Intentional Conversations: Teaching Your Baby Sign Language

Welcome back to another week of Intentional Conversations! Today, I want to talk about how to have intentional conversations with your babies.

I’ve found it surprisingly easy to teach Samuel simple baby sign language in order for him to clearly communicate his needs. I started showing him signs when he was about seven months old. It seemed silly to start so early, but I thought, “Why not?” I’m glad I went for it. I think through continuous repetition, he was able to more quickly begin to communicate with us.

To give you perspective, Samuel first signed “hungry” around 9 months. The next sign he learned was “all done,” which he began doing around 10 months. These were the only two signs he would do for a while. However, they were his basic needs, and I was thrilled that he could tell me. After his first birthday, he began to sign “please” and “thank you.” In the last week, he’s picked up “more” and “eat.” I think these were entirely instinctive for him, as I had not shown them to him since he was about 9 months. We are currently working on thirsty/drink. This one has been tricky for him, and I’m trying to modify it to make it easier.

My focus is not on perfection, or even correct signs for that matter. My focus has been on showing him a way to communicate with me, as well as a way to teach him a few polite manners. Through careful observation of my toddler, I’ve learned that toddlers know and understand far more than we give them credit for regardless of their verbal skills.

In the following video, I run Samuel through a string of baby signs that has mastered – eat, more ,all done, please, thank you, and hungry. Again, they may not be 100% correct, but we are able to communicate basic needs, and we’re continuing to teach him new signs along the way.

(If you’re having trouble viewing the video, then click here – Teaching Your Baby Sign Language.)

Do you use baby sign language?

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  1. How Cool! I’ve been interested in trying this with my little one. He’s just turned a year old. Thanks for the reminder. πŸ™‚

    1. You’ll have to let me know how it goes! We love using sign language. Some people have asked us if we’re concerned that it would delay speech, but we’re not. He tries to say the words with the signs most of the time. It’s adorable!

  2. πŸ™‚ I loved doing baby sign language with Annie! When I posted about it, she was still learning it…and now at 2.5, she will still do them occasionally if I ask her. Can’t wait to do them next time too! They are SO helpful!
    Her first sign was “more.” And in real life, that was also her first word. She wanted a…………rice krispie treat. LOL

    1. That is too funny, Stacy! Samuel just learned “more” and boy does he use it for everything. More food. More play. More rocks. More Daddy. haha! It really is cute, and helpful. Two very important things. πŸ™‚

  3. I think this is great! My sister taught her kids some basic signs and it was so great that they were able to communicate a little better- plus it’s just too cute! The kids are 2 and 4 now and they still do the sign for “more” whenever they say “please.” πŸ™‚

  4. So cute! My baby’s learned more, please, and all done, and we’ve been working on some others for a little while. He prefers to flap his hands and say, “unh!” whenever he wants to say something, lol.

    1. I love the flapping arms sign. πŸ™‚ It’s probably my favorite. I love trying to decipher his little babbles. He’s truly trying to communicate! It’s so fun!

  5. We did those simple first words with Charlie (our oldest). I loved it. They were so helpful…and cute! It’s funny because even now (he’ll be 5 next month) without even thinking about it, he’ll still sign please sometimes when he’s asking for something!

  6. Sad to admit, I am actually the interpreter for our church but I’ve not done too well teaching sign to my second little guy. He just doesn’t have much interest. He’s 13 months and says all done but that’s it. my oldest picked it up wonderfully and still uses it sometimes. It is a great tool to use, I unfortunately, just forget to do it. It’s great that so many people are starting to learn.

    1. I didn’t think Samuel was too interested either until he just all of a sudden started signing everything! Some days he has nothing to do with it, and others he’s all about it. Each kid is different. It’s amazing, really!

      1. Very true. One neat thing, right after our second boy was born, Josiah who was about 19 months at the time, would take Aden’s hands and teach him to say mama or dada. Such a sweet sight!

  7. I used this with my youngest 5 – it didn’t exist when my oldest was little, even though she is the one who took ASL in college. We found that all of them talked earlier overall. Possibly because they were less frustrated about communicating.

    1. I like your theory about your children talking earlier overall. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for babies. It’s amazing to see Sam develop. Just today, he was stringing signs together so quickly, I wasn’t sure what he wanted. Then, I realized, he wanted food, water, and more of both. haha! Oh, and please and thank you. πŸ™‚

  8. I <3 sign language. Spent my high school years with Deaf friends at a Deaf church… then majored in interpreting in college. My little guy was born 16 days after I graduated… so of course I was going to sign with him!

    I did it off and on until he was 11 months and started signing back. Now (17 months) the majority of his vocabulary is sign. Chair, window, boat, helicopter (a favorite), airplane (because Daddy flies them), apple, more, please, cracker, star, and my favorite to see him sign: Jesus!!

    We're gearing up to start teaching him memory verses with sign. We've spoken 6 verses over him daily since he was born, but reciting them is a bit farther down the road. I think signing would increase retention as well.