Infant Sign Language 

Communicating Infants!

Imagine being able to communicate with your baby long before he is able to verbally express himself. Babies begin to understand simple signs when they are about four months old, and are able to sign on their own by about eight months. Most parents teach their babies how to sign hello and goodbye. Babies learn how to blow a kiss and play peek-a-boo. When babies are taught how to sign, they are able to communicate not only their thoughts, but also their needs, desires and even pain that otherwise may have been misinterpreted.

Parents who have found a way to communicate with their infants have even more ways to reach out to their infant to promote bonding. Learning to sign is simple for both parents and children, as many signs mimic recognizable actions, so taking the next step to communicating with your infants is not at all difficult.

There is another plus to teaching your infant to sign, according to Joseph Garcia in his book Sign with your Baby

“...the children who used signs in their early language showed above-average understanding of English syntax earlier than those who did not use signs.” 

And, according to Acredolo and Goodwyn in their book Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, New Edition, “...the signing babies scored higher in intelligence tests, understood more words, had larger vocabularies, and engaged in more sophisticated play.” 
Learning the peepee sign!  At four months your baby may be able to sign the need to use the toilet!  Read more on our Diaper-Free Infancy page!
Progression of Signs

We began signing to our son on the day he was born. The three signs that he began to recognize first were "come here," "eat," and "pee pee." By the time he was four months old, I was sure that he could understand "come here."  Several times he would be lying on the bed and begin to whimper because he wanted to be picked up. I would sign to him, and he would quietly look at me.  

It was as if he knew that I recognized his need and was on my way, even if I didn’t walk over to him immediately.  Eventually, he began lifting his arms when he wanted me to pick him up. By six months I would sign "eat" and he would arch his back if he wasn’t hungry, before I was even holding him in the cradle position to nurse him. Also, when in a public place, he would arch his back if I signed "pee pee" to him and he didn’t need to go, (be sure to check out the page on Diaper-Free Infancy). I think that by lifting his arms and arching his back, he had figured out a very obvious and simple way of communicating without crying. Sure, all babies give these signs, but I felt that he wasn’t simply signing his needs, he was responding to stimuli and in his own way communicating with me.

Here is the progression of his signing from first signs to vocalized words.

Words Signed at 9 Months
fish, light, pee pee

Words Signed at 10 Months
Hi, Bye bye, duck, look

Words Signed at 12 Months
cat, baby, mama, papa, grandpa, helicopter, airplane, more, banana, STOP! 

Words Signed at 13 Months
Just after my son turned one year old his signing abilities greatly increased.  He now signs very often and makes a great effort to communicate with us.  I have counted over 30 signs that he either signs or understands. 

duck, bird, fish, bear, dog, cat, helicopter, airplane, car, light, milk, tea, water, meat, rice, cracker, cookie, banana, baby, mama, papa, grandpa, grandma, look, eat, drink, play, come, go pee-pee, stop, touch, don't touch, bark, bye bye, hello, high five, one, good job

Words Signed at 14 Months
My son is now able to sign all of the above words.  He has also added these words to his signing vocabulary, bringing the list to over 100!

all done, all gone, hot, more, pain (ache), apple, grape, cheese, pretzel, tea, worm, pig, sheep, butterfly, horse, cow, elephant, crocodile, turtle, monkey, squirrel, mouse, wolf, fox, big, little, dirty, stinky, get, look for, help, drink, sleep, brush teeth, comb hair, show, grow, sun, moon, mountain, tree, flower, rain, snow, bubbles, bath, book, ball, flag, bed, socks, shoes, hat, pacifier, house, boat, bicycle, motorcycle, ceiling fan, head, nose, fingers, ears, eyes, teeth, mouth, hair 

Words Signed at 20 Months
My son is making full sentences with as many as 3 vocalized words and 3 or 4 signs.
Use Infant Signs to help them remember their infancy!

How far back can you remember?  If you're like most other people, you might be able to remember back to age three.  Some can remember things that happened when they were two and a half, others can remember things that happened at three and a half.  So, what happened to all those years in between birth and your earliest memories!  
When my son was little, I wanted to remember everything for him.  As he grew, I really wanted to be sure to provide the best memories for him, just in case he would remember.  What I didn't expect was that he would remember incidents that occurred before he even turned one!
I strongly believe that our earliest memories are linked to our ability to form language and communicate our thoughts to others.   Does the ability to communicate our thoughts coincide with our earliest memories?  Here's what we have experienced:

It was a very warm winter day, and we really needed to get outside and enjoy the sun!  We packed up our eleven month old and headed to the lake to feed the seagulls.  The lake was completely frozen over and there was a huge flock of seagulls out in the middle of the lake.  We started throwing breadcrumbs out onto the lake and the birds came flocking to eat the crumbs.  For the first time, my son signed three words in a row, a whole sentence!  I was shocked to see his little fingers sign "Birds eat bread!"  
Read on to see how this incident played a part in his earliest memories.


