Why Teaching Babies Sign Language Makes Life Easier for Parents

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5 Ways Teaching Babies Sign Language will Make Your Life Easier

I know that some people, upon hearing about teaching babies sign language, roll their eyes and conjure an image of a child development zealot frenetically showing their child flash cards of black and white images and making signings for every word imaginable while Mozart plays in the background (think Kari from The Incredibles). <—I’m think of a particular family member of mine here. 🙂

If you are a parent who has ever taught a baby to sign, or if you’ve ever seen a baby interact through signs, you know that teaching babies sign language is not simply the work of overzealous parents who think they can see every new synapse that forms in their child’s brain.  There are actual, observed benefits of teaching hearing babies to sign.

Here are some of the benefits of teaching babies sign language:

(As documented by Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn)

  • reduces frustration
  • allows infants and toddlers to express both emotions (e.g., happy, sad, afraid,mad) and feelings (e.g., sleepy, cold, hurt), both to label their own states, and to comment on the states of other children, showing early evidence of empathy.
  • increases “active” learning.
  • encourages babies as early as 9 months to engage in multi-utterance conversations
  • Improves language and vocabulary to boost verbal development

Infants have the understanding of language and motor skills necessary to communicate through sign language much earlier than they have the capacity to vocalize words. In fact, many hearing babies who are introduced to sign language begin signing at 6 and 10 months.  If a child can express what they want or need through sign language there will be far fewer tears and less frustration for parent and child.

I’ve taught my own babies sign language, and was continually awed by how much they understood, felt, and communicated through signs. One day my husband and I were sitting in church with our 17 month old son. He was just learning to talk and had about 10 or so words he could say–mama, dada, ball, bottle, dog, etc. From the back of the chapel he heard an infant crying. My son turned to my husband and I and signed, “Baby” “Cry” “Sad”. In that instant we had our earliest peek into my son’s empathy toward other children. After the church meeting was over he ran up to the baby and tried to cheer the baby up while signing “happy”.

Some parents worry that teaching their children to sign will delay their verbal development.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Recent research shows that introduction to sign in infancy may actually improve language and vocabulary. Babies are gaining significant language and vocabulary knowledge as they learn to sign that will give them a boost when they begin speaking.

My second son was a prolific signer. He knew over a hundred signs when he began talking. By age 18 months he was speaking in 3 word sentences.

Many parents and practitioners have also found signing to be effective for children with autism, down syndrome, speech delays, and non-verbal learning disorder.

Here are some great links for more information:
Signing with your baby or toddler babycenter.com
Michigan State University American Sign Language Browser
You can also search baby signing or baby sign language on YouTube. Type in “baby signing time” for lots of cute signing videos for toddlers.

The Signing Time and Baby Signing Time videos by Two Little Hands are my favorite way for teaching babies sign language. Short and filled with music and cute animation, the Baby Signing Time videos are perfect to watch and practice with your baby or toddler. You can read my review of Baby Signing Time here.

About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. I never though of teaching my son to sign... interesting. Maybe I should since i took sign language in high school. Anyways... I found you through a blog hop and am now your newest follower.
  2. Great post! I love baby sign! It has been so wonderful for Avery. I see all the benefits you discuss but the biggest one for her so far is that is reduces frustration. It's easier for her to tell us what she wants or needs and we can then help her. It's so great!
  3. KyFrugalista says
    I wish I would have taught my daughter to sign when she was a baby. She can sign a couple of things now - hungry, thirsty, please - but only because my neice (same age-4) has a hearing impairment associated with DiGeorge's Syndrome and she had to sign for the longest time and still has some speech issues. My daughter just picked up on her gestures in the last year.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and following. I am now following you on GFC and Networked Blogs. Have a great day!
  4. my son is three and non verbal, without signs he would have no communication at all, many of my friends now sign, my daughter is going to teach her baby signs when she is born soon and I'm due in january, it will be automatic to sign to my new baby!x
    • That is wonderful that you'll all be able to communicate with one another. It is just amazing to see how much little children and babies who don't speak actually know when they use their signs.