Sign Language for Babies
Berkeley Parents Network >
Classes & Lessons >
Sign Language for Babies
I have heard so many good things about teaching your baby sign language
and am wondering if anyone could suggest a good book to start out with.
Also, wondering about other peoples experiences with baby sign language.
We thought teaching our baby sign language worked out
wonderfully. She could tell us what she needed before she
could vocalize, which cut down on frustration and fussiness.
And it was also just really cool to know what she was
thinking. But, you really don't need a book. I can summarize
it in 4 sentences. When your child is about 12 months old,
pick a few signs that you think would be most useful. Every
time you say the word, make the sign. Wait for your child to
imitate you. Add more signs to the vocabulary.
Don't give up if your child isn't imitating you right away.
It took our daughter a while to catch on.
This website has a great dictionary with little videos of a
woman doing the signs.
Try ''Signing with your baby'' by Dr. Joseph Garcia - DVD and
Happy Mom of Baby Signer
I used to be really involved with the field of professional
services and deaf education and I knew sign language. After
being a mother myself, I can tell you I have found the BEST
person for this, due to her joy in signing, her joy in
motherhood, and her overall excellent professional approach.
You can learn more about signing with your baby by contacting
Mary Grace Basco. Mary Grace has a degree in deaf education
and is a certified sign language interpreter. She offers
parent workshops and a series of signing play groups to get
you and your baby started. You can learn more about her
program at www.TeachMeBabySigns.com.
any baby signs book will do (google or check the library).
this website demonstrates signs and gives information:
Basically, start signing to your child when they have object
permanence (when they 'remember' and look for an object that
has been moved out of sight). We started signing with my son
when he was seven months old, and he started signing back at
11 months (so great!). The first signs were all objects or
animals (ceiling fan, bus, truck: we made up signs for
these). He didn't sign for a specific food until 16 months
(banana!). Sometime in between, he picked up 'more' (very
useful) and drink.
I can't recommend signing with your baby highly enough! We
began signing when our son was about 5 months old. By the time he
was 18 months, he knew over 120 signs. Being a nanny of other
pre-verbal children, I was immediately aware what a huge
difference it made -- actually KNOWING what he wanted! Not only
was our son able to communicate his needs and wants to us in
detail from an early age, but he understood that it was POSSIBLE
to communicate. So if occasionally we can't make out what he's
saying or misunderstand, he is patient and persistent -- a skill
that I don't think that would have come so easily to him if it
weren't for signing.
But, I think the most amazing thing was that he could tell me just
how much of the world around him he was taking in. He could tell
me that he heard dogs in the distance, could see the moon in the
sky, and feel the wind blowing. He could tell me that my eyes
looked like blueberries and that the sink sounded like a lion when
it drained. Little did I know: he was a poet!
I know you asked for a book recommendation, but personally, I
found it really difficult to interpret and translate the static
images that books are limited to. It was like trying to learn a
spoken language from a book. I'd have to say that ''Signing
Time'' dvds (in particular the ''Baby Signing Time'' series) were
great. They are usually available at the public library as well as
online. And the ASL
Browser has videos and is really useful when looking up
individual signs that are relevant to your child's world.
Also, It's my option that you should use as many signs as you
can remember with your child, instead of sticking to 2 or 3, as I
hear people often recommending. I mean: you wouldn't limit your
spoken words to your child to 2 or 3 until they learned them,
Wishing you signing success
I would like to enroll my 4 month old in a baby sign language class-any
recommendations would be great. Also, any input on how old she needs to
be to start the class.
We loved the Signing Smart class with Yael in Berkeley, which we started with our daughter
when she was 6 months. She was signing within a couple of months and eventually could sign
several dozen signs. The class & being able to communicate so easily with our pre-verbal
daughter were great!
