Research on baby sign language has found that teaching baby signs improved cognitive and emotional development. Far from slowing down speech, baby sign language actually increases the rate of verbal development and at the same time increases the parent/child bond.
The most significant research was an NIH-funded study comparing two groups of 11-month-old babies. One group was taught baby sign language. The second group was given verbal training. Surprisingly, the signing group were more advanced talkers than the group given verbal training. The lead of the signing group continued to grow, with the signers exhibiting verbal skills three months ahead of the non-signers at two years old. Their lead seemed to shrink a little after two years old, but even at three years old, the signers were still ahead1.
The authors of the NIH study followed up with the children at eight years old. Surprisingly, there was still a difference. Signers showed IQ’s 12 points higher than the non-signers, even though they had long since stopped signing. This put the signers in the top 25% of eight year olds, compared to the non-signers, who were close to average2.
Results like these have led to research on how signing could be used to improve early infant education. This research has turned up a whole host of benefits to signing. Some of these benefits include making mothers feel better about themselves and more “tuned in” to their baby, reducing baby distress and improving communication between parent and child3.
Now keep in mind that these studies have all been relatively small – the NIH-funded study, for example, had only 100 babies. However, these early results look very promising. These results, combined with all the anecdotal reports from signing parents, gives a lot of reason to be very optimistic about the results from future baby sign language research.
1. Susan W. Goodwyn, Linda P. Acredolo and Catherine A. Brown. Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development, Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24, 81-103 (2000). Link to paper
2. Linda P. Acredolo, and Susan W. Goodwyn, The Longterm Impact of Symbolic Gesturing During Infancy on IQ at Age 8, International Conference on Infant Studies (July 18, 2000: Brighton, UK).
3. Claire D. Vallotton, Catherine C. Ayoub, Symbols Build Communication and Thought: The Role of Gestures and Words in the Development of Engagement Skills and Social-Emotional Concepts During Toddlerhood, Social Development 19:3,601-626 (August 2010) Link to abstract
If you found this information useful, check out our award-winning baby sign language kit. It includes more than 600 signs, covers advanced teaching methods for faster results, and includes fun teaching aids like flash cards.
The Deluxe Baby Sign Language Kit, bundles together everything you need to get started with signing in one box, at a steep discount. The kit includes: (1) Baby Sign Language Guide Book; (2) Baby Sign Language Dictionary; (3) Baby Sign Language Flash Cards; and (4) Baby Sign Language Wall Chart.
Baby Sign Language Guide Book shows you how to teach your child how to sign. The book begins with a Quick Start Guide that will teach you your first signs and get you ready to sign in 30 minutes. As your baby progresses, you can delve into more advanced topics like combining signs to make phrases, using props, and transitioning to speech. (Regularly $19.95)
Baby Sign Language Dictionary contains over 600 signs, including the most common words, the alphabet and numbers. The dictionary helps you expand your child’s vocabulary and has the breadth of coverage that lets you follow any child’s natural interests. Each sign is illustrated with two or more diagrams, showing you the starting position, the ending position, and intermediate motion. This makes learning new signs easy. (Regularly $19.95)
Baby Sign Language Flash Cards include 52 sturdy board (4×6 inches) flash cards, covering a variety of basic signs. The flash cards allow you to teach words, such as animal names, that Baby is not exposed to in everyday life. The face of the flash cards shows the word and image for the child. The back of the flash cards show how the sign is performed – a handy reminder for the adult. (Regularly $24.95)
Baby Sign Language Wall Chart includes 22 basic signs and makes a handy reminder for caregivers. The Baby Sign Language Wall Chart covers basic signs, like eat, drink, and sleep. Hang the poster in Baby’s nursery to help babysitters or other occasional caregivers learn and decode the most commonly used baby signs. (Regularly $9.95)
100% Signing Guarantee
Your baby signs to your complete satisfaction, or you get a full refund.
No questions. No time limits. No regrets.
Baby Sign Language Guide Book
Learn the best techniques for effectively teaching baby sign language. Including:
• Quick Start Guide – learn the first 10 signs and the basic principles required to start teaching your baby to sign (Chapter 1).
• Advanced Teaching Methods – use teaching aids like books, flash cards, and toys to keep lessons interesting and challenging (Chapter 5).
• Phrases – teach your baby to combine signs and communicate more complex thoughts (Chapter 6).
• Taming the Terrible Twos – reduce frustration and tantrums by enabling your toddler to communicate (Chapter 7).
