Baby signs

There are so many moments in your baby’s life that will shock you and fill you with happiness that you didn’t know existed.

Just a few on the very long list:

How dang cute they look in those little hooded towels..

the first real word, “mama,” “dada” or in our case: “eye”

when they smile because they’re happy, not just being they’re filling their diaper at that moment

and a big one:

the first clue that they understand you and the conversation becomes two-sided. 

I’m not sure about you, but there’s something about talking to someone all day, but feeling like you’re talking to yourself (but in a higher-pitched voice) that can make you feel a little nutty by the end of the afternoon. Just like when sleep becomes consistent and life gets a lot more fun, the same goes for communication. When it becomes a two-way street, it’s exponentially easier to determine the baby’s needs.

Liv is quite a little talker, but even though she uses so many words on a daily basis, some have been difficult for her to say. The words that she can’t physically pronounce, like “more” and “help,” she can easily sign at the appropriate times.

I read that babies’ visual area develops before their auditory area, so they can determine what is seen more quickly than what is heard. Even though they may want to verbally communicate with you, it can be tricky and they can become frustrated and cry. This where baby signing comes in.

My aunt hooked me up with a lot of baby signing resources while I was pregnant. She’s an educator for deaf children (in addition to running marathons, teaching fitness and raising my little cousins.. basically a rock star), and at first, it seemed a little overwhelming to me. There were SO many signs, and I tend to get confused enough with two languages running around in my brain. So instead of trying to learn all of them, I found the signs I thought would be the most important for us to know, and focused on those. Also, we’ve been sticking with one at a time and when Liv masters the current sign, I’ll add a new one in the mix. This way it gives time for her (and me!) to learn.

Our favorite books so far:

this book is well-organized and thorough, with a great selection of applicable signs

Sign book  1 of 1

and this one, which is fun to read together and do the signs as we read.

Baby signs

 There are a ton of free resources available online, too: 

The signs we’ve focused on:






“Help” has been a HUGE one for us. Since Livi is constantly on the move and wanted to open and use different things, she’ll often get frustrated that she can’t do whatever she’s trying to do (like open the baby gate downstairs). It was turning into a quick recipe for constant tantrums, and then I taught her “help.” I’d ask her if she needed help, would do the sign, and as I helped her, I’d sign it again and say “see, I’m happy to help you. Just ask.” Now, whenever she needs help, she’ll look at me and sign it instead of crying. Just this morning, she started to scream when she wanted her baby off the counter, stopped screaming and signed “help” while saying “baby? baby?”. Rejoice.

Baby signing has been a lifesaver for us, even though at first, I wasn’t quite sure how long it would take to get the hang of it. If you’re just getting started, just be consistent with it and say the word while you sign it each time. I’m definitely not a pro by any means, but “more” seems to be a popular and useful first sign for babies to learn. It took Liv a little while to get it, but once she did, it was pretty incredible and it’s been much easier to teach her new words from there.

Do you sign with your baby or family members? Any unique ones that your baby has learned?


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  1. Kelly on January 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I am not a mother but my boyfriend’s niece signs. I think it is a very neat concept and will most likely try it with my own child one day. Word to the wise: Share with others that your child signs. I never knew that his niece did sign language even still at 3 years old when she can talk clearly and communicate her needs, so when I would be alone with her she would sign to me and I was clueless as to what was happening until her mom one day pointed out to me what she was doing.
    This goes along with teaching your child another language. I used to babysit for a family where the mother was from Germany she worked full time and I was with her sone 8 hours a day. I would read with him and teach him words, he would be saying them back to be in German (unbeknwonst to me) and I would be correcting him in English…..poor kid. LOL I guess some would think it would be common sense to tell the babysitter your kid is bi-lingual….not so much in this case 😉

  2. Lisa on January 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Awe I can just imagine how much of a blessing it would be to see your child progressing like this! So amazing. I’m not a Mom, but the kids I nannied for learned this and I think it’s very, very beneficial. They were often very ahead of children their own ages and it can help your child in other areas, other than communicating!

  3. Casey on January 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Wow, that is great! I honestly never understood the reason for teaching your baby to sign and thought it was just “trendy.” I just didn’t get it—how often will a baby need to communicate with a deaf person? So this is cool to read!

  4. Katy Widrick on January 29, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Your timing is so good! Lucas is obsessed with learning how to sign with Baby, and while she’s not even 4 months yet, he is already using “milk” and “more.”