For more information or to register for classes, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call
Where: Congregation Netivot Shalom – Preschool classroom
1316 University Avenue, 2 blocks west of Sacramento
When: Wednesdays for 8 weeks June 6th – August 1st(no
class on July 4th)
10:15 – 11:00 Intermediate Play Class*
11:15 – 12:00noon Beginner Play Class
Who: Caregivers and children ages 6 months – 3 years
Cost: $150 which includes The Beginner Handbook, The
Treasure Chest children’s video, and an ASL Video Glossary DVD for the Beginner Class and
Intermediate Handbook, a Flashcard Set, and The Treasure Chest 2 children’s video for the
*The Signing Smart Intermediate Play Class Series is for families who have completed at
one session of the Beginner Series and are looking to expand and extend the benefits of
I recommend against a baby class. Your most teachable moments are at feeding time, diaper
time, or when something interesting comes up during a walk (um stroller ride). Start with
signs at maybe
6-7 months, and don't expect instant results.
Consider instead taking an introduction to ASL class for yourself, starting now. Then
supplement the class with some infant vocabulary (e.g. milk, carrot, bread, toilet, hungry,
hurt, 'more', and the universally recognized sign for o-shaped cereal). Only a very few ASL
signs need adjustment for babies (''rice'' and ''bus'' come to mind).
Baby Sign is totally worth it... this from a parent who used it.
I teach baby sign language classes in Albany, El Cerrito, Berkeley, and Oakland so there are
many classes to choose from. See www.babyareababysigns.com for a detailed schedule. For your
four-month old, I recommend attending a Parent Workshop to get started signing (it's just an
hour and will give you a good introduction). We have play groups for slightly older babies
(8-18 months). The current class is at Tumble & Tea Cafe in Oakland. These are offered
regularly so there will be a group near you when you are ready! Please email me with any
questions you have about signing with your baby. It is such a wonderful way to communicate
with your child....Thanks for your interest!
If you don't wish to spend money on a class, you can make up your own signs at home. As
long as you and
your partner (if you have one) are consistent, and you let any other care giver know what
you are using with your wee one, then you are fine. Using ASL is certainly not neccesary,
as you and
your child will likely not use the sings after they become very verbal. We really liked
having a sing
for ''more'' as that reduced the arm-reaching whiiiiiine. We also made up or used known
favoirte foods like cheerios, cheese (think what sign Wallace used) and milk. We used signs
that caugt her attention and she wanted to tell me about (bird, butterfly, flower, sun,
moon, cat). We
also used a few emotion signs (happy, sad, cry) I did get a baby sign language book out of
but only adopted some of the signs. Have fun!
Does anyone have any experience using baby sign language? I have
a 10 month old and would like to begin signing with her. Are
there classes for this, or a good resource book someone can
We have had great success with the ''Baby Signing Times'' DVD set (www.signingtime.com), created by the hearing mother of a deaf child. Don't confuse it with the regular Signing Times DVDs, which are also great but are designed for older kids. The ''Baby'' Signing Times version only came out a few months ago and is specially designed for children under the age of 2 - lots of catchy songs and footage of children under the age of 2 demonstrating the signs. I found the songs kind of annoying at first, but our daughter absolutely LOVES it which is why it is such a great learning tool. We had been showing her one of the other Signing Times DVDs (the older kids version) for several months and she wasn't picking up many of the signs. Within a few weeks of showing her the Baby Signing Times version, she was using signs to ask me to put the DVD on again (using the signs for ''baby'' and ''more''). Now, three months later, she is 16 months old and has a signing vocab of over 20 si!
gns, plus a few that she made up herself.
I recommend the book Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo PhD and Susan Goodwyn PhD. You can really only introduce a few signs at a time and I never would have remembered everything from a few classes. The picture dictonary is great to refer to when you're ready to pick new signs to add.
We tried Joseph Garcia's _Sign with Your Baby_ book and DVD when
our son was about 10 mo. Garcia says it takes persistance and
some time before the baby signs back, and we didn't have the
drive to keep signing all the time so gave up.
But around 13 months we tried again, using Garcia's signs, and
our son picked a handful up within days.
Now, at 15 mo., we all use them often and they're a wonderful
help. Our son has started to talk but if we don't understand what
he's saying, he'll sign.
The DVD is essential if you have no experience with signs.
Garcia uses standard ASL signs, I believe, while other books use
their own versions. Don't think this matters much, though. At
first I was hung up on using these ''proper'' signs but as it turns
out, our son adjusted some of them anyway.
