How-To Tuesday: How To Teach Your Baby Sign Language for Free

Welcome to another How-To Tuesday post. Today’s article is a guest post by Misty Weaver, editor of, an easy-to-use site that offers free signing information and resources for parents. Enjoy!

Baby sign language is easy to learn – all it takes is lots of repetition and stacks of patience. With a little bit of know-how, you can start teaching your baby to sign today. There are tons of free baby sign language resources around – all you need to do is know where to find them and how to use them! Read on to find out how to teach baby sign language without having to pay for classes.

How To Start Teaching Baby Sign Language Yourself
To start, pick a few simple signs, such as Mommy, Daddy, and Milk, and concentrate on using these signs over and over with your baby. Repetition is key, as is choosing signs which are interesting to your baby. Use the sign and say the word clearly each time you come into contact with the object – for Milk, you would sign before, after and during feeding, saying and signing Milk. For a ‘how to’ guide to the most popular signs check out Baby Sign Language Top Ten Starter Signs. You could also download a printable baby signing Baby Sign Language Wall Chart for free.

When Will My Baby Start Signing Back?
Be patient when you are teaching baby sign language and don’t expect your baby to start signing immediately. You should encourage all her efforts, even if you don’t recognize the sign she is trying to make! Most babies over the age of six months need about two months of exposure to and repetition of a sign before they begin to use it. So if you start signing with your baby when she is seven months old, she will most likely be using one of your favorite signs by the age of nine months. Remember, all babies learn at their own pace. For more free answers to common baby signing questions check out Baby Sign Language Basics.

Developing A Signing Vocabulary
When your baby has mastered her first few signs you can introduce new ones. It’s a good idea to stick to groups of similar ideas or objects when introducing something new, for example food signs, colors, or animals. Remember to keep it fun and repeat, repeat, repeat each sign. Encourage your baby’s efforts. Only introduce a few new signs at a time, and continue with each for around two months. The Internet has stacks of great baby signing dictionaries, including Baby Sign Language Dictionary.

Do I Need To Go To A Baby Sign Language Class?
The short answer is no – you can learn and teach baby sign language without paying for classes. Good baby signing classes follow the advice above – making learning fun, repeating signs and building a base of simple signs before moving on to new ones. Once you have checked out and downloaded some free resources, why not get a group of friends together to practice with. Your baby will find this great fun, and it will stop you feeling isolated. Have fun, repeat and encourage – these are your steps to success.

Readers, have you tried baby signing? How did it go?

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  1. stacy says:

    We did baby signing with my now 4 year old. I would just look up signs online and teach a couple at a time. it was amazing! We didn’t start until he was about a year. He was able to pick up signs fairly easily at that age once he mastered the first couple. We started with “more” and “all done”. Very helpful when feeding! He never whined because he could always tell us what he needed. As he started talking more and more, he would use his hands to help us understand him when he was trying to say a word. Signing had taught him he could use his hands to communicate and he used that. He was a fairly early talker and making fairly long sentences well before 2, and I totally believe it is thanks to signing.

  2. Jessie says:

    I did/do sign with my son. We started with “milk”, “bath”, “book” and “sleep” when he was about 2 months old. He was signing for milk by the time he was 4 months old then abandoned it in favor of pulling on my shirt (smart kid – definitely got a faster reaction from me!).
    He’s now two and signs “bath” “please” “more” “all done” “down” and “drink” on a daily basis. He seems to understand more signs then that, and I’m sure he’d be doing even better, but I was unfortunately not particularly consistent with signing.
    My son has experienced some delays in his speech development so I wish I had worked harder on signing, but the signs he does know save us both from a lot of frustration!

  3. Elaine says:

    We do signing with my 1-year old. We started showing her the sign for milk when she was about 5 months old. She didn’t spontaneously sign it back till she was about 10 months old, but she understood what it meant at around 8 months. She also can sign “more”, which is helpful for feeding. We’ve been working on “all done” which she understands but doesn’t express yet.

    It was great when she learned “milk” and could let us know when she was hungry. That relieved frustration for her, I think.

  4. Judy says:

    We had Early Intervention, and they helped us get signing (something I wanted to do anyway). She suggested starting with “power” words, like ‘more’ and ‘all-done’. We loved signing, and he eventually would sign some things back, but definitely understood more than he could do back to us. And his language these days at 2.5 is wonderful!

  5. Liz Busby says:

    I did signing with my son, who is now 2. I totally attribute his amazing language development to doing signing with him. He was totally noncommunicative until age 9 months when we hit the signing hard.

    Another great resource are the Baby Signing Time DVDs. I was initially opposed to them, since you can teach effectively without them, but I found that watching one DVD with my son everyday (starting at 9 months) made me remember to do the signs and expanded my sign vocabulary, even when I was frustrated that he wasn’t signing back. And after a few months, his vocabulary toook off. I think we were using about 100 signs. It was very liberating to him and me to have a way to communicate.

    And if you don’t want to spend the money to buy them, you can bet your local metropolitan library has some copies! We would just check out a different one each week. You may have to place a hold if they aren’t plentiful, but still: free is free.

  6. tanyetta says:

    thank you!

  7. katie says:

    yeah we LOVE baby signing, and still do it now at 2 years even though her language has exploded and she does long sentences on her own. i wanted to add that you can also look up signs on YouTube, we love Signing Time clips, as well as MySmartHands. it’s entertaining for the baby and teaches you both the signs!

  8. Melissa says:

    I also started teaching my son basic signs when he was around 5-6 months old, especially food-related signs like “more”, “water”, “all done”, etc when he started eating solid food. He really picked up on the signing and being able to express himself with signs around 12 months. Signing has reduced frustration for both of us– he is able to communicate his needs and I can understand him. Some resources I have found to be helpful are: the board book “Baby Signs” by Joy Allen (I have seen it sold at Target. It has really cute illustrations and teaches children (and parents) 13 basic signs. We have also started to watch “Signing Time” DVDs (my son is 2 now) and LOVE them!! We can borrow them from our local library, but we recently purchased some because they are so wonderful. The DVDs teach basic signs along with a theme (such as Food, Sports, Friends, etc.), have young kids showing the signs, and have fun songs. We have learned so many more signs watching them together, and I believe it has also helped expand his vocabulary now that he is able to talk.

  9. Liz says:

    I’ve done baby signing with both my kids and it has been great. I love the Baby SigningTime DVD’s. Great songs, easy to remember the signs, short and actually educational. My daughter is almost 3 and now she sings the songs. My son is 9 months and is very intrigued by the whole thing.

  10. sarsar says:

    similar story here — started with more and all done (tried around 10 months and he wasn’t interested, then we had OT at around 14 months and he did it immediately!). please and thank you were next. one that helped us SO much was, well, “help!”
    that’s really all we did — just those 5. but man, they made a big difference!

  11. Amanda says:

    We introduced signs casually around 7-8 months. Our 1 year old started signing between 10-11 months. She loves signing “more” to EVERYTHING – especially what we’re eating. We only do “more” and “all done” to encourage speech development. At only 12.5 months, she says a dozen words easily. She has little interest in walking, though! 🙂 We’re going to introduced a potty sign as we begin potty training.

  12. George-Ann says:

    My son was born six weeks early and was a delayed talker. This was very frustrating for both of us. His reaction to not getting what he needed or wanted was a temper tantrum because he had no other way to express himself. His speech and occupational therapists started teaching us signing. My son was very quick to learn. AND the frustration and tantrums dropped to almost zero immediately!!! It was amazing and so easy to learn. I would recommend to anyone with children delayed or not. Being able to communicate with a nonverbal child is a blessing and so much fun!!!!