Should I teach my baby sign language? Milestones


Baby hand making a sign language sign
Sign language can be an excellent first communication tool for young babies. Here's what experts and other moms think and how they've gone about teaching their little ones.

It's Not a Necessity, but Can Help

"There is evidence that babies can learn some signs before other language. Your child might be able to ask for 'more' or say 'all done' with a sign earlier than learning the spoken phrase. This can be the first true communication parents can experience. And all communication is good." -- Brian Orr, MD, Brian Orr Pediatrics, Gloucester, MA

Phase It In, Then Out

"Sign language is a great way to teach babies the basics of communication and reduce frustration when they get older and know what they want, but do not yet have the expressive language. My advice is to always verbalize along with the gestures and then start to phase out the gestures and focus on using words." -- Avivit Ben-Aharon, MS Ed, MA CCC-SLP, CEO and clinical director, Gr8 Speech Inc.

Signs Appeal to Different Senses

"When demonstrating the sign, parents should also say the word so baby is able to see and hear the word at the same time. By doing this, baby is getting verbal and visual reinforcement of the word, which can help baby learn the word faster." -- Jann Fujimoto, MS, speech-language pathologist, SpeechWorks, Oconomowoc, WI

Signing Can Reduce Stress

"So much baby stress comes from inability to communicate, and for us, sign language reduced some of that inability."

Get Started With Simple Signs

"We taught our daughter the 'more' sign. It helped us a lot before she could talk. She used it when she wanted to eat or continue to do something."

Jump Online and Learn

"The American Sign Language website has all the basic signs. All you do is repeatedly do the sign while saying the word and offering something ... more, drink, please, etc. You can even take your baby's hand and do the sign with her to teach it."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.