PRAM in Pt. Richmond will be offering Signing Smart baby sign language classes starting up the first or second week in January. Your baby is the perfect age to start! Classes run for 8 weeks and run about $10/class plus a materials fee for the workbook and video. You can get some information online at www.pram.net for more information. Best, Diane
Baby Sign Language classes are offered at my studio in two ways:
1) to interested Mom's groups who want an introductory class or
2) in the Sign & Sing with Baby classes offered on Tuesdays at 10
a.m. and Noon and Thursdays at Noon. I am an interpreter for the
Deaf as well as a teacher of American Sign Language & a parent
who successfully used sign language with my own baby (he is now 6
years old). If you do not want to take a class then check out: ''Sign with your Baby'' by Joseph Garcia on amazon.com - you can
get the book for $5 or the book & DVD for $30. However, if you
are like me, I needed a teacher to show me how to do all the
signs and how to proceed. I'll be happy to be your teacher. Check out my website at www.jinglejamboree.com
We got two DVD's from www.babyseensign.com. They were fine. Together the DVD's contain something like 160 signs or so. You won't end up teaching your child all 160 since it takes a while to learn each one, and not all the signs are particulary relevant or useful.
Our daughter was able to learn a few key signs. A lot of it depends on how much you repeat the sign to them, and we weren't that diligent. The daughter of some friends knew a dozen or so signs fairly early. Also, I've seen classes, books and DVDs from other souces, too, so this isn't your only resource.
I highly recommend learning a few signs (like ''more''). Our daughter started using the ''more'' sign around 11 months when she was hungry, which really helped. It allows your child to communicate without resorting to crying or frustration for both of you.
Using Sign Language with your baby is a really wonderful thing to do. There are a few classes in baby signing, but they can be hard to find. I am a certified instructor with the Baby Signs Program and teach introductory Parent Workshops through the Albany Community Center.
I would be glad to answer any questions you have.
Email me for more information: suzanne AT bayareababysigns.com. Or see our website: www.bayareababysigns.com
I'm looking for a baby signing class or teacher. Any
I went to a great baby Signs class and both my husband and I
really enjoyed it. The baby likes to watch his Baby Signs
videos and it's helpful for us to see how the signs are done.
I contacted Suzanne Harkless for her class information. She's
local and very informative.
her email is Suzanne123 AT sbcglobal.net
Hi! I've taught baby signing classes through PRAM
(www.PRAM.net) for many years and will likely teach again in
the Fall. One of my students is doing a class this summer.
Here is some info:
The following is my info for my Signing Smart classes
Beginner Sign Classes
Fridays June 24th- Aug 26th
Trinity Lutheran Church- Fellowship Hall
333 Woodland Ave, San Rafael
Cost: $140 (Materials cost: $30 to be purchased on site)
Questions: 314-1363 (tiffany Smith)
I'm also hosting an Open House at the location this Friday from
10-11:30- to see the materials,
ask questions, etc.
Good luck! diane
I teach Baby Signs workshops through the Albany Community Center
and Waddle & Swaddle in Berkeley (and also at Habitot this
Fall). There are two classes: an introductory Parent Workshop
and a six-week playgroup for babies, called ''Sign, Say and
Play''. The signs are based on ASL and are very easy for both you
and your child to use. Plus there are so many great reasons to
begin signing with your baby!
Please write for a current schedule or with any questions, and
include your address if you would like a brochure.
Can anyone recommend a sign language instructor that they've
used so that we can learn to communicate better with our 14
month old son? We've purchased some videos but find that much
of what we want to say in sign language is not included in the
videos. Saw two names mentioned in the archives but they seemed
to be a little out of date. Looking for someone in the Albany
Is your child deaf? I ask because we have three small
children, all of whom we taught ''baby signing''. If the point is
to have better communication with your child (which it
sounds like it as), then why don't you offer some signs for
familiar objects -- these don't need to be baby signs per se,
but signs that you assign and the baby learns or
approximates. We would make up a sign for our child, then
watch to see how they approximated the sign and use that
consistently for the object from that point on. It worked
beautifully! Our oldest daughter at one point had about 50
different signs and it cut down on SO much frustration on
everybody's part! The other two learned many signs, but
also became verbal at an earlier age, which always helps.
