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Baby Signing:

Antonio M. Navarro
Sunday, April 5, 2009

ASL and Babies

I first started taking ASL classes because I thought it would be a much easier and less demanding way for me to meet my foreign language requirement. I thought that ASL was just all about using my hands and arms to sign - plain and simple. But it turned out to be a lot more intricate than I had imagined. ASL not only involves the use of a person's hands and arms, but their entire body, including facial expressions. Although grasping the speed and structure of ASL is a bit difficult, gaining knowledge and mastery of the general concepts is pretty simple. For example, a spoken four word request for food (Can I have food?) can easily be summed up in one sign. This characteristic of ASL is a major reason why some parents of hearing children choose to teach their babies sign language. It helps their baby learn to communicate and understand at a much younger age than babies that learn through speech.

The age at which an infant can learn how to communicate using sign language depends on his/her mental development and exposure to it. Some children can learn how to communicate through sign language at as young as 8 months. This is astonishing considering the fact that most infants don't even know how to walk until they're between 10-15 months old and won't be able to speak comprehensively until about 18 months, (Blumberg, 2005). These statistics are a great incentive for those parents who wish they could communicate with their child sooner and could save them a lot of stress from misunderstandings. Learning sign language also saves the infant a great deal of stress. As Tiara V. Malloy noted in her article, Sign Language Use for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing Babies: The Evidence Supports It, "Lack of communicative abilities can cause temper tantrums and fits as children struggle to make their needs known." If the child knows how to sign his/her needs, a lot of the problems usually associated with the inability to speak could be avoided.

Earlier communication is not the only benefit of teaching infants sign language. Other benefits include enhanced bonding between the infant and his parents, quicker development of fine motor skills, and increased levels of comprehension, reading and grammar, (Jones, 2006). The constant attention focused between child and parent while learning to sign allows them to experience each others personalities and become closer with each other. Also, the repetition of signing and naming the sign by the parent can eventually lead to the child learning to speak sooner than other hearing, non-signing infants. Thus, by teaching them sign language at a young age, parents can greatly increase their childrens cognitive development. The use of the infants hands and arms to sign is a great way for him to gain control of his upper-body motor skills; plus it helps to increase dexterity and muscle memory.

Sign language is a great way to increase a childs development and it's a wonder that more, if not all, parents don't elect to teach their infants sign language. Especially with all the benefits attached to learning it (and teaching it), for both parties. Hopefully, as time goes on, teaching sign language will become a more widespread and accepted practice in early childhood education.


Blumberg, Rena Morningstar. (Fall 2005). "Baby, sign to me! Benefits of teaching sign language to hearing infants". Special Delivery. 03 Apr, 2009.

Jones, Christine. (April 2006). "The Benefits of Sign Language for ALL Children". The Monthly Communicator. New Jersey Department of Human Services. 04 Apr, 2009.

Malloy, Tiara V. (July 2003). "Sign Language Use for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing Babies: The Evidence Supports It". American Society for Deaf Children. 04 Apr, 2009.

Finally Communication Between Infants and Parents!
By Candice Houghton

Finally Communication Between Infants and Parents!

After attending several baby showers recently I have become aware of a large number of parents enthusiastically intent upon teaching their children sign language. Of the twenty women attending this event, eight of them are currently utilizing signs with their children, three were just beginning the process of introducing signs to their children and one extremely pregnant woman enthusiastically proclaims she will be teaching her children as soon as they arrive. The rest had already been there, in those frustrating moments when faced with a distraught, screaming child, often at a time of night not meant to be seen by normal human beings, who was unable to respond to the persistent questions of "What's wrong?" and "Does this help?" followed by "What can I do?" or "What do you want?". If only the child could have responded these parents proclaim. But that is just what many children are doing thanks to learning a handful of signs.

