Baby Signs

January 29, 2014

{Eat}

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I’ve received a few requests for a post on baby signs! I am by no means a signing expert, but Mazen knows about 35 signs, so it’s safe to say we’re a signing success.

Signing has been SO helpful for our family, and we really can’t imagine going through these months without it. What is interesting is there are words that Mazen only speaks and doesn’t know the sign for (like “sit”) and other words that he signs all the time but hasn’t learned to say yet (like “moon”) so in some ways being able to sign has doubled his vocabulary.

{Milk}

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Signing is great because babies can gesture long before they develop verbal skills. So signing enables you to communicate two ways earlier. Despite what you might think, babies who sign talk earlier with a larger vocabulary than babies who don’t (according to our sign instructor’s materials!) The signs are the same ones used in American Sign Language (although some are modified to make them easier for a baby). It’s so easy to do, so why not?

{Bread}

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We started our signing journey by taking an in-home class that I bought in a local silent auction for about $20: Baby Signs with Gillian. Gillian came to our house and told us how to get started. Her information was good, and it was very simple: say the sign and do it while looking at your baby. Apparently when your baby learns to clap and wave bye-bye they are ready to sign, so it’s probably no surprise that Mazen wasn’t quite ready at 7 months when we took our class.

Here’s what I wrote at 7 months:

“We’ve started trying out baby sign language after we had a class with Baby Signs with Gillian. So far so good! Our most used signs are eat, more, mama, dada and sleep. It’s hard to sign to him when he’s in my arms, so nurse, nap and others are harder for me to remember to do. I really want to keep at it though!”

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Mazen started doing his first signs around 11 months and that’s when we added a lot more.

Here’s what I wrote right before his first birthday:

“On the communication front we have made HUGE progress this month: sign language!!! M knows “all done” and “milk,” although he doesn’t always use them appropriately. We think he has “all done” down pat though. He started doing milk during nursing one day and I could barely contain my excitement that he had made the connection. He has also started clapping, and I think he might be doing that as “more” but I’m not sure. The sign language break through has been so exciting though, so now I’m using a lot more. I use the signs for diaper change, cheese, eat, cat, thank you, please, book, drink, and water (among a few others) as much as I can. He also has learned to point to things when he wants more of them, so that has been a helpful “sign” too.”

My advice would be to pick 2-3 of your most common moments (like “milk”, “all done” and “more”) and focus on those only. Once your baby gets those, then introduce all the other signs you can muster. Mazen is to the point now (at 16 months) where we can show him a sign once or twice and he’s got it. We don’t even have to continue doing the sign ourselves. When we see he’s into something (like the moon) we Google the sign for it and teach it to him. Sometimes we make slight changes in the sign if it’s complicated, and you can really just create your own if you want. Now at 16 months we sign all the time –

“Do you want an apple or banana for breakfast?” –> sign for apple

“Do you want more bread?” –> sign for more followed by bread

After turning off the water in the bathtub –> sign for more followed by water

“Look at the moon!” —> sign for moon

Driving down the highway —> sign for car plus a car sound!

We were given these two books as hand-me-downs and after just a few reads through M learned most of the signs. “Sleepy” is particularly cute! He loves for me to test him to see how many he knows. Show off!

{More}

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A list of Mazen’s signs at 16 months:

    1. All done
    2. More
    3. Eat
    4. Water
    5. Milk
    6. Bib
    7. Cereal
    8. Bread
    9. Cheese
    10. Ice cream
    11. Hot
    12. Apple
    13. Banana
    14. Orange
    15. Moon
    16. Sleepy
    17. Blanket
    18. Book
    19. Stars
    20. Bath
    21. Toothbrush
    22. Quiet
    23. Hug/Love
    24. Fish
    25. Bunny (Cheddar Bunnies!)
    26. Up
    27. Down
    28. Stretch
    29. Hat
    30. Please
    31. Thank you
    32. Open
    33. Close
    34. Broccoli
    35. Light

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 KK January 29, 2014 at 10:28 am

Sounds like Mazen is very receptive to signing! I’ve been trying to teach my 14mo old more signs – so far he will only do “more”, “milk”, and “eat”. I’ve pretty much given up because when I show him a sign he looks at me and shakes his head and says no! He’s been doing that for at least a month and now when I try hard to teach him a sign he usually just learns the word and says it instead. I’m thinking he just doesn’t like signing?!

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2 lauren January 29, 2014 at 11:11 am

This is so timely, my six-month-old just started clapping! I’ve been thinking about looking for some resources, but now that you’ve dropped them in my lap it is time to get started.