People used to see them sign for things and when we
repeated the word for the sign , ''Oh, you see a cow?
Where?'' were amazed. It was such a rewarding experience!
Unless you want to teach them TRUE ASL, why not use your
own signs -- it is easier for the baby as they have input into
the sign you are using and therefore the dexterity to
reproduce the sign. There is a book out called ''Baby Signs''
I believe, written by a professor I had at UC Davis years ago.
Her name is Linda Acredolo, and she advocates using
signs that you and your baby come up with; she did her
doctorate study on the subject and taught a fascinating
class containing this subject years ago. Good luck and have
I am a recently-certified Baby Signs Instructor in the East Bay.
The Baby Signs Program is based on the original research of Drs.
Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn in Davis, California, which
documents the positive effects of teaching infants to
communicate with signs before they can talk. I offer a one-hour
workshop to get parents started with Baby Signs. I will have a
schedule of local Parent Workshops soon. Please email if you
would like more information or if you are interested in having a
workshop for your moms group.
Try Jennifer Fleming Watt at email@example.com; phone-
-510-814-0231. I took a signing class from her at Waddle and
Swaddle in Mar/Apr '04. I heard through the grapevine that she
is no longer offering classes there, but is looking for new
venue. Give her a buzz or email to find out where she is
teaching. She was fabulous (she teaches at a deaf school and
teaches parents of hearing children on the side); she also has
a 2 or 3 year old [hearing] daughter, to whom she signs, of
course, so she has practical experience. Highly recommend
her. BTW, the signing with my 16-mo. old is going wonderfully.
I'm surprised no one recommended Signing Times
(www.signingtime.com). These are wonderful DVDs that teach ASL.
Our daughter learned from these and so did we.
I have to make the argument for ASL over ''baby signs'': If you're
going to invest time and money (books, dvds, instructors,
whatever), then why not invest it in a true second language that
can enable you and your children to communicate with deaf and
other challenged children. (it is common practice to teach
Down's Syndrome children and other disabled children ASL because
it is easier for some to learn than speaking).
As for the argument that ASL signs are too ''hard'' for small
children, well -- that's like saying our adult pronunciation of
words is too hard and we should always speak to our children in
baby talk -- baba instead of bottle and wawa instead of water.
Children do modify, on their own, some of the ASL signs so that
they can do them, the same way children modify spoken words so
that they can speak them. They are still eminently
understandable and as they get older the signing becomes more
AND there are many many signs that babies get right away without
modifying at all, except to the extent that everyone has their
own signing ''voice''
In fact, one of the wonderful things about the signing times
videos is that they show many many children doing the same sign,
so you can see that there is a range of how to do the sign. From
an idiosyncratic baby version, to an enthusiastic version, to a
lazy version, etc. to the ''proper'' version given by the
instructor/moderator of the video.
anyway, that's my two cents. My family started watching the
videos when my daughter was 7 or 8 months and by 9 months we were
signing with each other. In fact, even though she now talks, she
still signs for many things along with speaking. AND I LOVE it
that I have learned a second language in the process.
--never understood the point of ''baby signs''
Does anyone know of a class in the Berkeley area on using sign language to communicate
with your pre-verbal baby? I read a book about it, but found it hard to learn the signs
from a book, and would like to get the chance to practice them.
I called Habitot--their
baby signing instructor left and they won't be having any more
classes. El Cerrito Community Center isn't having any, either.
I know that there is a baby sign language class taught
in North Berkeley near Solano Avenue. The instructor's
name is Jeff and he also teaches music (Jingle Jamboree).
I took his music class but not the sign class. Jeff's
phone number is (510) 334-8851. As a side note, sign
language with your baby really does work. I chose two
signs to ''teach'' our daughter. At 16 months, she
just used her first sign to communicate with me. It's
If you find that there are not classes in the near future
and you want to learn right away because of your baby's
age, you can purchase a video (which I found very helpful)
at the Sign-to-me website:
There are also about 12 minutes of streaming video
available on the site that show you babies signing.
It'll be bring tears to your eyes to see babies who
can't talk yet tell you what they want or need in signs!
