June 27, 2016

Parent & Child Interactive: Baby Sign Language

Baby Sign Language is a popular way for families to encourage language at an early age. As mentioned in our speech milestone article, babies usually do not say their first word until 12 months old. A full year is a long time to guess what your child wants and/or needs. This article will focus on the use of baby sign language with typical hearing children. Next week we will discuss sign language for children with hearing loss.

Benefits of Baby Sign Language

Less Tantrums

  • Imagine a day without any type of communication. No texting, emailing, calling, talking, or gesturing.  Only one word could describe that day: frustrating. That is exactly how babies feel when their cries or moans are not translating into the needs or wants that they have. Understandably, children resort to kicking and screaming because they are unable to communicate what hurts or that they are hungry. Baby sign language allows for a child to communicate with their caregivers before they are capable of using verbal language.

Increase Bonding

  • Baby sign language is very similar to using gestures with your child during songs, nursery rhymes, and/or everyday phrases (such as bye-bye, hi-five, up, etc). During those little interactions, parents feel a connection to their child. It is difficult to have a relationship with a person if the communication is one sided. By having a language that both the caregiver and the baby can use, a healthy bond can be established early on in a child’s life

More confidence

  • Baby sign language can increase a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Children feel better about themselves if they are able to effectively communicate to the people around them.
  • They will have less moments  distress if they can easily interact with their caregivers. Parents also feel more confident if their child uses “baby signing”. Parents feel more adequate at their role as a parent if they are able to meet their child’s wants and needs.

Increase vocabulary

  • Just like crawling before walking, baby sign language helps bridge the gap between birth and talking. Baby sign language helps children develop some of the mental processes used while speaking. Studies have also shown that signing can lead to a greater vocabulary. In the 2003 Murkoff Study, it was discovered that 2 year olds who signed as babies performed with a greater vocabulary than babies who did not sign.

Implementation of Baby Sign Language

Teaching your child any new skill may seem overwhelming at first. Start with a few basic signs that your child will use everyday such as eat, drink, more, and all done. Once your child is consistently using these signs for the appropriate item/word, start to add more signs to their vocabulary. The next signs may include milk, mom, dad, dog or outside. Be sure to verbalize the word every time your child signs. For example, if you child signs for milk, hold up the milk and say ‘milk’. Therefore, your child will be reassured they asked for the correct object, as well as helping your child learn expressive language.

If you are interested in teaching your child baby sign language join Lumiere Children’s Therapy Mommy and Me Baby Sign Class. It is a 5 week course from July 12- August 15, every Tuesday from 11:30-12:15. Sign up here!


Haskin, Doug. “Advantages of Signing with Babies.” American Sign Language (ASL). American Sign Language, 10 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 May 2016.

Murkhoff, H., Eisenberg, A.  and Hathaway, S. (2003). What To Expect The First Year New York, NY: Workman Publishing.

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