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TOP 10 starting signs

When first starting out with baby sign language, you will want to do just a few signs that you repeat over and over. Once your baby learns these first few signs you can expand your repertoire.

Friends & Family Signs

Signs referring to important people in your baby’s life are early favorites. Not only will your baby love signing them, adults love teaching baby their sign – so you will get help from your partner, siblings, and relatives.

1. Mom

Mommy is signed by tapping your thumb on your chin. In ASL female signs are usually below the nose, and male signs above the nose. Overall it is a very intuitive sign to learn.


2. Dad

Dad is signed by tapping your thumb on your forehead. The signs for mom and dad are similar, however, the mom sign is performed on the chin and the dad sign is performed higher up on the forehead.


If you have friends or family that spend a lot of time with your baby, they are perfect collaborators to help teach your baby another sign. Have them sign the appropriate sign when they approach your child. For example, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandmother, or grandfather.

3. Grandmother

Grandmother is similar to mother. You tap your thumb on your chin, but make a double motion away from your face.


4. Grandfather

Grandfather in ASL is similar to father. You tap your thumb on your forehead, but make a double motion instead of a single motion.


Pets are of great interest to babies. You can capitalize on this natural interest, so if you have a family pet these make great starter signs.

5. Cat

Cat looks like you are a cat, outlining your whiskers.


6. Dog

Dog looks like you are calling a dog, by tapping your hand on your thigh.


Food Signs

Babies love to eat, so start with some signs associated with favorite foods. Learning these signs is very useful, letting baby signal that they are hungry in a constructive way without fussing.

7. Milk

Milk is signed by making opening and closing your hand, like you are milking a cow. This is a very useful sign for babies who are breast feeding or on formula.


8. Eat

Eat looks like you are putting food to your mouth, with you thumb to your fingers. Eat is particularly useful for babies on solids.


9. More

More is signed by tapping your finger tips together. This is a very versatile sign useful in many contexts, and is often the first sign learned.


10. All Done

All Done is signed by twisting your hands back and forth. It allows baby to tell you they are finished eating (without flinging food).

 All Done


88 Responses to “Top Ten Starter Signs”

    • Baby Sign Language Administrator

      Hi, We don’t have the “bat” sign on our site, but here is a video link for it.

  1. Mililani

    I have taught all three of my kids basic sign language starting at 5months of their age. My children are now 13, 5, & the youngest 11moths. My youngest just started doing the sign for more and it makes me so happy. This site wasn’t here for my oldest or middle children, but it has helped me with other signs that I did not know that I am showing my youngest. This is really great. Thank you.

  2. Lou

    Hi how about some representation of someone other than a caucasian child? Good grief it’s 2022. #Diversity.

    • Baby Sign Language Administrator

      Hi Lou, Thanks for stopping by. While it appears that this page is partial to Caucasians, if you have seen the entirety of our new Dictionary collection, you’ll realize we are a lot more diverse than this page belies.

  3. Marcy

    We speak two languages at home. I speak one language and my husband speaks the other. However, I do most of the sign teaching. When I am teaching signs should I always say the word in both languages?

    Also my son in 16 months. It seems that many start at a much earlier age. Is there a larger benefit starting earlier?

    ADMIN – Hi Marcy,

    We see language as a life skill and generally try to start earlier instead of later. In our case we started as early as six months old and did it in tandem with spoken word. Sign language became the link between both languages in a multilingual home. We also incorporated visuals that were two-dimensional (flashcards) and three-dimensional) model toys.

    The benefits for us included improved motor skills and a certain level of precociousness when it came to communicating needs and emotions.

  4. Nicole

    Before I buy anything I’ve been trying to teach my son, he just turned one about a month ago. He knows basics, like his milk but sometimes he’ll really be trying to talk to me and I feel so bad bc i don’t know what he wants but as i try to teach him sign he just walks away or keeps talking like “I’m telling you what i want why are you moving your hands”. how can i try to teach him, or make it fun for him to enjoy (btw he gets bored really quickly)

    ADMIN – Hi Nicole,

    We had a similar struggle and we began playing games of recognition. We would place the flash cards on the floor, we would say a word, sign the word and teach our little ones to find the proper card. We also incorporated a lot of sing and sign to keep their attention. Regardless of your approach the 2nd year is always challenging. I encourage you to take a natural approach and deal with his learning process in a way that it does not stress him out.

  5. Monica

    I had started signing with my baby at 3 months. But ended up stopping because I returned to work. Long story short I ended up leaving my job. My baby’s now 7 months. Is it possible to teach her sign now even after such a long stop period?

    ADMIN – Hi Monica,

    Yes! Most parents don’t get started until their baby is 5 to 7 months.