Wow -- what a great gift this was for our family! As a
pediatric physical therapist, I had used sign language
for many years to communicate with many of my ''non-verbal''
clients. I had attended UC DAvis, where I had a psychology
professor by the name of Linda Acredolo, PhD. At the
time, she was doing her thesis on ''baby sign language'',
which I found fascinating. After the birth of my first
child, I began using signs with her as I related to the
more common aspects of her day -- began this at about 7
mos. of age. By 10 months of age, she had a few signs
-- for ''dog'', ''more'' . By just over a year (about
14 mos.?), she had at least 15-20 signs. This didn't
delay her speech, only augmented it, as she started
talking at a very young age. We are all fortunate
enough to have some great resources in our backyard!
Dr. Acredolo wrote a book called ''Baby signs'', which
may be the book to which you are refferring; however,
one of the biggest points she makes in the book is NOT
to teach your child traditional ASL signs, as they may
be too difficult for the child to do fine-motor wise.
Make up your own simple gestures for common things in
your baby's life an he/she will modify them from there.
The object is to communicate with your child rather than
teaching ASL, per se. It is a wonderful gift! A couple
of years ago, I went to a seminar at Cal that was
dedicated to brain development in children. Dr.
Acredolo was a keynote speaker that day, as was Dr.
Marian Diamond, who wrote a book called Magic Trees of
the Mind:How to nurture your child's creativity,
intelligence, and healthy emotions. Dr. Diamond is a
professor from Cal who has done extensive research into
brain development. She has a section about Dr. Acredolo's
methods in her book. Good luck, and have fun! People
were always in awe of what my tiny daughter was telling
me with her hands before she could even speak! Best of
all, it formed a closer bond between us.
Trish Brown, PT
You don't need a class and you don't need to learn the
signs out of a book --- you can just make them up! You
might want your child to learn American Sign Language,
but unless you are a native speaker, the chances that
your child will learn it are very, very small. And
anyway, the point of baby sign language is to communicate
with your baby early and many real signs are too hard!
I used some signs with both my girls. I tried to use
the ASL sign for dog (slap leg and snap fingers) but it
was too hard. We ended up sticking our tongues out and
panting. This was very easy and they loved to do it
whenever we saw or heard a dog. Just make up easy-to-remember
signs for things that your baby is interested in --- oh,
and ``more'' comes in very handy --- we used the index
finger of one hand pointing into the palm of the other.
Both of my girls phased out their signs as they learned to
say the words, so they were only signing for a few months.
So, I say, just have fun with this early, fleeting way
of communicating with your baby.
My lamaze instructor/doula teaches ASL baby sign language
occasionally. She will do a class at 25.00$ per person,
minimum five persons (you'd have to get the five together).
She said to email her if interested. Her name is Linda Jenkins.
I read the posts about baby sign classes with interest.
My advice would be to take a regular ASL class at Vista
College, and teach your daughter the signs you learn there.
The teachers are truly exceptional, and this is a renowned
program. I understand the point about some ASL signs being
a little complex for babies, but your child will really
benefit from the bilingualism. Why not teach your child
signs he or she will be able to use throughout his or
her life? ASL is a beautiful, expressive, and fascinating
language. If you have concerns about a particular sign being
too hard for your child, you can ask one of the instructors
what signs they taught their own children, and they will
help you modify some in a way that will enable you to teach
the 'real' sign later on. You also might be amazed at
the way children can pick up even complex signs. After
all, Deaf children from ASL signing families can communicate
at an earlier age than hearing children from hearing families!
with no signing. I cannot stress enough what a beneficial
experience this can be for you and your child. Almost
all the teachers at Vista are Deaf, those that aren't
often come from families with Deaf parents, and all are
wonderful. I studied ASL at Vista, and I am now using
signs with my 9 month old daughter. I am excited to know
that at some point my daughter will be able to communicate
with Deaf friends as well as with me. Vista has special
shorter classes in the summer, if you do not have the
time to commit to an entire semester. This could be an
opportunity for both you and your child to learn more
about Deaf culture and develop new language skills. I
particularly recommend Betty Ann Prinz as an instructor
for beginning ASL. Everyone I know who has taken her
classes just loves her and is amazed by the speed with
which you learn to communicate. My only warning is that
you may love it so much that you will want to take more
classes! You can look up Vista College on the web.