It has been stated in many parenting journals and magazines, often by an insightful pediatrician that motor skills develop faster than verbal skills and that parents should encourage this by introducing visual vocabulary words to their infants. We have all witnessed infants conveying messages to adults through wiggling fingers or pumping arms long before they gurgled "I want up, please". Several articles state that teaching your infant visual communication can reduce frustrations and helps little ones feel more understood and gives parents the ability to determine their child's comprehension by starting with several simple signs such as: more, eat, drink, milk, bed, please and thank you. By starting with a few signs and introducing new signs as these become familiar quickly builds an extensive vocabulary for these infants/toddlers. But which signs do you teach? ASL or do you make up your own signs?

Some authors believe that the benefits of utilizing a standardized vocabulary such as American Sign Language (ASL) is the reduction in possible confusion in future education and communication. If one teaches family specific "made-up" signs communication would be limited to that family. However other authors believe that teaching ASL to infants is not prudent because the infants only utilize signs until they develop verbal communication skills, then the signing stops. So this prompts the question asked by many parents that if they indeed teach their children to sign, will this affect their child's vocal development?

Many articles have identified many studies which have provided data that states baby sign language has not restricted regular speech, but has shown signing babies with larger vocabulary, a better understanding of the meanings of words as well as the formation of complete sentences once verbal communication begins and higher IQ scores. What parent doesn't want that? Some studies have shown signing infants/toddlers to have better developed "play" skills, more socialized, than those infants/toddlers who have not been taught signs. Some author's say to begin teaching a few signs to your infant as soon as their attention span permits and of course this is unique to every child. All have expressed the importance of starting with a few signs and being patient, do not give up if several months have gone by and your child has not responded. Nothing is a rewarding as that first moment that you realize that your child is actually communicating with you. And luckily for most of us there is a plethora of instructional material available to assist us in teaching our children to sign from the magazine articles, both in print and on-line.

As neatly demonstrated to me just today by several Moms, teaching infants/toddlers/children sign language has greatly increased the joy of being a parent by establishing better communication between them much earlier in their life. Let's hope that this helps when they want a tattoo.


Blumberg, Rena Morningstar (Fall, 2005) Baby, sign to me! Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Hearing Infants Health Publications. Retrieved 01 April 2009:

Campbell, Tanya (08 May 2007) Teaching Baby to Sign Retrieved 01 April 2009:

Carchrae, Michelle (16 January 2008) Baby Sign Language Retrieved 01 April 2009:<>

Dennard-Lewis, Eve (August 2005) Talk to the Hand Teaching Your Baby Sign Language Atlanta Parent Online Magazine. Retrieved 01 April 2009: <>

Montgomery, Beth (18 May 2007) Signing with Your Infant or toddler: ASL V. Baby Sign Associated Content Information from the Source. Retrieved 01 April 2009

Wexler, Barbara (2007). Lend a Hand: Communicating with Babies through Sign Language. Earlychildhood News, Excelligence Learning Corporation. Retrieved 01 April 2009:

Sign Language and Babies
By Pawan Grewal
April 6, 2009

Sign Language and Babies

Some people will never realize the importance of sign language. Even more people will never appreciate the benefits and extraordinary outcomes that can arrive from signing to your infant. Through sign language, studies have shown how intelligent babies can be without using words.

Although parents have been signing to babies for years, it has become more popular recently. The most common reason for a caregiver to teach their baby signing is to find out exactly what their baby needs (Beyer). Because babies fine muscles improve in their hands prior to the developments needed to speak, sign language helps them communicate earlier. Without even teaching babies proper sign language, they learn to pick up on gestures just from watching; for example waving goodbye, or shaking their head no, this is just a way of communication. Through years of research, it has been proven to be helpful to speech acquisition. It is also a way of bonding and can be very fun and stimulating (Beyer).

Besides the fact that signing can help babies accurately communicate before they can speak, ASL has many other perks as well. Some of these advantages include reducing frustration for babies, promotes parent and child bonding, and helps the child make eye contact. Signing children also seem to be more fascinated in books. According to researcher Joseph Garcia, hearing babies as young as six months can use simple motions to correspond basic ideas and needs (Allen). Children who learn sign language could also have more brain capacity later in life, as well as learn to speak sooner and do better on IQ tests. Research has also proven that babies who sign are much faster to speak than those who do not. It forms a more verbal environment (Ladino).