  6. Johnny

    My husband and I want to get our 5-month-old started with the course, but we’re not sure how to make the distinction between “dad” and “papa” in BSL. Do you have a recommendation or should we try and come up with a sign of our own?

    ADMIN – Hi Johnny,
    If you are are a two-dad home, I would suggest that you teach your boy the sign for “dad” followed by the initial for each of you. In your case it would be “dad” + “J”.

    • Kayla Brown

      I absolutely love your response to his question!!! Good luck, Johnny!!

  7. Sadie

    Hi, I’ve been teaching my daughter baby sign since she was 3 months old. We haven’t been super consistent, but have been teaching it a lot. She is now 6 months old and when we sign, sometimes she shows disinterest and just turns away or gets preoccupied with something else. Is she still going to learn despite her preoccupation? Or is it pointless to sign when she’s not looking?

  8. Nicole Craven

    I signed with my son and it was so helpful. He started signing milk at about 6-7 months and really exploded at about 9-10 months.
    I have been signing with my daughter and ahe refuses to sign. She is 11 months and i have yet to get her to use a single sign(been signing milk,mommy,daddy since birth). She understands when i sign to her, but she usually turn away and closes her eyes and then turns back and points at what i just signed. I repeat several times with the same response and eventually give in to what we are talking about(mostly milk and food).
    Is there a something for teaching sign language to a stubborn child? Or are there just some kids that won’t take to it. We have started to develop a lot of frustration in our communicating(did not have this with my son) because all she does is whine when she wants something.PLEASE HELP!

    ADMIN – Hi Nicole,

    I am yet to face the challenge of a stubborn baby but my friend Martha was quite successful teaching her stubborn baby how to sign through using the baby signing time DVDs. Her little Clara responded well to visual feedback and musical context.

  9. robert williams

    hi i,m robert i need one of those help a friend teach her 3 year old son sign language. how i like to to order three pack.

    ADMIN – Hi Robert,

    To order kits visit our shop located here

    We ship internationally usually for a $19.95 fee.

  10. Psalmbrea

    I have a nine month old and want to start signing. Should I say the word verbally along with the sign. Or just use the hand gesture?

    ADMIN – Hi Psalmbrea,

    We always use the word and sign together and we make sure we are signing contextually.

  11. Yadi

    My son just turned 6 months old a few days ago. I am wanting to know should I use the sign for Eat to whatever he puts in his mouth as in bottle breast milk, solids, and nursing. Or should I separate the sign milk for nurse and eat for solids?

    ADMIN – Hi Yadi,

    We use eat, more, milk and water for the first 10 months. As our babies begin to show interest in specific foods we add signs such as cookie, milk, orange etc.

  12. Jenna

    I have a 2.5 year old child with autism who only has a few words (Ma, Da, Hi, Car, No) and mostly babbles. He has been in speech therapy for over a year with no progress. He doesn’t use gestures or pointing–can a child who is not communicating with their hands still learn to sign?

    ADMIN – Hi Jenna,

    We are terribly unqualified to answer your question. There is a little boy I know who also has autism and has demonstrated an ability to understand signs but is unable to sign at all.

  13. Sofia

    I was learning from this site but i got a question. If I want to sign with your kid one sentence like ” What do you wan?” how can I sign to baby? or this baby sign only for one word to word or can sign with baby long sentence?

    ADMIN – Hi Sofia,

    The longest phrases we use with babies are two words. If for example you are showing a bunch of objects you can point to the objects and sign “which”.

  14. Brenda Boeckel

    Hello. I started teaching my nonverbal 2 yr. old to sign about two months ago and he already says uses about 10 signs. He loves your show. He watches the show while trying to imitate the signs.

    My question is, how do I get him to sign his name without having to finger spell it. The specialist is concerned that he doesn’t have a sense of self and I think signing his name would help.

    ADMIN – Hi Brenda,

    One option is to teach him to sign his first initial and point to self.

  15. Samantha

    My daughter is 7 1\2 months. She is very vocal but has difficulty forming her basic sounds. I’ve tried to teach her basic signs since she was 4months but she hasn’t grasped it. Is there something I can practice with her to help her advance in her signs and speech?

    ADMIN – Hi Samantha,

    At 7.5 months all babies have difficulties forming basic sounds. The fact that she is making sounds when interacting is a sign that she is on the right path. Continue to encourage her and help her by modeling the signs while holding her little hands. (Our book has several advanced methods you can use to accelerate learning progress). Your baby will most likely have an explosion of signs and words between 9 to 14 months.

  16. Laura

    I have a 2 year old son who doesn’t say any words. He should have been saying mama and dada by now and I am starting to get worried. His pediatrician says to wait 6 months and if he still doesn’t say any words then my son has to begin speech therapy. I want my son to avoid that and a friend of mine whose father and two sisters are deaf recommended that I teach my son sign language. My concern is it too late to teach my son sign language at this late in stage?