Last summer my playgroup took a sign language class through El Cerrito
Community Center. It was called signing with your baby. I can't remember the
instructers name but I know he also teaches a music class in the berkeley area
and has a son named Miguel. Maybe someone else will know how to get in touch
with him. It was a great class. He suggested a book called signing with your
baby. It come as a book or a book
and video. Barnes and nobles sells it. I also wanted to teach my daughter
another language by doing ASL but she converted a lot of her signs to what they
have in the baby sign book. So now I figure as long as her and I can
communicate I don't care where the signs came from. We have also made up a
few of our own signs.
Classes that have appeared in the Announcements & Events Digest:
Piedmont Community Center Mother Support Group 420-3075 "Baby sign language" (Feb 2001)
Women's Health Center Mother's Support Groups in Walnut Creek "Signing with Your Baby" (April 2001)
Hi, I'm thinking of taking advantage of the proximity of a
sign language teacher and having her teach me and possibly
my baby to sign. I'd heard that they can learn simple sign
at six months, well before they start to speak. Then I
started wondering if that might be a problem later -- that
is, would it delay his verbal development because he can
already make himself understood by signing? Does anyone
have any relevant experience with this?
re: Signing and baby -- read Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks. He thinks
humans may have first commicated by sign and that verbal communication came
as a result of a need to do other things with our hands. In any case I
really, really doubt that teaching your baby sign could hurt in any way.
Have fun. Margy
This is to the mom who asked about signing and her 6-month old and
whether it would inhibit his verbal language development. There is a
great book called "Baby Signs" by Acredolo and Goodwyn. They are
psychologists who have studied using primitive signs with infants
(hearing, normally developing babies) to actually enhance their
communication skills. Infants begin to use nonverbal gestures on their
own. The authors encourage parents to become intuned with these
gestrues and to encourage them to foster communciation before children
have verbal communication. Also, there are many "bilingual" children --
hearing children born to parents who have hearing impairments learn sign
and spoken language. I think it's a great idea to expose your son.
Have fun and good luck. Bonnie
teaching your child to sign will not delay speech development. May
even enhance it. Your baby is exposed to language all day from everyone
and presumably you are speaking to her while your signing as well. There
is a plethora of literature which shows that teaching your baby to sign
improves behavior (deaf children experience a different or milder form of
the terrible twos. the behavior which is related to frustration is
diminished because they can be understood) I have been signing to my 11
month old for a while now. I label things like shoes bath diaper etc when
were putting them on. I ask her what she wants and if she's finished. she
signs want all the time looking at anything and everything I want it I
want it I want it. she just recently begun to sign finished when were
eating and once when I was trying to get her into the bath in the kitchen
sink. Gross motor movements are easier to achieve long before articulation
will ever be. Babies are already signaling you and signing to you with
gestures facial expressions etc. All your doing is modifying those
gestures to a common one that everyone can understand. Its fun (if your
happy and you know it sign it to me HAPPY) it promotes bonding and
understanding and trust etc etc
obviously I am a strong proponent. The one critisism I have is
in the wave to teach baby sign many books have come out with made up
signs. Some of them appear to be the same or similar to ASL but many are
just completely made up. The premise being this gesture is easier then
the reAl gesture. Don't worry about that your baby will make a successful
approximation. what ever he does is close enough. he'll get
better as his motor skills mature, in the mean time you know what he's
trying to say and eventually so will everyone else. If your going to teach
your child sign teach him American Sign Language. Why woudn't you want
your child to be bilingual? You can buy picture dictionarys in any book
store,theres CD roms sign disc's sesame street and other children
books in sign.
I love to see my daughter sign. I'm proud of her and it makes me
happy that I can understand and fulfill her desire. And less crying less
tantrumming sounds good to me too! - Kim, Local Special Education
consultant, Certified Behavior Analyst.
