“Ice cream. More. Please,” my toddler sleepily communicates to me in baby sign at 6 am.
She hasn’t been awake for long, but she knows exactly what she wants. In fact, I almost titled this post, “More Ice Cream! And Other Demands Made Possible By Baby Sign.”
Although it’s early, my daughter’s tiny signing is adorable! The message comes out a bit rough as if she was saying in broken English, “ice cream pleeeeeeze mo!” Even when she wants sweets at an ungodly hour, I am touched to watch her chubby little fingers capture communication.
For me, it’s different. I’m Deaf. My husband is not Deaf like me; he hears. So it feels special for me when our two daughters use “my” language. Although, I must point out that baby sign is not American Sign Language (ASL).
Both ASL and baby sign are engaging. They’re fun! My girls love watching stories in ASL more than hearing them in English; the stories are more alluring because they’re animated. And both girls love learning new signs, especially for their unreasonable demands.
Baby Sign is for Everyone
Baby sign has so much value for everyone.
- It minimizes babies’ frustration by giving them tools to express their needs before they can talk (e.g., more, milk, eat, apple).
- Baby sign increases the bond between child and caretaker because it allows the caretaker to better identify and more quickly meet the child’s needs.
- Learning any language at an early age is good for the brain’s development.
- Kids get a sense of pride when they accomplish, well, anything, and baby sign is no different.
- Signing is fun! My daughter wants to know how to sign the names of her favorite characters, including the Big Bad Wolf, Elsa, and Willy Wonka.
Where and When to Start
When I met my husband, he took ASL classes, as did my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law. Both refreshed their sign skills when our daughters were born, using the resources listed below. But parents can learn baby sign along with the baby! There are so many 3D resources and free online tutorials (think YouTube) that make it very easy to copy and pick it up!
Babies can start signing early – even at six months old. Toddlers and young children enjoy learning signing too. My older nephews appreciated learning how to sign (grotesquely, and very animatedly) “fart” and “poop.”
- Signing Time. This resource is beloved by everyone in our house! The girls are just enamored with Alex and Leah! We love that their resources come in a variety of formats from DVDs, books, YouTube videos, and a website with an online signing dictionary!
- A few favorite Apps. On my phone I use ASL Baby Sign and Baby Sign and Learn. Additionally, Signing Time TV is a free app; and Marlee Matlin, a Deaf actress, has a free app, called Marlee Signs.
- Some favorite books. Amazon has many options for books about signing, but Signing Every Day Phrases is a go-to resource for my mother-in-law.
Below are some beginner baby signs for you as you start. The resources listed above are much better quality, but they don’t have a baby crying in the background (for more ice cream, no doubt), like mine do. Quite obviously, I’m hoping you want to start right this minute!
Have fun communicating! God speed teaching those babies their favorite demands.