11 Months old!


12 Months, 12 Days old!
Twelve days after my son turned one, we were visiting his friend William.  A woman walked by the house with a dog and my son was so excited to see the dog that we just had to take a picture.  He signed dog over and over again.  Months later, we returned to the house and heard a dog barking.  My son immediately started searching for William's dog.  We never did see the dog, (or the owner) again, but the dog stayed in my son's memory.

Over a year after these incidents occurred,  I was sorting through some old photographs and I came across a photo of us at the lake that day.  There is not a bird in the photo, not a breadcrumb in the photo, but my son picked up the photo and cried out in his newfound voice "Birds eating bread Mama!" I quickly dug out the photo of him with the dog, without saying anything I just set it down where he would find it.  Sure enough, he started jumping up and down saying "William's dog, Mama!"  William is not in the photo, you can't even see his house in the photo!  Perhaps these very early memories will fade or be absorbed by new happenings in his life, but my belief is that he had remembered them in his infancy because he was not only impressed by what he was learning, but also able to communicate his excitement with others.  Infant Sign Language helped him to be an active participant in the world around him.

We went out apple picking.  My husband climbed the trees and threw the apples down to me.  My little boy had a wonderful day.  He not only signed "apple" over and over again during the day, he also said "apple" for the first time.  Throughout the day he constantly retold in signs how his father had climbed "Up, up, up," and then thrown the apples down.  Then he showed how Mama caught the apples and put them in the bag.   See how his hands blur as he signs how Mama caught the apples.


18 Months

The signing didn't stop at the end of the day.  Weeks, months and now over a year has passed and he still brings up the topic of our apple picking adventure.  "Remember, Mama?"  He talks of picking apples with us and with his friend, who was also there.  He goes into detail about things that happened during the day.  All from his own memory.  And, his reminiscing always is dotted with the phrase, "Remember, Mama???"   I can't help but believe that his ability to sign influenced the capturing of these early memories.  This memory in particular is not likely to fade, it is too much a part of his daily thoughts. (An update: At four years my son still remembers this apple picking adventure!)

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Signing Classes and Workshops 

Are you looking for baby sign language resources, parent handbooks, children's videos, or play class/workshop programs? Are you a parent, professional, or baby sign language instructor wishing to enhance early communication and extend learning in infants and toddlers? Welcome to the world of Signing Smart™-programs and products designed by Wide-Eyed Learning, LLC, an organization founded by 2 young mothers and child development experts that is devoted to facilitating development in young children. Play classes and workshops based on their materials are now offered in 14 cities around the country.

Available directly from SigningSmart.com

Wide-Eyed Learning Beginner Handbook 

 Wide-Eyed Learning Intermediate Handbook

Wide-Eyed Signing Video

These products and more at:

www.signingsmart.com

Signing Smart Complete Starter Kit-DVD

For those just beginning to sign as well as those well on their way. The Complete Starter Kit will give you the motivation and tools to make signing successful in your family during infancy, toddlerhood, and even the preschool years. Perfect baby shower, new baby, or 1st birthday gift!

Signing Flash Cards
Introducing 100 American Sign Language (ASL) signs for the words that babies and small children need most.  The eye-catching illustrations help young children to recognize common objects, actions, and emotions. Parents and educators can use the cards to facilitate learning signs that children can use to communicate before they can speak. 

These flash cards can be presented individually to facilitate learning signs or in a 4 x 6 photo album to create a custom “book” that focuses on the words and concepts children are learning. The ASL sign and hint on the back side help adults remember the signs.

   

Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards,  Set One: First Words
by Nancy Cadjan, Sign Babies (Cards - June 2004)

Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards,  Set Two: Around the House
by Nancy Cadjan, Sign Babies (Cards - September 2004)

Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards,  Set Three: Animals
by Nancy Cadjan, Sign Babies (Cards - September 2004)

Sign Babies ASL Flash Cards,  Set Four: Family Life
by Nancy Cadjan, Sign Babies (Cards - September 2004)

Signing Smart Flashcards: First Signs

Signing Smart Flashcards: Animal Signs

Signing Smart Flashcards: Food Signs

Signing Smart Flashcards: Year-Round Holiday Signs


Signing "Rain" at 14 months

 


Please and Thank You -11 months

 


More - at 9 and 14 months 
Notice the maturing control of hand and fingers.

 


Papa -13 months

 

 

More great links:
My baby can talk through Sign Language - Sign language is an effective way of communication between babies and parents at an early stage thus creating a special bond that is so important for healthy child development.  Awesome online signing dictionary in video format!

 

Sign2me in Maryland
Sign2me Forum

 

Wee Sign 
Signing Baby
Hand Speak 
ASL Web

 

Sign Babies - contains information and guidance on signing with your infant or toddler including a Seven Steps to Success Guide free to download and links to relevant research.  

 

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Articles:

Baby Wearing

Breastfeeding

Infant Sign Language

Natural Infant Hygiene (Diaper-Free)

Co-Sleeping

Bilingual Infancy

Instinctive Mothering

Loving the Lost Baby

Working from Home

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Products:

EC Open Crotch Pants

Baby Sling

Face Kushes, Chiropractic/Massage Towels