There is actually a very lively on-line discussion going on right now
among developmental psycholinguists about the pros and cons of teaching
signs to babies. The consensus seems to be that there can be absolutely
no harm in teaching babies to sign, whether you use ASL or so-called "baby
signs" (look for the book by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn). Babies do
seem to be capable of acquiring what psychologists call "symbolic
gesturing" earlier than they can actually speak, and it seems to be fun
and rewarding for both them and their parents to have a simple way to
communicate early on. There is even some anecdotal evidence that suggests
that language acquisition *may* be a little bit enhanced (NOT very much if
at all) in the kids who use signs. But this has NOT been tested and
should absolutely not affect your decision -- it's just an interesting
Paraphrasing a psychologist named Adele Abrahamsen, the things to
remember are these:
1) make sure that signs are an option that you can use if you and
your child enjoy using them, not a necessity or an obligation
2) don't feel as if you need to teach (or use) a huge vocabulary
of signs -- if you have the energy to work with just a few, that's
3) don't be surprised or worried if it takes your child a while to
pick up the signs you have decided to try, especially if you start
early (9 or 10 months, as opposed to 11 or 12 months, when their
comprehension and their motor skills are more developed). Even
Deaf kids learning ASL tend to think their parents are nuts at
first! You'll have the best luck if you start with gestures that
are already familiar to your child, such as the spider gesture
from the eensy-weensy spider song -- it may be easier for your
child to get the point than if you start with ASL signs.
4) again, don't expect to make a super-baby! Do this for fun and
possible enhanced communication NOT for linguistic genius.
Good luck -- and have fun!
Hello, this very week there has been a discussion of
baby signing on the child language development mailing list.
The short answer: However unintuitive it may seem,
the empirical research shows that teaching babies signs
actually (slightly) improves their later language skills;
but the main benefit should be seen as gaining the fun
of communicating ideas with each other
before they (the babies) can enunciate.
the web site where you can get catch
discussions of child language learning is
Look for a book by Linda Acredolo. It might be called "How to Talk with Your
Baby Before Your Baby can Talk: Building a Bridge with Baby Signs", or maybe
she simplified the title since I saw an excerpt before it was published, and
perhaps it's now simply called "Baby Signs". She is a professor at UC Davis
who has done extensive research on what is often called "baby gesturing".
I don't know if it's exactly the same as what might be taught through ASL,
but it's geared specifically towards the motor skills of young babies.
Her research has also shown that it actually ENHANCES rather than hinders
verbal language development. Basically, babies get excited early on about
being able to communicate and see a one-to-one correspondance with "words"
(which you say verbally along with the sign) and things that they see or want.
Lots of other reasons for the positive impacts of baby signs as well......
I used only a few of the recommended "signs" with my first son, starting
when he was under a year old, but even that little bit was GREAT.
We started with "request" signs (like thumb to mouth with a tilting up
motion for "drink/bottle", and fingers of one hand tapping the opposite palm
for "more" - which he continued to enthusiastically use even after he
used the words as well). These seemed to SIGNIFICANTLY reduce his frustration
because he was able to communicate his needs at an earlier age. We also used
some simple "object" and "descriptor" signs. He's just over 4 years old now, a
nd teachers often comment that he's "very verbal". Don't know if I can credit
the signing, but it certainly didn't hurt him !!!!
If you can't find the book, you can contact the professor:
Linda Acredolo, Psychology Dept., Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616
While we we're visiting my in-laws in Southern California in December,
we came across an article about baby signs (specifically the book by
Acredolo and Goodwyn). We've always been sensitive to Bevan's ways of
communicating, and now that he is nearly one we've noticed that he
really WANTS to talk to us on a more complex level than crying because
he's hungry, tired, dirty, whatever. We tried out some of the
suggestions in the book (finding signs for "more," "dog," etc.) Bevan
took to it almost immediately (it did take some work)and it's wonderful
to see how proud he is of himself. He can now direct the volume of his
meals and we can successfully respond to his desires. It's one of the
best things happening in our lives right now. I can't say enough about
it. I don't think that you really have to buy the book or use ASL,
though...any signs work...watch what your baby does in response to
things (especially things you do and see every day...mealtimes, family
pets...). Babies will find the signs that best trigger the words for
them. And the pride and satisfaction your entire family will feel is
much more important that what specific signs are used.
I'm interested in teaching my baby sign language, and have looked through
the Acredolo book (as well as the on line advice here) about the subject.
