Before Words: Using Baby Sign Language to Connect with Your Child

Using Baby Sign Language to Connect with Your Child -

Guest post by Kimberly of The Lion of Design

Our son looks up at us determined as he grunts and points insistently. My husband and I look at each other puzzled and begin to helplessly point at everything on the counter as our child becomes more and more discouraged.

He clearly knows what he wants or needs from us, but is simply not able to communicate it. This is incredibly frustrating for all of us.

There is a definitive period of time between years one and two when children develop a level of understanding at a much faster rate than they develop words.

This desire to communicate certainly helps them to develop verbal language, but also adds to a behavioral period known to most parents as the “terrible twos.” Fueled by the constant frustration of being misunderstood, young children often resort to whining, crying, and throwing tantrums.

Giving your child the gift of baby sign language helps to bridge the gap before words. Instead of helplessly pointing as your child grunts and whines, children are able to let you know exactly what they need with a simple gesture. Language is often developed faster in children who learn signing simultaneously with words. Whining is no longer acceptable in a household that offers the tool of signing, and young children are able to advance in making the connection between their gesture and the word continually used with it.

Our experience with baby sign language

My husband and I watched a sweet little eighteen month old boy for ten days while his parents were traveling. Because I was not his mother and was unfamiliar with his habits and needs, he became constantly frustrated with our lack of communication. Even though he would only be with us for a short time, I decided to try to teach him some of the baby signs that we were using with our son.

In only a day or two of incorporating the signs consistently, our little friend began using them regularly and appropriately! He was also excited about this new ability and advancement. My husband and I noticed that his behavior began to change drastically as he became more confident with using the signs, and his communication through whining was significantly reduced.

connecting with your baby

Image from

It was exciting to see this little guy making a connection with us despite his lack of words.

We have since had a similar experience with our own son, whom we have been using baby sign language with since he was only several months old. When he tells us that he is hungry or wants more to eat, it is expected of him to ask politely using his sign language and the attempted corresponding word. Any parts of a meltdown are unacceptable and our son knows that he cannot get what he wants by acting in that manner.

Baby sign language has unlocked a door for our child that has allowed him to communicate with us and learn language at a fast pace. He has confidence and security in knowing that his parents understand him and can provide for his needs when he asks us. We are also able to provide him with more and more signs as his horizons and curiosity expand. The more his little brain wants to learn and absorb, the more words and gestures we provide him with.

As with learning any foreign language, it is helpful to have the image before you in order to connect it to the new word. Because a young child is not capable of physically showing his caregivers what he needs, he can do so with a standard understood gesture. Baby sign language allows for the fluid transition between the period of comprehension before words and the free ability of expression through language.

Baby sign language can be accessed for free online from several sites with corresponding videos. is a great site to get you started! There are also many opportunities offered for free at public libraries and community programs.

Would you like to give baby sign language a try?

FB picKimberly Cook is a wife, stay-at-home mom, writer, speaker, and blogger. She blogs on Faith, Art, and Motherhood at

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  1. says

    My son and daughter in law did this with my grandson from about the age of three months, more as an experiment than anything else…boy, could that boy ‘talk’ even before he could physically talk. It was absolutely amazing. Grandson is now nine years old. They also tried it with their second child, who is now four, but she just wasn’t interested at all. But once she could physically talk, she only stops when she is asleep.

    Can highly recommend trying baby sign language
    Joy recently posted..Saturday DinnerMy Profile

  2. says

    I definitely noticed a change in my son when he was able to convey a few things to us by signing. I started showing him a few things close to the 1 year mark and I really worked for us. I didn’t want to teach him too much for fear that he would want to use just sign language and refuse to try to talk (I’ve heard this happens with some families). But I think the small amount that I showed him really helped. Besides being around him all day and knowing his habits to be able to figure out what he wants even when he’s frustrated and whines now, this is definitely a lifesaver. :)
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  3. says

    I’ve tried doing with my son but he is just not interested , the were only some sign language I didn’t know I was doing but we’re natural , such as food (when he wanted to eat ) but other than that he looked at me like I was a clown.. I will try with my 1 year old as he is happy to grunt all the time or cry.

  4. Chelsea says

    My husband and I did signing with our eldest. It made such a big difference, he barely cried – instead he just made the sign when he wanted milk or was hungry. It was very special to be able to understand his moments, like when he would get excited about seeing an ant.

  5. Rae says

    Great post! My child is nonverbal and turning five and honestly we both had to learn sign language cause even after three years of speech child is still not speaking. Child has other disabilities as well. Before learning sign language, we both learned “baby sign language” it may not have brought any Speaking words by my child, but it has helped my child not be so frustrated. Daycare and preschool also would use basic baby sign language with my child to help child not become so frustrated. We have visited several specialists and my child has been in speech therapy and still no improvements but the only thing that really helped was some baby sign language that I learned and taught my child from some books. Also, from a DVD that goes with the book.

    • says

      It sounds like you have used this to make great strides with your child! I am sure it is helping much more than you see. Thanks for sharing your story!!


  1. […]              Chic of the Week: Before Words: Baby Sign Language Our son looks up at us determined as he grunts and points insistently. My husband and I look at each other puzzled and begin to helplessly point at everything on the counter as our child becomes more and more discouraged. He clearly knows what he wants or needs from us, but is simply not able to communicate it. This is incredibly frustrating for all of us. Continue […]

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