• Transitioning to Speech – use sign language to expedite and improve speech development (Chapter 8).
Sarah learned her first 10 signs at six month and it made our lives much easier. Instead of screaming, she could tell us when she was hungry, thirsty, or tired. She learned another 50 signs by nine months and that was a blast. Now she is talking much earlier than the other children in her preschool and we think it is because of her signing.
We can’t imagine missing out on all the little things she shared with baby sign language. Thank You!
– Bennett & Melissa Z., CA
“It’s easy to see why so many parents swear by it, why child care centers include it in their infant and toddler classrooms, and why it has become so commonplace as an activity of daily learning … we approve.”
Heading Home With Your Newborn (Second Edition)
Dr. Laura A. Jana MD FAAP & Dr .Jennifer Shu MD FAAP
American Academy of Pediatricians
Baby Sign Language Flash Cards
52 high quality flash cards (4 x 6″). Featuring:
• Clean Images – real life pictures, isolated on a white background to make learning easier.
• Signs on the Rear – diagrams on the back illustrating the signign motion in case you need a reminder.
• Baby Friendly – printed on thick stock so little hands can play with the cards and they will live to play another day.
I was thrilled to see how easy the signs were for Abigail (3) and Eden (21 months). Much to my surprise they could figure out many of the signs from the flashcards on their own.
– Carrie P., TX
Study: Signing Enriches
“The Sign Training group told us over and over again … [signing] made communication easier and interactions more positive.”
“these data demonstrate clearly that … [signing] … seems to “jump start” verbal development”
“can facilitate and enrich interactions between parent and child”
Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development
Dr. Susan Goodwyn, Dr. Linda Acredolo, & Dr. Catherine Brown
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior
Baby Sign Language Dictionary
The Baby Sign Language Dictionary includes :
• Words (500+) – learn signs for nearly every topic of interest.
• Letters – sign the alphabet and teach basic spelling.
• Numbers (0-10) – introduce counting and basic mathematics.
Nicholas loves his signs and it lights up our lives every time he shares one of his little secrets. He is so observant, and we would miss it all without the signs.
– Donald Family, NY
Baby Sign Language Wall Chart
The full color wall chart (24 x 36″) includes 17 everyday signs. Use the wall chart for:
• Caregivers – help babysitters and other caregivers learn the basic signs so they can understand baby’s signs.
• Family – teach family the basic signs so they can join in the fun.
Everyone thought I was nuts when I started. A month later, all my friends saw Michelle’s first signs. Then they wanted to know how they could start.
Michelle is talking now and doesn’t sign much anymore, but it gave her a headstart over other children her age. Everyone says she talks like a three year old. Now she is helping me teach her baby brother Jordan how to sign.
– Adelaide S., CA
Study: Better in School
A group of second graders who signed as infants, performed better academically than a control group six years later. The signers had a 12 IQ point advantage.
Longterm Impact of Symbolic Gesturing During Infancy at Age 8
Dr. Linda P. Acredolo (Professor, U.C. Davis)
Dr. Susan W. Goodwyn (Professor, California State University)
100% No Regret Guarantee
Your baby loves signing, or a full refund.
As you can tell, we love Baby Sign Language. It transformed the way we interacted with our children, and we want every family to have the opportunity. Baby Sign Language will make a difference for your child. Give it a try.
If for any reason you aren’t completely blown away, we will cheerfully give you a complete refund, including standard shipping. No time limit. We are that confident!
The most recent research paper you site is 9 years old. Has their been any research since?
ADMIN – Hi Neeraj,
None that we are aware of.
May I ask who the publisher may be and when it was published? I would like to cite this website giving credit to the author for my thesis project.
ADMIN – Hi Mandy,
This page is co-authored
I am using your website as part of my thesis dissertation as using sign language to learn words fluently. I am trying to cite this website to give authors credit. However, I cannot find the author(s) who published this website. Would it be possible to email the authors who published babysignlanguage.com?
ADMIN – Hi Mimi,
The author is Lila Retnasaba
Your article on baby sign language is very insightful. For a research paper I am writing for my English class I am trying to cite this article. For proper credit, I’d like to know the author(s) of this article. It is very eye opening and will help my essay. If you could just email me that’d be great. If you cannot give me the names of the author(s) than that is all right. Amazing essay, I’m planning on teaching my kids ASL because I know how beneficial it is.
ADMIN – Hi Hannah,
The author is Lila Retnasaba.