However, I wonder why teach a baby made-up signs when ASL is a real
language and might be useful in the future. Is there any reason? Does
anyone have experience teaching ASL to their baby? What is the best ASL
book/dictionary for me to use with a seven-month-old baby? Thanks.
This reply is from my sister, who has 4 year old twins, one of whom is deaf.
"I have a deaf son who is now 4 and a half. We began teaching him ASL at age 6.5 months
when it was confirmed that he was deaf. He and his twin sister (hearing) are now fluent (for 4
year olds). I cannot think of a reason why you would want to teach your baby made-up signs
rather than ASL. Unless the made-up signs are easier, which I can't really imagine, because
as you stated ASL is a complete language. For example, it is very easy to sign "the car is
being driven" in ASL. It only requires one hand-shape and one movement. Note there are
some geographic differences even with ASL (e.g., the sign for "cracker" is different in
different parts of the U.S.). I would recommend getting a catalogue from Gallaudet
University's bookstore at 800 Florida Avenue, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 for resources
(video tapes, books). There are other companies such as Harris Communications, which you
can probably find on the internet. I applaud your initiative! Babies can learn to sign much
more readily than they can learn to speak. Much frustration between parent and child is
alleviated when there is early communication."
Not sure why some baby sign languages are based on ASL or not (I think its because the
"invented" ones were more intuitive and easier for babies to use) but I did teach my daughter
ASL. I used a book by Joseph Garcia called Sign With Your Baby : How to Communicate
With Infants Before They Can Speak. I started at nine months and it took awhile, but by 11
months, she was signing. It was great, and I will do it with the next one too!
An excellent book (not really a dictionary, but it functions as such) is Signs for Me...Basic
Sign Vocabulary for Children, Parents & Teachers by Ben Bahan and Joe Dannis...available
from Dawn Sign Press phone 1-800-549-5350 website is www.dawnsign.com I like this book
so much for so many reasons....It is separated into sections: verbs, adjectives/feelings,
adjectives/opposites, nouns/people.....etc. etc., so it is very easy to look up what you want. It
also has a very clear picture (drawing) of the meaning of the sign, as well as a drawing of a
person signing the concept....It is very user friendly, and was developed with love and respect
for ASL as well as with tremendous background knowledge of language acquisition.. It can
also be used as a coloring book when baby gets older!! Enjoy.
Garcia's book, "Sign to Your Baby" is based on ASL. Some signs are slightly altered in an
attempt to adapt to make it easier for small, less motor-skilled hands to be able to make the
sign, but they are very similar to official ASL signs. His book provides a selection of signs to
get you started. We've enjoyed using his book to teach signs to our baby -we started about 7-8
I started teaching my now three year old son ASL when he was around
eleven months old because he was not vocalizing like he should due to medical problems he
had since birth. The type of ASL that we taught him were based on real signs however were
slightly modified so that they would be easy for babies to use. There were also some signs
that we used with my son that were real ASL signs that are very easy to sign and remember.
Everyday words that a child might use, like "more" and "eat". These are very simple. I have
not found a good book (for me and my son that is) yet to do this although there are many out
there that might be good for you. I suggest you check out Barnes and Noble on line..they
have a ton of them. I mostly found words from many sources (books, pamphlets, magazines)
and just used them as I felt that he could utilize them. As he got older, I started teaching
him signs that were harder to remember and learn. Sometimes I notice that he starts to
make up his own signs which also not a bad thing because I feel that he is still
communicating with me. My son is not deaf but he is not talking yet either so this works out
for both of us. He is vocalizing more words now and he is expected to talk one day although it
might take time. I hope this helps.
Just to let you know..some of the books that I use with him now
are"Signing for Kids" by Mickey Flodin, and one called "My First Book of Sign Language" by
I agree one should go with ASL. There is a great kit with video for parents based on ASL by a
guy called Garcia. The kit is about $49.00 but it is an excellent tool. There is also a web site
they have to connect parents. You'll find the kit or the book in book stores, on line or at
Women's Health Center on N. California in Walnut Creek.
Good luck with signing. I think it is a wonderful idea and a tool for
communicating with your baby and toddler.
this page was last updated: Feb 14, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network