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Baby Sign Language: 21 Words and Signs to Know

by Lauren Passell and Samantha McIntyre


Baby Sign Language: 21 Words and Signs to Know
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Open up the lines of communication with your infant with basic signs for baby to communicate “more,” “done,” “eat, “change,” and other signs for everyday items. In addition to the sign language examples illustrated below, check out our roundup of the best books and teaching tools to help you and your little one learn to sign.

 

Sign: More

According to Nancy Cadjan, President of signbabies.com, a line of books, seminars, DVDs, games and flash cards that advocate baby sign language, babies are developmentally ready for their parents to start signing to them after 4 months old, but won’t be able to sign back until 7-9 months, when they have better coordination.

 

What to help give your little one a head start? Download these free baby sign language flash cards.

 

 

 

Sign: Done

 

This sign will help babies transition from one activity to the next. It also helps Mommy explain that something is all gone.

 

Sign: Sleep

 

Signing to baby that it’s time to sleep is a good way to start the bedtime routine. Even better: when she lets you know she’s tired by using the sign.

 

 

 

Sign: Medicine

 

This sign comes into handy when babies are teething and want to tell you they want medicine to ease their pain.

 

 

 

Sign: Eat

 

Stay consistent with your signs. Use them frequently—every time you engage in the activity or say the word. When you’re eating, use the “eat” sign and say, “We’re going to EAT. Do you want to EAT? Let’s EAT another bite of cereal.”

 

Sign: Milk

 

When signing, remember that context is important. Sign “milk” while feeding your baby a bottle or while nursing—not when you’re doing other things.

 

 

Sign: Change

 

“Change” is an important sign because it gives your baby a heads up that you’re transitioning from play to diapering—something he probably won’t want to do. Signing “change” will help them understand the toy break is temporary. When you’re done, sign “done” and say, “We are DONE,” so that your baby knows changing time is over. According to Cadjan, many parents report that when they use the “change” and “done” signs, the struggle of diaper time goes away.

 

 

 

Sign: Help

 

Should you step in to help, or let baby figure things out on his own? This will let him communicate when he needs your aid—or that he wants to help you.

 

 

 

Sign: Bath

 

Teach your baby words he’ll be able to practice often, like “bath,” since you do it every day.

 

 

 

Sign: Play

 

Don’t worry about teaching all the signs at once; just choose a few to start. When you think your baby is getting the hang of it and signing back, you can slowly add more signs to his repertoire.

 

 

 

Sign: Banana

 

Teaching your baby signs for foods can help you get an idea of his favorites. “Banana,” a common first food, is a good one to try.

 

 

Sign: Water

 

Don’t expect the signs to look perfect. Babies might do the signs a bit differently, since their fine motor skills are not as advanced as yours are. If you think your baby is trying to sign something, help her out. Say, “Oh! Are you signing WATER? Do you want some WATER?” and continue to make the sign correctly.

 

 

Sign: Book

 

Foster an early love of reading with the simple sign for “book.”

 

 

Sign: Dog

 

Many signs are easy to remember since they mimic a motion you might already be using. Patting your leg to call a dog is instinctive, making this sign feel very natural.

 

Sign: Cat

 

Maintain eye contact whenever you sign to make sure your baby sees your hands clearly. This is key to helping her make the connection between the sign and the word.

 

 

Sign: Share

 

Be patient—and don’t pay compare your baby to the champion signer at music class. It takes some babies longer than others to have the dexterity to sign, but keep at it.

 

 

 

Sign: Bread

 

Some babies will grunt or pant when their parents sign, others will laugh or smile—all are indications that your baby is receptive to your communication.

 

 

 

 

Sign: Ball

 

Don’t set aside time to sign, just incorporate it into your day, keeping it simple and fun.

 

 

Sign: Please

 

Here’s a sign that teaches communication skills and manners. You’re welcome!

 

 

Sign: Thank You

 

Baby sign language proponents say that signs not only help your child communicate with your earlier and more easily, it also helps them speak sooner too.

 

 

 

Sign: Apple

 

Your signing vocabulary can grow with your baby’s interests, so that she’ll more easily (and gladly) make the connection. For example, if you notice she likes books with animals, teach her words like “dog” and “bird.” If she likes apples, teach her this sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents can also visit signbabies.com for more information on baby sign language.

 

 

1 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

My First Baby Signs Hardcover by Phil Conigliaro

Price:$11.00See Reviews

This beginner tab picture book is perfect for helping parents teach basic signing skills to baby with eight essential signs including: eat, more, all done, milk, thank you, bed, bath and help. The perfect start to help your little one learn to sign.

2 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

Baby Sign Language Made Easy: 101 Signs to Start Communicating with Your Child Now by Lane Rebelo

Price:$14.00See Reviews

Your little one has a lot to say, and Baby Sign Language Made Easy: 101 Signs to Start Communicating with Your Child Now by Lane Rebelo is a fantastic guide for parents to commit to learning and teaching sign language to their child. This book breaks down sign language steps beginning with the basics and moving on to mealtime and manners, everyday routines, and rounding up with family signs and feelings. Help avoid the struggle and frustration for you and your baby to communicate with these practical tools.

3 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

Baby Signs: A Baby-Sized Introduction to Speaking with Sign Language Board Book by Joy Allen

Price:$6.00See Reviews

This colorful board book makes signing fun with adorable illustrations to teach basic signs for baby to ask for help. Baby Signs: A Baby-Sized Introduction to Speaking with Sign Language Board Book by Joy Allen features 13 essential signs to help mom and dad best understand their baby's needs.

4 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

Signing Smart Diaper Bag Dictionary: First Signs Baby Sign Language Flashcards by Michelle Anthony

Price:$18.00See Reviews

Mom, Dad and baby can learn to sign together with this engaging, educational Signing Smart Diaper Bag Dictionary: First Signs Baby Sign Language Flashcards by Michelle Anthony. The ring-bound cards depict images of little ones signing a word on one side and parents signing the same expression on the other. These flashcards are an excellent learning tool for parents and teachers.

5 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

Uncle Goose American Sign Language Blocks

Price:$45.00See Reviews

Little ones will strengthen their fine motor skills while developing a love of learning to sign the alphabet with these beautifully crafted Uncle Goose American Sign Language Blocks. The high quality, wooden building blocks feature the letters of the alphabet with the corresponding sign to strengthen fingerspelling skills. The blocks are made with sustainable wood with non-toxic inks making them safe for your babe.

6 of 6 Image Credits: Amazon

My First Signs by Annie Kubler

Price:$11.00See Reviews

My First Signs by Annie Kubler is the perfect addition to your sign language learning library. This beautifully illustrated board book features 40 useful vocabulary signs to help your baby communicate. Each page contains a helpful tip to guide your baby to develop their signing skills. This baby book is a tool designed for teaching babies as young as seven months. It's also an excellent start for boosting confidence to help your little one to learn.