I was wondering if anyone had any personal experience or advice on infant sign language. I have been signing milk, hungry and all done to my boys for the past few months and I'm not sure if I'm making any progress with it. It seems like they understand "milk" as they get excited and do occasionally making some grabbing motions similar to the sign, but its not consistent.

Does anyone have any tips on how to teach infants sign language, or does anyone have any experience as to how long it took their child to understand and sign back?

** Just an update- My one son is now signing milk all the time for everything and he's very excited about it! My other son does the sign occasionally, but he definitely knows what it means. I got the Baby Einstein "My First Signs" for them and I found a local "Sing & Sign" class for Moms & babies that we're going to start in November. It seems like we are definitely getting somewhere!!

asked 25 Sep '09, 03:45

Shannon%20B's gravatar image

Shannon B
accept rate: 9%

edited 21 Oct '09, 18:28

My boys are 8 months old and I have been signing to them since they were 5 or 6 months.

(25 Sep '09, 13:55) Shannon B

I started using sign language with my daughter when she was about 6 months and I found myself also being easily frustrated, mostly because she would smile and laugh AT me. And because I was a Speech Therapist I was soo excited for her to learn. She finally began signing milk around 11 months and then her signs took off from there. Her first signs were milk, more, all done and ball at about 12-13 months and now she's 2 1/2 and loves to sign even though she talks in full sentences, she probably knows about 30-40 signs.

Her first sign of 'milk' wasn't consistent at first either and she did the same thing as your boys, she would just get excited. I think it takes a while for them to realize they are supposed to do the sign back to you! :) 'More' was a fun sign to teach because she loved cheerios and so I would give her one at a time after I signed 'more' and she picked up on that one faster than 'milk.' I would suggest trying to get your boys to sign 'more' because it's a fun AND easy one for them to pick up on. My daughter's first try at 'more' was more of clapping, but I gave her credit for that and it finally turned into a "more" precise sign. :)

My son who is currently 13 months just started signing 'more' a month ago. I didn't start signing to him until he was about 10 months, so it took him a while to pick up on it too.

Oh, I have to recommend a really fun signing book. It's called I Can Sign Playtime and comes with a great DVD. My kids love it. It's fairly short and entertaining.

My kids also really enjoy Baby Einstein's My First Signs, it's longer, but has more practical signs in it.

BTW I have heard of some babies signing at 6-8 months(having hearing parents), but I think the average might be closer to 12+ months.

Don't give up! Sounds like you are doing good - it's so fun and rewarding once they start signing. I was loving that my daughter finally signed 'milk' INSTEAD of the whining and complaining she had been doing previously!


answered 25 Sep '09, 07:51

Sabrina's gravatar image

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I love the My First Signs video! I'm not a big fan of the other Baby Einstein videos, but I do enjoy this one!

(21 Oct '09, 18:29) Shannon B

We taught our infant son some signs by watching Signing Time videos with him and encouraging him to repeat the signs as he watched. At night before bed, I would query him what the sign was for various things and he made steady progress from that.


answered 30 Sep '09, 15:30

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How old are your sons? We started teaching my son sign language around 11 months, and it took several months of what felt like (at the time) fruitless effort, but then he suddenly started signing back to us. We started with simple things like milk, hungry, thirsty, more, please, help. Like I said, it seemed like one day he just suddenly "got it", and started signing all the time. At that point, it was fairly easy to teach him new signs, and we moved on to specific foods - grapes, raisins, cheese, as well as things like potty, poo, etc.

Having gone through this experience with our son, I would highly recommend it to others. It's been great being able to communicate with him before he's been able to express himself verbally. And it's extremely fulfilling to see him get exactly what food he wants. We have a daughter coming in December, and we will definitely be signing with her as well, although we will probably start even earlier, around 7 or 8 months.

If you're going to continue signing with your sons, a website I highly recommend is Signing Saavy - they have a large collection of signs, each with videos to demonstrate.


answered 25 Sep '09, 04:45

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We found it helpful to sign things that we noticed our daughter was interested in: babies, cats, dogs, and food. We taught her those signs and she picked them up much quicker than random words we tried to teach her. We started around 10 months and didn't see many results for a month or so. But she started to pick it up slowly. In the end, it was rewarding to be able to start communicating before she could speak.


answered 28 Sep '09, 14:59

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I'm a big believer in infant sign language. It was exciting to see our daughter understand that she could communicate with us at a young age.

I made a note to myself that our daughter didn't sign back until she was nine months old. We had been signing to her since she was four months old, but we probably could have waited until six or seven months.

We focused on only a few words: milk, more, and eat (as recommended by Joseph Garcia in Sign with your Baby). Later we added a handful more.

I have a note that at her 12 month appointment we told the pediatrician that our daughter could say or sign about 20 words: mama, dada, hi, ball, hat, cheese, kitty, up, more, teeth, all done (sign), book (sign), block, dog (woof, woof), [ba]nana.

She's quite the conversationalist now and we plan to start infant sign language with her little sister soon. :)


answered 08 Oct '09, 02:51

Phil's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

We started signing with our son at about 7 months, using Signing Time DVDs, series 1 and 2 (mentioned by Matias). At 10 months, our son made his first sign and within another 6 months had a vocabulary of 150 words. Of course, we watched the videos with him and used the signs as part of our daily communication when we could, but even now, a year later, he speaks and signs together. Signing Time was developed by Rachel Coleman, who uses ASL every day with both of her children. You should definitely check out her work and her blog. She's an amazing individual.


answered 30 Sep '09, 20:40

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Does infant sign language have an international standard or is it always ASL-based? Or doesn't it matter because it's such a small subset that will eventually go unused (in a hearing child)?

(09 Feb '10, 12:55) Sambe

I wouldn't wait till a certain age. Parents can sign certain critical words right from birth. You'd be surprised what babies will pick up. Can't hurt, right?

I don't remember when we started signing, but we felt like it worked wonderfully. Our feeling is that signing alleviated a lot of frustration that many toddlers feel when they cannot communicate what they want. That's just our feeling, though. No scientific evidence or anything.


answered 09 Nov '09, 03:10

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Kurt W Leucht
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I've known about 5 or 6 parents who taught their children sign language early and had a tough time un-teaching it later. In their cases, when the child was old enough to speak and knew how to speak, they would make just enough noise to get the parents' attention then use sign language. I don't know if it's a self-consciousness thing or what but 2 of the mothers I know have 2-3 year olds who they'll catch talking up a storm when no one's around but who will clam up and refuse to talk when people come in the room.

I don't want to be totally discouraging of the practice as many here and elsewhere seem to have had positive experiences. However, I have known a small number of frustrated parents who came to regret ever teaching it to their children.


answered 16 Oct '09, 15:56

Dinah's gravatar image

accept rate: 15%

I know a 3 year old that has the same behavior, but didn't know sign language. So there might not be a direct cause and effect link between the two.

(13 Jan '10, 16:10) Dennis Palmer

We start talking to babies as soon as they're born, and it takes them a long time to say anything back. I agree that you probably can't start too early.

That being said, it's probably more about you becoming comfortable signing at all. If your newborn or infant puts their hand to their mouth when they're hungry, just mimic them -- you're signing the word for food/eat!

Similarly, if they rub their eyes, you can sign 'sleep' as you talk to them: "Oh, honey, I see you're rubbing your eyes. Are you sleeeeeepy? (sign sleep)"

Sign for sleep Sign for 'sleep'.


answered 06 Jul '10, 21:40

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edited 06 Jul '10, 21:47

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Asked: 25 Sep '09, 03:45

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Last updated: 06 Jul '10, 21:47