When signing to your baby, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Beginning with simple words like eat, drink, milk, and more are very important. It is also crucial that you always say the word when you are signing it never in silence. You should start off with using one sign per sentence so that your baby does not feel overwhelmed. Being consistent in your signs will help your child understand and repeat. Most importantly it is critical that you be patient and stay calm, with of course, using lots of praise (Allen).
It is always helpful to stay open minded, especially if this is something new for the caregiver. Some believe that signing to your baby may cause them to never talk because they will only communicate through gestures, however as stated before that is very much incorrect. Just like teaching your baby to wave hello or goodbye, positive reinforcement will help your baby develop their communication skills. Another reason one may be skeptical is the cost to teaching something that can be so complex. However, with today's technology teaching ASL to your child can be very inexpensive (Beyer). Over all the outcomes of signing to your baby are staggering and extremely valuable.

Allen, Tania. 2004 December. Speech & Language Therapy in Practice. Baby signing and language development.

Beyer, Monica. 2008 July. Signing With Your Baby.

Ladino, Eileen. 2003. Benefits of Baby Sign Language on I.Q., Speech and Language. Tiny Fingers.

Signing for Infants & Toddlers
By Leanne Orino
April 6, 2009

Signing for Infants & Toddlers

It is always a joy for new parents to hear their baby's first words, which are usually either "Mama" or "Dada". Unfortunately, a baby doesn't begin to start speaking until they are almost or around a year old. What is fascinating is the fact that parents and caregivers can communicate with their child before the child reaches a year old with sign language. Signing with babies is an amazing way for parents and their children to communicate. Sign language helps bridge the communication gap between the parent and the child which aids in reduced frustration from the parents and less tantrums from the child. The benefits of teaching sign language to babies are significant and abundant.

According to the article, "Baby, Sign to Me! Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Hearing Infants" by Rena Blumberg, she states that, "infants are able to communicate long before they can manipulate their tongues, lips and vocal cords" (Blumberg, 1). By communicating through signs, children can learn to sign physical and emotional needs and curiosities. In the article titled, "Why Teach Babies Sign Language?" by Armin Brott, he states that, "signing improves babies' motor skills, builds vocabulary and language abilities, reduces tantrums and frustration and has even been linked with an increase in IQ" (Brott, 1). It is amazing that signing with your baby before he or she can even speak can have so many advantages in the long run. With all these wonderful benefits, it seems that every parent should teach their child to sign.

Parents who already know American Sign Language can just begin to choose a sign. If the parents don't know ASL, or any sign language for that matter, parents can choose a great internet source or sign up and take classes in their local community. In an article titled, "Babies Taught to Use Sign Language" by Lea Blevins, she writes about an upcoming class called Baby Sign Language which is being offered in Amador Valley Adult and Community Education. She states that the class "…will guide parents, grandparents, and caretakers and their babies through a course on fostering early communication between parents and children" (Blevins, 1).

In order to get started with the child, the parents and caregivers must choose signs that are need based and they should also have a highly motivated attitude. Signs involving eating such as eat, drink, more, or milk are good signs to begin with. Also, it is always important to teach them how to sign Mommy and Daddy. It will take time and effort to get a baby to start signing so parents and caregivers should remember to be consistent and open to interpretation since they are just infants. Parents should be expressive and most of all, to be patient. Parents and caregivers should remember to make the learning experience fun for their baby and should give praise for the baby's efforts at communicating.

Parents who sign with their baby may experience deeper bonding with their baby because they have greater insight into their baby's wants and needs. Parents will also achieve a higher level or trust with their baby because they will be able to understand what the child is trying to tell them. Signing with babies will also give parents and caregivers a great feeling of satisfaction because they can communicate efficiently with the child before he or she can even speak. In the end, these rewards are great for the parents and the child, but the best reward is the deeper bond between the parents and their child thanks to communication via sign language.

