Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language has been such a blessing for us. With Harry still not talking at 16 months, it is his primary mode of communication for now. I bought a book on baby signs when I was pregnant, but I'll be honest, I only thumbed through it once.

Teaching Harry has been really easy. We started with one sign when he was 13.5 months old. Many parents start teaching sign language even earlier, around 5-6 months. To teach him we would do the sign every time we said the word, and repeated it 3-4 times to help him make the connection.

I don't remember exactly how long it took for the light bulb to go off, but it wasn't long. Two weeks? Maybe three. It was really incredible watching him sign for the first time.

Here are the signs we've taught Harry so far.


The first sign Harry learned. "More" is signed by tapping all 10 fingers together (video example here). However, Harry took some creative liberties and has changed it to a sideways time out sign. Whatever works, right? At first I tried to get him to do it correctly, but I quickly realized it doesn't matter. He knows what it means. We know what it means. No harm done.

He's also expanded the meaning of the sign. Instead of signaling "more," he uses the sign to indicate when he's hungry. When he was learning we would use it after he'd finish eating to see if he wanted any more. He took that to mean food in general. So basically, this is a totally made up sign. He does it anytime he'd like something to eat.


The second sign we worked on was "milk," which looks like you're milking a cow (video example here). Harry picked this sign up a little quicker than "more/food." We use this sign to symbolize anything in a sippy cup. So either milk or water- which we call juice. It's all very confusing to an outsider, but Harry understands and does the sign perfectly.

Sleep/Night Night

Another sign Harry altered. He picked up "sleep" really fast (we call it "night night"), which is made by lying your head on your hands like a pillow (video example here). Harry's version involves him putting one hand up to his ear. Hey, it's a little easier!

He also knows that waving means "hi" and does that often. We're currently working on "book," "I love you" and "thank you." Book will be easy for him to learn, he'll be doing it within a few days I'm sure. He's pretty much mastered I love you, but will only do it if I do it first. I think he thinks of it like a thumbs up-type gesture rather than sign language, so he doesn't have the meaning down yet. Regardless, my heart completely melts every time he does it. And thank you might be a lost cause for the time being. We've been doing it for a while and he's never done it back. Sticking to things and actions he understands already is probably the best way to go.

So, if you're thinking about teaching your baby sign language, I can't recommend it enough! Before we taught Harry he didn't have a way of communicating with us, and now he does. My advice is to just take it slow and don't stress about it. Baby will get it sooner or later. Just use the signs often and make them big and exaggerated.

Here's a video I shot of Harry doing some signs.

Check out babysignlangnage.com- it's an awesome resource! 

If you've had any experience with baby sign language, I'd love to hear about how it worked for you. Let me know in the comments!! 


  1. I totally was going to do a blog post just like this... except Jude doesn't understand yet, ha!

    And just wait for the word explosion, Jack's hit right after he turned two :)

    We're working on:
    Fan- "the fun one"

  2. Jude will understand soon enough! I'd love to read a post about starting signing earlier than I did!


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