby sign: I love you
Instruction: With your thumb, pointer and pinky fingers pointing up and the middle and ring fingers held down, twist your hand back and forth.
This is a purely selfish sign! Does your baby really need to know how to sign it? Not really, but it sure does help make being a tired, over exhausted, over worked, under appreciated parent all worthwhile! When that not-so-sweet, fussy baby decides to switch the gears to be the sweetest little angel and sign ‘I Love You’ to you – they’ll have you back in the palm of their hands again! In the beginning they may not be able to fully recreate the sign with their fingers, but they will attempt to sign it by either twisting their fist or twisting their wrists with one or more fingers pointing up – either way you will know what they are trying to tell you!
That’s it! So please go and get started with the first sign. I know if you make it to the end of this list, you will be coming back to find out what else your smart little baby can learn. When you’re ready for more come back and check out some of our other resources to help build your child’s early communication skills!
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