Starting out with signing

We began signing with our children the day they came home. Actually, we started years earlier by signing with our nephews. Signing came very naturally to us, as we’d both taken ASL (American Sign Language) courses and had a keen interest in the language. It certainly didn’t hurt that I use basic sign daily at work.

I will start teaching my first Baby/Toddler Sign Language class at the end of the month. I am both scared and excited to teach this language I love to others. In preparation, this month’s Wordless Wednesdays will all focus on American Sign Language, and using ASL to help children communicate.

How do I start teaching my child sign language?

Babies and Sign Language
gives some good examples:

When you begin teaching babies sign language, you should have complete attention from your baby. You can start with words for things that are commonly done or used involving the baby. These will be words like “eat” and “toy” and “milk” and “book”. Start with a few signs and try not to teach too much too soon.

Some parents start with only the need based words such as “eat” or “drink”. Other parents try to use words that generate baby excitement and interest like “dog”, “cat”, “bird”, etc – if your infant enjoys animals. You as the parent know your child best and can decide the best route to teaching Baby Sign Language.

When teaching babies sign language, try to use the sign every chance you get. When reaching for a book, reading a book, or putting a book away, sign for the word “book”. Hold the book in front of your baby making sure the she or he is looking first at the book and then your hand gesture. You are trying to get your child to not only make the sign but also connect the sign to the object.

When your infant begins signing, you can begin to add commonly used words. After baby has the basics down (such as “eat”, “more”, “milk”, “all done”, etc.) you can then start signing the words “Mommy” and “Daddy” and “apple” (or other favorite snacks/foods).

Here and here are free signing glossaries for some basic ASL words.

Similar Posts


  1. Laura performed in an ASL concert last Friday night for “Lend a Hand.” She started signing at age three with the Signing Time! videos. After she mastered those, she started taking classes. I blogged about it here. Anyway, I lurve the info you pass on. Thanks.

  2. I thought my sons learned some ASL in school, but the other day I realized that some of it was “invented” by them. I know nothing about it besides what I gleaned from watching Blue’s Clues.

  3. Our childminder uses Maketon signing. It was very useful when daughter wanted to say ‘sorry’ but couldn’t actually speak the word because of tension and frustration. She would sign ‘sorry’ then everything was OK again.

  4. Wow, thank you for this.

    I LOVED that shot – what a comedian.

  5. We used some basic signs with our first before she was really talking, but then slowly stopped as she began saying more words. Now that we are starting to use them again with our 6-month old, our toddler is showing a huge interest in using them. She really gets a kick out of it!

  6. And signing isn’t just for babies. My kids and I took several signing classes so that I could tell them to do things without embarrassing them (like telling them to go potty). It is great for communicating in crowds, in church, while I’m on the phone, etc.

  7. As I teacher I used to teach some ASL with my class(when I was regular ed, now I am special education). We learned a word a day to increase vocabulary and for enjoyment. The children loved it.

    As a deaf adult with cochlear implants, I am finding it is so difficult to pick up ASL. I lipread and focus on the mouth instead of the hands. As much as I love the beauty of the language, it is difficult to become fluent. Keep it up.

    I love reading your blog. It gives motivation except it is the end of the year here and I am exhausted. I have so many IEPs to finish out and all that stuff!

Comments are closed.