Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baby Sign Language

From 10/31/09
Originally at:

By Mike Shinn

When we found out that we would be having a baby, my wife and I were very excited. Not long after, came the fear that most couples have when they find out that they are pregnant; we knew nothing about having or raising a baby. We received a barrage of information, both real and rumor, regarding everything from proper feeding, to appropriate toys, to pet maintenance. We also read, "What to Expect" and other books. Just when I thought I had felt the relief of knowing how to handle a potential situation like swaddling or changing or calming the baby, I would read another, contradicting solution. If I know anything now, it's that all children are different, and even if something works well for you today, tomorrow is another day.

One of my coworkers recommended that we start our daughter on baby sign language early. This was some of the best advice that we could have received. There are a lot of products and books that can teach you, as well as a wealth of information on the Internet. Still it's tough to know where to begin and when to stop. Below are the 3 essential baby signs that I recommend (in order), plus four others that can help as well.


[Place your fingertips all together and then tap both hands together at the tips]

# # # #


[Make a semi-fist and pretend to squeeze milk from an udder]

# # # #


[Both thumbs up or point fingers up in the air]

Babies love to be carried around, but as they get heavier, your back gets weaker and you carry them less often. This sign is nice because it lets them take control of when they want to get picked up or see something higher than their current size.

# # # #


[Place your fingertips all together and tap them to your lips]

This is used to distinguish between drinking liquid and eating a more solid food.

# # # #

All Done

[Place your hands in front of you - palm up. Then turn your hands to palm-down and back to up again a few times]

This sign is nice because you can use it as a form of question like, "are you done eating?" or in the form of a command like, "We are done with this activity". Use this when finished changing a diaper or at the end of the bath.

# # # #


[Place both hands palm-together and lay your head down on them like a pillow]

Use this to let them know that it's about time for a nap or bedtime. I also use this on early mornings to let my daughter know that my wife isn't up yet, because she is sleeping.

# # # #

Thank You

[Place one hand out palm-up in front of you and the other palm-side fingertips to the mouth, and then bring it down in an arc to meet the other hand]

It's never too early to learn good manners. It's also nice for them to get a special "thank you" when they have done something you are proud of, like cleaning up their toys.

# # # #

We began baby sign language at 3 months of age. Our daughter continues to use the signs now, in addition to her words. We have read that children brought up on baby sign language are slow to begin talking, since there is no necessity (they can just sign for what they want). While that may be true, the benefits of having a clear indication of your child's needs at a few months of age should far outweigh the cuteness of having them talk earlier. There are other benefits as well, such as being able to communicate in public, or in a crowded area without having to yell. Lastly, there is the lasting benefit of having bonded with your child earlier through the use of a common language.

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