baby care

Top 5 useful signs to teach your baby

Teaching your baby sign language sounds hard, but I promise that it’s actually really simple. Baby signing is about building on a baby’s natural ability to gesture—to wave, reach, or clap. Have you ever heard anyone talk about how hard it was to teach a baby to wave bye-bye? Of course not! If you wave and say “bye-bye” to a baby enough times, he’ll start to mimic you and eventually do it unprompted. Baby sign language works in the exact same way. I’ve included some tips below to take the intimidation out of the teaching process. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun!

1-Milk

Open and close your dominant hand (the hand you write with) a few times.

Memory tip

It’s as if you are milking a cow.

When to use the sign

If you think your baby is getting ready for a feeding, you can sign MILK and ask, “Do you want some MILK?” You can reinforce the sign further by signing and saying it while your baby is drinking milk, whether bottle- or breastfeeding.

What to look for

Your baby’s sign for MILK might look like she’s waving to you. Or, if her hand is touching her body when she signs MILK, it might look like she’s scratching an itch.

2-Eat

Bring your fingers and thumb together and tap them to your lips a few times.

Memory tip

It’s like you’re putting food into your mouth.

When to use the sign

EAT is a great sign to introduce when your baby starts eating solid food. Sign EAT when you suspect your baby is getting hungry and while he is eating. You can also sign EAT if he is watching you or a pet eating.

What to look for

Your baby might sign this by sticking his finger (or even his whole hand) in his mouth. He might also pat his face or head.

Similar signs

The signs for EAT and FOOD are the same so you can use this sign interchangeably with both spoken words.

My first daughter signed EAT by touching her open hand to her ear. I was new to signing and had no idea she was signing EAT. I thought she had an ear infection! One day she touched her ear immediately when I asked her if she wanted to EAT and it finally clicked that she was signing. Remember that babies will do their best to copy the signs you show them, but it’s completely normal for their early attempts to be adorably imperfect.

3-More

Bring your fingers and thumbs together on both hands and then tap the tips of your fingers together in front of your body.

Memory tip

It’s like you’re adding things together each time your fingertips touch.

When to use the sign

MORE is often used when babies are eating: “Do you want MORE?” This causes some babies to think that MORE = FOOD, and they will start to sign MORE whenever they are hungry. To avoid this confusion, make sure to sign MORE when you are doing anything your baby enjoys, such as singing, bouncing, or even belly kisses! In time, your baby will start letting you know when she wants MORE, and not just when it comes to food.

What to look for

Babies might sign MORE by clapping their hands or banging their fists together. Or they might touch their pointer finger to their opposite palm.
Parents often tell me that their babies use the sign for MORE when they really want something, even after they start talking. As a young toddler, my own little one used to say and sign MORE for emphasis to let me know she was serious.

4-All done

Start with your hands open and palms facing you, then twist your wrists so your palms are facing out. Repeat this motion a few times.

Memory tip

It’s like you’re brushing something away from you.

When to use the sign

Use this sign whenever you wrap up an activity with your little one. You can ask, “Are you ALL DONE?” when you think he is done eating. Sign and say ALL DONE when you’re about to take him out of the high chair, car seat, or bathtub. Before you know it, he will be letting you know when he’s had enough by signing ALL DONE instead of fussing. You can also use this sign when you say “finished” or “the end.”

What to look for

Baby might sign this by waving or flapping one or both hands, or by sweeping his hands side to side.

5-Bed

Memory tip

It’s like you’re resting your head on a pillow.

When to use the sign

Say and sign BED whenever your baby is acting sleepy and every time you put her down for a nap and at bedtime. She will make the connection with the sign and start to let you know when she’s feeling tired. You can also use this sign as an alternative to “sleep” or “sleepy.”

Similar signs

Sometimes you see this sign done with the head resting on both hands together (palms touching), which is another acceptable way to sign BED.

My younger daughter would sign BED anytime she saw a baby sleeping and even when a character in a book had his or her eyes closed!

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