Caring for Mom

Baby sign language Q and A

Baby Sign Language Q and A

Have you wondered about teaching your sign language to your baby? Here are some common questions and answers to help you learn more.

  • Q: What is baby sign language?
    A: Baby sign language uses modified hand gestures from American Sign Language. Some parents teach babies to use sign language to communicate about what they want (for example: more, eat, milk, mom and dad).

  • Q: Does baby sign language help babies communicate?
    A: Babies get frustrated when they want something but are unable to say it with words. Using baby sign language can relieve some of this frustration and provide a way to express a few basic needs. Some limited research suggests that baby sign language gives a child a way to communicate several months earlier than with verbal communication only.

  • Q: Can sign language help children who are developmentally delayed?
    A: Sign language can be a helpful tool for families communicating with children who have developmental delays or special needs. For children with autism and other developmental disabilities, sign language has proved helpful for communication with family and other caregivers. A child's hands can be molded to form a sign, which may be easier to learn if a child can control his or her hands, but struggles with oral motor control.

  • Q: At what age are babies ready to learn sign language?
    A: You can introduce signing at any age - babies will soak up everything you say and show them. Babies may start signing back to you around 8 months or older, and they may use sign language until about age 2.

  • Q: How can I teach sign language to my baby?
    A: Start with signs that have meaning for your baby, such as eat, drink, bath, bubbles or "all done." Show the sign and say the word in context (while you're at the dinner table or in the bath, for example). It may take a few months of repetition before baby responds.

  • Q: What are the benefits of using sign language?
    A: In the short term, baby sign language can reduce the guesswork in communicating with your baby. More research is needed to determine if there’s a link between baby sign language and early literacy or thinking skills. However, there’s no question that the time you spend with baby practicing sign language is beneficial. Like other one-on-one activities, it gives you and your baby the opportunity to bond.