Communicate with sign language

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teach babies to sign

Wonder what your baby is thinking or what she is interested in? Want to ask her what she likes to eat? Want to know if that cry is because he is hungry, needs a diaper change, or is hurt? Want to stop that tantrum? Would you be surprised to know that a few hand signs can help you achieve all this and more?

Over 20 years of research shows that by using baby sign language, you can take advantage of your baby's natural inclination to communicate with her hands to create better communication. Children naturally gesture to obtain things they want-like putting their arms up to be picked up. Using basic American Sign Language (ASL) signs can give your child more ways to communicate using this natural, in-born instinct. And when babies can communicate their needs, they are less likely to have tantrums.

what to do

Don't stress out. You and your baby don't need to learn a new language. You are just borrowing some basic ASL signs and adding them to your conversations. These signs give your baby a way to communicate back to you since babies as young as 6 months have the manual dexterity needed to make signs with their hands. You can learn as few as 5 signs or as many as 100-300 signs to enrich your relationship.

stop tantrums naturally

Some parents worry that using signs will slow down a baby's ability to speak. Studies conducted over the past 20 years show that this is not true. Babies who sign generally speak at the same rates as babies who do not. However, during the time when they cannot speak, babies who can sign can still communicate. For example, Tricia's son Dallin came to her one day and signed "medicine" and pointed to his teeth. He was teething and could tell his mother that he needed some pain relief. No screaming. No guessing what was wrong. No stress. Tricia quickly solved Dallin's problems and Dallin went on playing happily.

Babies who sign have an easier time learning to communicate. When they begin to speak, they already understand the communication game and generally learn to talk faster once they begin to speak. Additionally, the research shows that babies who sign have a 12 point increase in their IQ. Extended research shows that this IQ increase lasts throughout the child's life. Children who sign as babies also have larger vocabularies and greater interest in books.

learning more

The book Baby Signing 1, 2, 3 is a great resource to teach you more about signing with your baby at every stage and age. The book was written to address what your baby is learning physically, mentally, emotionally, and linguistically and discusses how signing can enhance your relationship and encourage further learning. The book includes hundreds of signs and tips to help you with your baby. You can purchase the book at bookstores, online, or for a signed copy, order it at

Additionally, the Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards give you a quick and easy way to learn signs. The cards feature eye-catching illustrations that engage babies and help give a context for learning signs. This adds a new dimension to reading time and makes reading a three-dimensional experience.

You can also take a class from certified baby signing instructor. There are 8 certified instructors in Utah. Go to and look in the class info section.

There are other great tools out on the market too when your child is a bit older and watching TV (generally not recommended before 18 months -2 years). The Signing Time DVD series is a great way to explore new signs and see other kids signing.

Baby signing gives your child a start at learning the third most-used language in the United States (English and Spanish are first). Your child will not be delayed in her speech and will be able to tell you her needs long before she can speak. Less guessing and more bonding-it is a win-win for both of you!

seven simple steps to start signing today!

So, if you are ready to get going, here are seven simple steps to get started today:

  1. Start Simple: Start with 5-10 Signs like MILK, MORE, EAT, BATH, SLEEP, and DIAPER CHANGE. Start signing when you baby is between 4 and 8 months and your baby holds your gaze for a few seconds. If your baby is older, start right away. Based on age, you will see your child sign within a few weeks to a few months. Then, the conversation begins!
  2. Talk as You Sign: Since your goal is to get your child to speak, you need to speak with your child as much as you can. When nursing or giving a bottle, say "Do you want some MILK?" and sign milk. Then, as you feed your child, open a dialog about the milk: "We're having MILK. MILK is good!"
  3. Make Eye Contact: Make the sign directly in your child's line of sight so your child can see your eyes, the sign, and your mouth. Then, speak with your child, emphasizing the word you are signing. For example, you might say, "Do you want some MORE apple?"
  4. Be Patient: If your baby is between 6-9 months, it may take 2 months for your baby to make the first sign. That gives you time to learn more signs. If your child is older, you might see results sooner. But remember that babies recognize the signs long before they can make them.
  5. Look for Signs: Babies adapt signs to their physical abilities, so they don't always look exactly right. Similar to speech development, babies' abilities to sign will improve as they sign more. In the mean time, encourage any attempts your child makes. If you think you see a sign, say: "Oh, you're signing MILK. Do you want some MILK?" Continue to make the signs correctly and your child will learn to make the sign correctly.
  6. Add Signs: As your child learns the signs and begins to sign back, start adding other signs. If your child is older, add signs quickly so your child can learn the signs that she needs to communicate. Check out Baby Signing 1, 2, 3 or the Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards.
  7. Sign Often (the key to success)! Signing is not something you stop to do with your child-just incorporate signing in to your daily activities. Sign as you talk with your child, sign as you read books, sign as you sing, sign as you and your child interact.

Soon, you will see results and a decrease in the number of tantrums. Your bond you're your baby will be strengthened as you enjoy getting to know your little one.

about nancy cadjan

Nancy Cadjan is the founder of Sign Babies. She has spent the last 10 years researching and using sign language with infants and toddlers. She is a certified baby signing instructor. She created Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards to give parents excellent printed materials to use with their babies. She is also the author of Baby Signing 1, 2, 3 and the Sign Babies Board Book Series. You can contact her from the Sign Babies web site at

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