Works Cited

Blevins, Lea. (2005, Apr. 26). Babies Taught to Use Sign Language. Oakland Tribune. ANG Newspapers. Retrieved 2 Apr. 2009

Blumberg, Rena Morningstar. (2005, Fall). Baby, Sign to Me! Benefits of Teaching Sign Language to Hearing Infants. Special Delivery. Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators. Retrieved 2 Apr. 2009

Brott, Armin. (2003, Dec. 28). Why Teach Babies Sign Language. Oakland Tribune. ANG Newspapers. Retrieved 2 Apr. 2009

In a message dated 6/1/2006 7:06:07 AM Pacific Daylight Time, tristancaige@_______ writes:

Hello my name is Amber Daniels. 
I have an aunt and uncle that are deaf.  I taught myself sign language well the alphabet when i was 6 form a dictionary to try to talk to her it worked most of the time lol.  Now i have a son who is twenty-one months old and i am teaching him the words not just the alphabet i have been doing it since he was an infant and started to wonder if it was doing any good til a few weeks ago he just started signing cup play ball daddy eat and a few others that i got from ur site and pasted so i could print them and paste then all over my house.  I just wanted to say thank you and wonder if u had any helpful hints on progressing his learning  sincerely yours
Amber Daniels (and Tristan)
It is a numbers game.  Literally, the more often you expose his brain to the signs in context -- the more likely he will pick them up and start using them.
Check your local library for ASL videos (DVDs).  Play those for him on the TV in place of some other children's program (like Teletubbies) and see if he likes it.  Or just have the video playing in the background while doing other activities.  For example, if you are folding clothes, you could have a video of sign language going on the TV instead of a soap opera (or whatever).  If your local library doesn't have videos, then ask the librarian about "interlibrary loan."
-  Dr. Bill Vicars

Also see:  "Advantages in Signing with Babies"
Also see:  "Baby Signs Tour"


Enhancing early communication through infant sign training
Rachel H Thompson 1, Nicole M Cotnoir-Bichelman, Paige M McKerchar, Trista L Tate, Kelly A Dancho
PMID: 17471791 PMCID: PMC1868823 DOI: 10.1901/jaba.2007.23-06
J Appl Behav Anal
2007 Spring;40(1):15-23. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2007.23-06.

"Existing research suggests that there may be benefits to teaching signing to hearing infants who have not yet developed vocal communication. In the current study, each of 4 infants ranging in age from 6 to 10 months was taught a simple sign using delayed prompting and reinforcement. In addition, Experiment 1 showed that 2 children independently signed in a variety of novel stimulus conditions (e.g., in a classroom, with father) after participating in sign training under controlled experimental conditions. In Experiment 2, crying and whining were replaced with signing when sign training was implemented in combination with extinction."


Bonvillian, J. D., Orlansky, M. D., & Novack, L. L. (1983). Developmental milestones: Sign language acquisition and motor development. Child Development, 54(6), 1435-1445. This study observed that babies exposed to sign language from birth started producing signs at an average age of 8.5 months.


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A few notes regarding baby language acquisition:
Some of the early vocabulary of babies arranged according to general frequency levels.





no, IX-(indexing, pointing at things)


up, more


down, bye-bye, home, school, work


hot, cold


mama, dada, baba, nana, papa, hi, uh-oh, please, thank you, help, big, little, happy, sad, mad, scared, tired, hungry, thirsty, dirty, clean, hurt, sick, doctor, nurse


all gone, doggie, kitty, ball, car, book, milk, juice, eat, drink, sleep, bath, shoe, hat, gone, cow, pig, sheep, horse, monkey, lion, tiger, bear, elephant, giraffe, turtle, snake, frog, fish, toy, crayon, pen, pencil, paint, brush, paper, scissors, glue, tape, chair, table, bed, blanket


juice, juice, bus, train, boat, airplane, house, tree, flower, grass, sky, sun, moon, star, water, food, dog, cat, bird, fish