I started using ASL with my son at 4 months old. By the time he was a year old, he was able to sign for nearly any need or desire. We did have to prompt him to start communicating verbally by 18 months old, as he would always sign, rather than try to speak. By the time he was 2 years old, he was speaking in full sentences, as in 5-8 word sentences. It felt like it just happened over night. One day he would hardly speak, or we would have to constantly encourage him to do so, and the next day he just seemed to bypass any expectation we had ever set for him.
My son is now 6 years old and in 1st grade. His is in the highest reading and math group available to him in his class and his language and literacy skills are comparable to those of a third or fourth grader. He actually reads chapter books for fun! Every where he goes, he has a book with him.
I now have a 11 month old daughter that is already signing some of her basic needs (milk, food, diaper..) I have no doubt that this will benefit her just as much as it did my son!
is it harder to teach a baby sign language that has special needs?
ADMIN – Hi Lily,
It depends, the array of special needs is very wide. Some learn faster and others slower. It is always useful to give it a try.
My son has significant speech delay and we have been using basic signs since about 22 months. I wish we had started earlier, had we known. Is there any research about the effectiveness of this program with toddlers that are speech delayed? FYI, he does not have any hearing problems and is currently getting assessed for other disabilities.
I don’t know of any studies but I do know several speech therapists use sign language for apraxia and other speech delays where hearing loss is not present.
Loving your website and have just ordered the delux kit. My baby is 4 months old and we’ve started signing last month but wondered if we should only stick to the first 10 signs or include others as we come across them? I.e needs and then animals as we read stories or sing songs? I.e. If we sing this little piggy went to market that we sign pig the way through the song or wait until he has mastered the need signs first?
As he’s not sitting up by himself yet, do u recommend any ways of signing so he can see my hands when reading stories etc.
Although we live in NZ, we’ve decided to sign in asl as your website dictionary was so good.
Also do u have any tips on how I can get the grandparents enthusiastic/encouraged to do signing. They seem to be uninterested because my son can hear.
Already I’m excited as I think my son is starting to understand milk and show the signs for nappy and bucket (we use flannel and water for cleaning bum). Hopefully I’m reading him right but how do I know for sure?
We are so excited for you. As for how to approach baby sign language you want to start with a few basic signs that are relevant to the needs of your baby. Before you know it your baby will be sitting and signing and showing flash cards should become way easier. Until then you may want to enlist your husband as your BSL assistant. As for reading you may want to wait until baby actually focuses on the pages, by then you can begin by incorporating one or two signs per book. When baby masters the first signs you can add more.
As for your parents just wait until baby begins signing during the pre-verbal stage and chances are they will be thrilled to join you.
We hope you enjoy your new kit!
Hi there! I have fraternal twin boys who will be 8 months old this month. How can I use baby sign language when teaching both of them? Are they too old to get started? They were not born premature, so we have no issues with development.
Twins can be a lot of fun. We have received multiple stories of twins adopting sign language as their very own way of communicating with each other. At eight months old your boys can probably sit making teaching a bit easier on you since you will have your hands free. Consider starting with food items and the sign for more while they are on the high chair. Once they have learned their first few signs it should be smooth sailing from that point on.
Another fun activity to explore is The Signing Time video collection. Learning while singing and receiving age-appropriate visual input works wonderfully.
We can’t wait to get an update of your progress. We would love to see a video of the boys signing their first signs!
I already started to sign with my 18 month old. He only knows 2 signs right now, but I dont know if it has to do with the language. Our primary language spoken at home is Spanish. I dont know if the signs being in english will confuse. What I do is I sign and say the word in Spanish, even if the DVDs are in English. I emphasize the Spanish language also. Should I just do one language and not both?
ADMIN – Hi Karla,
If Spanish is your primary language at home, that is the language that you should use with your signing. If you are also wanting to teach English, you can also sign along to the English word using the same sign. For example you would use the same sign for both water and agua. This consistent use of signing will help the child bridge between the two languages.
If your primary language is Spanish, but you only sign in English, progress will be slow.
Hi. We are getting started already with our 2 month son. We’ve figured out that the very basic signs are the same in both ASL and British. Since we’re from the UK, are we going to hit any snags if we use the signs from here? Or are the majority of the signs compatible? It would be great if we could use your resources, or if you have any ideas for excellent British resources.