  5. JBecca on January 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    How old was Liv when you started teaching her? I’m so excited to teach our little guy to sign once he gets here and is ready!

    • Fitnessista on January 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      she was a few months old 🙂

  6. Karinda on January 29, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    How old was Olivia when you started introducing signs to her? We have been trying for about a month with our 7.5 month old and he doesn’t seem to care or get it yet. Thanks!

    • Fitnessista on January 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      we started when she was a few months old, but she didn’t sign back consistently until she was 9 months

  7. erica on January 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    We’ve been using “more” and “please” the majority of the time since my son was about 6 months. He uses “more” sort of like “again” which is super cool that he sees that connection. Him signing “please” is hilarious. It’s usually when he wants something really bad so it’s like a slap on the chest 🙂

  8. Cindy on January 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Great post! I am hoping to teach my daughter some sign language when she is older (she’s only 9 weeks right now). Having some insight on books and how it worked for you definitely helps. 🙂

  9. Beth on January 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    My son is 9 yrs. old now, but signing when he was a little guy around 8-10 months) saved our sanity. Really! Whenever he wanted something, was thirsty, or was done eating, he would just shriek. So we taught him the signs for “more”, “water”, and “all done”. I can’t even tell you how much more pleasant they made mealtime!!!

  10. Courtney on January 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you so much for this!

  11. Heather on January 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    My son has moderate-severe hearing loss and we do sign with him and have since he was about a year old. Our favorite resource is Rachel is the mom of of two girls-one with hearing loss and the other who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy. She is an inspiration. She talks about how children need to learn how to communicate and they can communicate with you a lot earlier with signs than they can verbally. I will tell you it is also great as a parent. I also have a 9 year old who I will sign to stop misbehaving from across the room or soccer field. I sometimes think about how people think it is trendy but I also know how at ease my son will feel if someone can communicate with him. He uses mostly speech except in large spaces where his hearing aids do not work well. Anyway back to signingtime-she does it in a way that isn’t annoying to the parents as well. They have a youtube channel for anyone wanting to look into it as well.

  12. Natalie on January 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    My nephew and niece both learned a little bit of signing and it is such a help to understand them! My nephew has mastered more and please. He’s a little bit of a chunk so he uses this with food ALL the time!

  13. Laura B on January 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I LOVED signing with my son. He was slow to start talking, so it was immensely helpful. I remember the day he put two signs together (eat more) and it was a huge break through. It feels like you’re teaching them forever before they pick it up. At a certain age ( can’t remember) he started picking them up super quick and had a huge vocabulary of signs. I lived the app My Smart Hands. It has videos and was so nice for on the go.

  14. Rachel on January 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. Im 28 weeks pregnant and started getting all baby book prepped! I have never heard of baby signing, what a great idea! my mum is a nursery nurse, and I’m getting my advise mainly from her and partly my midwife, and I know my mum will love this idea! another Amazon purchase to buy!

  15. Hillary on January 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I worked at a daycare/pre-school for a while, and I was blown away by baby sign language. Like Olivia, there were kids under one and a half able to communicate with me via signing. It was fascinating and a huge, huge life saver!

  16. Kristen on January 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    How did Liv sign “more” when she first started doing it?
    Our son will clap his hands when we give him certain foods sometimes and I think he’s trying to say more the best way he can. He also does it when we’re playing. So I’m not sure if he’s trying to say “more” or “again” or if he’s just clapping.

    I like the “help” one. That may be our next sign to try. He’s crawling around pretty good these days and trying to do things himself, which often leads to frustration on his part.

    • Fitnessista on January 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      she did one hand closed and one opened for a while until it turned into the full sign
      and yes, help is an awesome one to know 🙂

  17. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on January 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I think signing is such a great idea for babies before they can fully say words. Definitely would help with communication!

  18. Colleen on January 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Have you seen the Baby Signing Time dvds? There are several volumes, and each one has music videos with a song to teach certain signs, and lots of different little kids demonstrating the sign. I’m REEEEEAAAALLLYYY picky about Tv and music for my son, and I think these are really well done! It’s on amazon instant video if you want to check it out, and here’s the link to the dvd:

  19. Chelsea on January 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I’m not a mom, but I work with children diagnosed with autism (ages 2-6), and a couple of them are non-verbal (so far, at least), so we use basic signs with them. The main ones we teach are “more”, “open”, “help”, and “all done”. Other common ones are “eat” and “drink”. Just enough to help them get their basic needs across 🙂 I agree though, it does take quite a while for them to catch on but if you stick with it, they’ll get it 🙂

  20. Kristen D on January 30, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist and I’m so thrilled to hear that you’re incorporating sign! It can eliminate SO much frustration from children before they are able to communicate verbally. Many parents worry that their children will not speak and will only use signs if they sign with them, but I hope people realize that this is NOT true at all. The goal of all forms of alternative/augmentative communication is to ultimately encourage oral speech if that’s a possibility for that child, but serves to fill-in-the-blanks, if you will, until that language comes in! Keep up the great work! And you’re right… it takes A LONG time for children to learn to use sign, but they understand it long before they use it so the more often you model it, the sooner they will pick it up!

