Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baby Signing

     Way back before I decided that I wanted to be a nurse, I seriously considered a career in sign language interpreting. My first experience with American Sign Language (ASL) goes way back to junior high, when a teacher at my school started a lunch hour ASL club, where she taught us basic sign language. I was hooked right away. I bought myself an ASL dictionary and taught myself more signs, but never really got to use them since I didn't know any Deaf people.

     Fast forward several years - I was out of high school, taking a year off to work and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was still interested in possibly pursuing a career in interpreting, so I found an evening ASL class and joined. This was a much more serious class and was my first time being "immersed" in ASL - the teachers were all Deaf - ASL or writing on the board was their only way to communicate. I learned quickly and my love for the language grew. I took ASL classes for 2 years and got to know several members of the Deaf community outside of class, so had plenty of opportunity to practice. Unfortunately, life circumstances changed and I could no longer continue those classes. Sadly, my connections to the Deaf community also ended when I moved to a new city and it's now been a few years since I've had any real practice.

     However, having a baby has renewed my interest and passion for ASL. This time, I'm the teacher! I know a lot of parents use ASL or some form of signing with their babies, and find it to be a very effective method of communicating with their little ones before they're capable of speech. It was a no-brainer for me to hop on board the baby signing bandwagon. I already knew all the signs I would need to teach Tessa early on and still have my books handy for when she gets a little more advanced. I can't wait until her little hands start talking!!

If you're interested in teaching your baby some basic signs, I recommend the following resources to get you started:

A few tips:

  • Start anytime - I started signing with Tessa almost right away, but a lot of people wait until around 4-6 months to start
  • Don't get discouraged if baby isn't signing back - babies need lots of repetition to learn, and most babies won't start signing back until 9-12 months, although some start earlier.
  • Be consistent - use the signs over and over, and say the word as you sign it.
  • Signing does NOT delay speech - in fact, some research shows the opposite (see here)

Basic signs to start with:

  • Eat
  • Milk
  • Sleep
  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Finished/All done
  • Anything else that will be helpful to you and your baby
     Have you taught your baby sign language? What was your experience like? Any other tips or tricks? Please share in the comments below and happy signing!


  1. I didn't know you knew signing. That is so cool. I didn't know any official signs, but I did make some up and they were great for decreasing the frustration that builds when your baby can't communicate with you. I made up signs for "more" and "all done" and "drink" and "hungry" and maybe a couple more, but I can't remember them. They were very effective.

    1. My signing is probably VERY's been a few years since I've actually used it!
      Thanks for your comment - I forgot to mention in my post that you don't actually have to use ASL or "official" signs. Lots of parents make up their own signs or let baby lead and make up the signs and it works great. What matters is that you communicate in whatever way works for your family. Thanks for reminding me! :)

  2. I wanted to teach Mya signing, but for some reason, I never went through with it. I think it's a great idea though!

    1. Maybe with the next one?? :)
      I've heard nothing but good things from parents who have taught their babies sign. I can't wait until Tessa starts signing back - it's so amazing that babies are able to communicate that way before speaking.

  3. We have gone to a baby signing class, but it goes so fast that I haven't really learned the signs myself. It's mostly just for fun! Baby signing is one of the things I always wanted to do when I had a baby. Then I had two at the same time and was too overwhelmed to do many of the things I had dreamed of! I still love the idea of it, though, especially since we are a bilingual family.

    Thanks for stopping by Project Procrastinot!

  4. I've been terrible at being consistent in teaching my little boys some simple signs, but I really want to! It would make life so much easier. Thanks for some great tips.

  5. I haven't taught him any, but he has come up with his own! We taught him to put his hands up like "touchdown" when he is done eating, which he does at every meal when he is done. He made up his own sign for more and up! And when we say it's time for bed he will blow kisses if someone else is in the room! lol Thats not signing I guess but it's cute!


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