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3 coco January 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

this is so interesting. The daycare teaches some signs but at age of 16 months she doesn’t know many yet. maybe I should start it at home too. Is there any book that you’d recommend for us to start?

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4 Beth S January 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm

We do a lot of sign with our little ones as well. There is a series of videos for kids and babies called Signing Time. You can check them out online at signingtime.com. They are awesome! Both my kids (and my husband and I) have learned a lot of signs from the videos. They probably have them at your local library and they have some episodes on Netflix. We love signing with our kids.

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5 Amelia @ Eating Made Easy January 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm

I love that he knows bread. That would be a high priority for any baby of mine, too ;)

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6 Jeanie January 29, 2014 at 6:59 pm

That’s awesome! When my kids were little, no one had even thought of doing this.

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7 Carolyn January 29, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Little Mazen is so smart! I think learning a second language as a baby/young child is so great for kids. Do you plan to continue to teach/use ASL with Mazen even after he’s fully verbal? Or is this something just to make communicating with him easier as a toddler?

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8 KERF January 31, 2014 at 7:07 am

Probably not since we just don’t know that many signs

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9 Andrea @The Skinny Chronicles January 29, 2014 at 11:56 pm

So cool! I haven’t had much luck w signs, but you have inspired me to keep trying!

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10 MinnieB January 30, 2014 at 4:38 am

That is amazing that Mazen knows to sign for ‘more + water’ that would mean he knows how to put word together to form sentences. How did you teach him more abstract ideas like ‘thank you’ and ‘please’?

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11 KERF January 31, 2014 at 7:08 am

Just by showing him the sign and saying please and then saying “say please”before he wanted something. I’m not sure he gets it all the way yet.

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12 Sarah January 30, 2014 at 8:43 am

Thank you for sharing this! My son is 8.5 months old and I thought we were too late to even start since most of the moms I know who do this start around 6 months. But he has yet to clap, so I think I’m good! I will check out these books :)

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13 Terita @ Kid Can Eat January 30, 2014 at 9:45 am

What fun! Mazen seems to love signing with you. We did signs with my son, who’s now almost 3, and like you we noticed that it expanded his vocabulary greatly in the early months. Once his speech took off, we abandoned the signs, but I’ll always remember how he’d swirl his finger at the sight of a fan, or pat his head excitedly when he saw someone wearing a big hat. :)

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14 Nicole January 30, 2014 at 10:01 am

I’d be interested in knowing what books you recommend too. My baby is almost 7 months, so this is some thing that I would like to start doing with her.

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15 Lisa @bitesforbabies January 30, 2014 at 11:43 am

I love this! I SO wish I had done this with my kids!!!! I can’t believe how many words he knows!

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16 Stacey January 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I find this all so interesting! I do not have children, but would love to incorporate it some day when I do. In college I took ASL for 2 years for a ‘fun’ elective and it was by far my absolute favorite class and a memory I will never forget. Unfortunately since I am not active in ASL anymore, I hardly remember it but I was once very good. It’s amazing how fast your hands can get to moving :) My teacher was legally deaf – our very first day of class was taught with an interpreter and every day afterwards for 2 years was strictly by sign. If we were desperate, we were allowed to write it down on paper for her. It was an amazing experience getting to learn about a community (each city usually has a deaf community with local events) I did not even realize existed!

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17 Rachel January 31, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Signing can be a great way for babies to begin communicating; glad it’s been successful for your family. As a language teacher and early childhood educator, I think it’s important to share and acknowledge that not all children who sign first talk earlier and with a bigger vocabulary. That’s not the case with many kids I’ve taught – nor was it the case when I was born some 30 years ago! I was an early talker with a large vocabulary and there was not nearly the baby signing movement that exists today. As you noted, that is your instructor’s belief; I’m offering another perspective also based on professional experience. Bottom line: signing can be great – but not doing it doesn’t mean your child will talk later and with a more limited vocabulary, nor does signing necessarily dictate the opposite.

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18 sharon February 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm

This so cool. Love that he wants to be tested! Please do a video of him signing what he knows, that would be so incredible!

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19 Justeen February 1, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Wow, Mazen knows a lot of signs and I am so impressed that he can put two signs together! I am a speech language pathologist at a preschool, working with kids with developmental and language delays, so it is amazing to see how advanced Mazen is!

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20 Candice February 1, 2014 at 11:05 pm

My little babe is four months and we continuously say milk with sign. Wish us luck on our journey! ❤️

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21 Claritza February 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Have you seen the book Sabuda and Reinhart Pop-Ups: Baby Signs?

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22 Kel February 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Thanks for posting this – I was one of the ones that asked about it. Really appreciate it!!!

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