  21. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on January 30, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Signing is great! My brother has Down Syndrome and he used a bunch of signs before he could communicate orally. He definitely used “more” and “done” a lot! I love that you taught Livi “help” and yay for avoiding frustrating shrieking 🙂

  22. Jen on January 30, 2013 at 9:05 am

    My daughter signed more, again, help, please, thank you, dog, drink, milk, all done. Maybe more of them but I can’t remember anymore! Once she started talking a lot around 18 months, she dropped most of the signing in favor of talking. She’ll be 2 soon and is speaking in sentences. I am convinced that signing was a huge help to her language development (and reduction of frustration)! Research does show that baby signers actually talk sooner and have a stronger vocabulary at age 5.

  23. Alissa W on January 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I’ve signed with both my girls since they were about 6 months old. we’re fortunate to have a signing instructor (through Singing Time Academy) here locally, so we took classes. I love that they are learning another language and I have become fascinated with signing and have been able to sign at work with a deaf customer!
    My 2 1/2 year old loves to watch “Signing Time” on PBS (or you can buy the videos). Signing also helped us with potty training – as the people who do signing time have an app called potty time.

  24. Diana on January 30, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I don’t have any children of my own but found this idea brilliant. I had never heard of it before now.

  25. Alicia on January 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Awesome post! Thank you for sharing these little steps with us. I was smiling ear to ear when you said that she finally associated the sign for help with something she wanted. Congrats to you and the Pilot (and Olivia) for sticking with it!

  26. Karissa on January 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’m not a mom, but I think baby sign is such a great idea! I worked with Deaf kids for awhile and ASL itself is so much fun! A friend of mine taught it to her younger siblings, and it helped them develop communication abilities so much faster- I think it may prevent some meltdowns too, since the kiddos get to express what they want. 🙂 Sounds like you have quite a smart kiddo! If she keeps signing for awhile, you’ll probably notice that a lot of her personality will come out through how she signs things- each person signs just a bit differently, just like people tend to speak with different tones, levels of expression, etc. depending on personality.

  27. Shaina Anderson on January 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I love signing with Tripp!! “More” was his first sign and it just looked like he was folding his hands but did it at the appropriate times. He just started signing “milk” and diving for the boobs while sitting on my lap, so I think he has that one down haha. I’m so excited for him to learn more signs!

  28. jennybeth on January 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I am not a mom, but I’m the child of deaf parents. I grew up signing (knew the alphabet by 1.5, even if I couldn’t spell yet). As a small child, it was just easier for me to express my feelings or what I needed in sign, even when it wasn’t a necessity. I’m still very very expressive with my hands, even when I speak English without signing. My friends always tease me about how much I move my hands when I talk.

    I agree with the above posters who said that it’s a fallacy that children who learn to sign do it at the detriment of learning to speak. I not only had an above average vocabulary as a small child, when I was tested for readiness to attend school (developmental testing) and ended up being put in early and the youngest child in my class (until 10th grade, when a kid skipped a grade and took the title from me).

    I’m teaching my small cousins to sign now and they absolutely love it. It’s like a “secret language.” My mom is a nanny for a toddler and has been teaching him sign, as well. He’s using full sentences now! His mom is thrilled because his focus on getting out what he wants seems to keep him on a more even keel (less frustration, etc). Very exciting post to see on here!

  29. katie on January 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Teaching our Olivia help was a godsend. And I don’t know about other toddlers, but she pretty much walks around and anytime she sees food she signs “more” and “please” over and over again. It is pretty cute. She doesn’t say anything verbally, yet, so her daycare has started teaching the colors in sign for her since she isn’t speaking. I thought it was very thoughtful. It is neat to see her pick up on signs so fast as she gets older, especially since she isn’t speaking at 15 months!

  30. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on January 31, 2013 at 6:12 am

    Omg this is so smart!! I’m totally going to do this when I have children. Thanks for the info!

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