ADMIN – Hi Steve,
We have hundreds of British customers. The goal in baby sign language is to provide little ones with the means to communicate with their caregivers. As long as you are both in the same page you should have no problem using it. The only exception would be a baby with a hearing disability needing sign language as a means of communication with others in a separate social context. In those cases little ones should be introduced to the local sign language.
Hi! I was wondering if this program uses true-ASL? Could not find it anywhere on the site. Thanks!
ADMIN – Hi Tracie,
We do indeed use American Sign Language (ASL) for our signs.
I think this is a fine idea for babies…however my grandson is now 18 months old and can speak and understand but his parents still sign to him. He runs around rubbing his chest and putting his hand up by his mouth when he actually can say what he wants. So when should actual speech be encouraged instead of continuing to sign to him–he’s way behind what my other granddaughter could say at his age…
ADMIN – Hi Karen,
When a child starts speaking, they usually transition away from signing without prompting. Speaking once mastered is much easier and it is something that matches what they see their peers doing. There is a transition period, where they are doing both, but in the end the words win. In much the same way, toddler go from crawling to walking and after a transition period never go back to walking, you will typically see a period where a child does both then switches to nearly 100% talking.
If a child isn’t making the transition by themselves, we would encourage them to say the word as well as do the sign. So if the child signs ball, we would say – “You want your ball? Can you say ball?” And very gradually over a month, we would become more firm, making sure they said the word before acceding to their request. Our rule is that they don’t have to say it perfectly, they just have to try.
Avoid comparing speech between children. Some children speak early, others speak late. Boys generally speak later than girls. The research shows absent any speech pathology, the late talkers catch up quickly.
I’m writing a paper for my Anthropology class on communication to babies by teaching sign language and I just have to say that this was one of the best websites I used! Thank you!
Hello there, I’m not sure where to ask this, so I hope it won’t bother too much here. I’m interesting in teaching BSL to our daughter but I’m afraid it might be too much, see I’m French, my wife is Russian, our hope was to teach her the 2 languages by having me only speak French in front of or to her and the same with my wife (for Russian) – Any idea of the influence of adding signs on top of it? Is it optimistic to think that it could actually help her making relations between the 2 languages, and somehow (the brain is wonderful thing) sort everything out?
ADMIN – Hi Nicolas,
Bilingual families tell us they find it useful as a way to bridge the gap between the two language. When you use the same sign, but different words (French and Russian), the common sign helps the baby understand that both words mean the same thing.
A friend of mine last month gave birth to a deaf baby girl. Her sister’s are 5 and 2 yrs old. What would be a good video resource for teaching everyone in the family to sign?
ADMIN – Hi Maria,
For the younger ones, there is a PBS series called Signing Times that can help. However we find the best approach is for the adults to learn some signs and just start using them around the house. There is no substitute for lots of repetition and exposure.
My baby is 15 months old, I want to start teaching him sign language but he doesn’t seem to be interested. What can I do to for him to be interested?
ADMIN – Hi Tatiana,
I wouldn’t try to make him interested, just integrate it into your daily life. For example, signing milk before you give him milk. They start by just mimicking you, and understanding only comes a little later. Once he starts to understand that he can use the signs to influence his environment and get what he wants, his interest levels will skyrocket!
I just started teaching my baby sign language. I would like to know if it is better to teach them in a dedicated environment with small training sessions or do I need to do it all day long as we go about our activities? I want to make sure I don’t stress my baby or try to force something that will later cause resentment. Thanks for your help
ADMIN – Hi Vanessa,
It is more effective when you are starting to integrate the signing into your regular activities. Once they are older and have a few signs under their belt, you can do some more sign-focused sessions where you are playing games that revolve around signing. You never want to force the issue, if they aren’t in the mood then do something else.
As you pointed out, as well as being ineffective, attempting to force the child will make them more difficult to teach in the future.
Are there any studies pointing toward improved IQ long term based on early learning with baby sign language?
ADMIN – Hi Jessica,
One of the follow-up studies found that even years later when they were in the second grade and had long since stopped signing, the IQ advantage persisted which we think is amazing. Nobody has done any further follow-up (e.g. at age 18), but it would be very interesting.
How old should my baby be to start teaching him sign language, I thought I read somewhere 6 months.
ADMIN – Hi Jennifer,
You can start teaching baby sign language any time that you want to – you just need to be more patient if you start very early because you won’t see much of a response for a few months. Anywhere between six months and a year is a good time to start. If you start at six months it will take a bit longer, but baby will be able to talk younger.