    ADMIN – Hi Laura,

    This is a fine time to start with him if he isn’t talking. Often speech pathologists teach signing to children with speech delays as a way to prime the pump and start activating communication pathways in the brain.

  17. Allie

    Hi! I have 2 children, and my youngest was born deaf. Our speech therapist suggested we begin ASL, and I found your website. My youngest is 18 mo., and my oldest 3. I was wondering if it’s too late to start teaching them both ASL?

    Hi Allie,
    No, it is not too late but please keep in mind that some of our signs are simplified ASL to adapt to the motor skills of babies. You may want to combine our kit with an ASL dictionary to help your son transition.

  18. Dianne

    Can I start this with my 19 month old?

    Hi Dianne,
    Yes, you may start the baby sign language program at 19 months old. Chances are your little one is already verbal but knowing the signs will help with motor skills and creating associations between gesturing and concepts.

  19. brittany

    My daughter is 28 weeks she has started to walk and is very advance for her age. However she gets very frustrated really weasy when I comes to eating or not getting what she wants ( most of the time it is because we are unsure of her needs) she will cry just because. We want to start doing baby sign language to help her frustration with communicating but not sure when to start or even where to begin anything you could recommend would be great! As she is our first this is all new to us to as well. We have already started transitioning to a sippy cup (with formula in it) so anything would help thanks

    ADMIN – Hi Brittany,

    When you are dealing with a gifted child who is reaching her milestones way earlier than her peers you have to play it by ear. I know a number of moms and dads who introduced sign language at birth, were consistent and saw their first signs at 20 to 24 weeks. Go ahead and get her started with basic signs to help her express her needs. Use contextual teaching and support it with flashcards. If your baby is showing a proclivity toward music get her The Baby Signing Time collection. At her present age you are likely to see quick progress and should have a signer in your hands within a month or two.

    • Margret ward

      I was lucky. My son started signing “eat”, “more”, “milk” (as one confused desperate sign) as soon as we started at 10 weeks.

  20. Emily

    Hi, my name is Emily and my son was born deaf. We are trying to decide if we should do sign language or Cued speech. He just recently got a cochlear implant but he has inner ear malformations so we are not sure how well he will benefit from them yet. Any opinions?

    Hi Emily, I have seen various instances where cued speech is combined with sign language to further equip the child to communicate particularly during early stages. It is best that you talk to his speech therapist and create a personalized approach that best fits his specific needs.

  21. Alexis Scott

    My son is 21 months old. He’s struggling with communicating. He says words like mom, dad, nana(grandma), papa (grandpa), and not really anything else. We’re looking into speech therapy, but WIC and some family said he may benefit from learning to sign. Do you think it’s too late?

    ADMIN – Hi Alexis,

    Not at all. A child can learn sign language at any stage in life and obtain the benefits of having an alternate tool to communicate their needs and ideas. Many speech therapists will teach signing as a bridge to speaking with children that are having trouble talking and incorporate a lot of signing into their curriculum.

    I would also encourage you to see a speech therapist sooner rather than later if you have concerns. Speech issues (if your son has one), are much easier to correct when they are identified early.

  22. Elisa

    Hi! My son is 8 months old and I want to start teaching him BSL. At home we speak two languages Spanish and English. However, we tried to speak only spanish to him. Having a niece that had serious speech problems ( now she’s 8 years old and fluent in three languages ), I’m afraid to try to teach him in English BSL. One of the things the speech therapist, at that time, said to my sister was to only speak one language at home. What would you recommend? Teaching him BSL in English or Spanish vs. both? Thank you so much!

  23. Emily

    My son is 9 months old. Is it too late to start signing with him? If I do start signing with him, will it take him a while to understand it? Just curious.


    Hi Emily,
    At nine months your little son is primed for learning. You will see really quick progress specially if you focus on meaningful signs that meet his basic needs. At nine months old we like to use the sturdy flashcards to allow baby to have something to hold and interact with.

  24. Lo

    Hey my daughter will be 2 in December and she says some words but not many. Her doctor thinks that she might have a mild case of autism. I have been trying to teach her sign language and she doesn’t seem to be picking it up. Is there anything that I can do to help her communicate better?

    ADMIN – Hi Lo,

    Keep working with her. If there is potential for a learning disorder such as autism, I would get a referral to a specialist and see if she would benefit from working with a speech therapist. Communication issues are much easier to fix when caught early.

  25. Annie

    I have a 2 year old Daughter who started talking at 3 months old and has been fluently talking since she was 1 year. She used to use a little bit of sign language but she stopped when she turned 1. How can I start reacquainting her with the use of ASL?

    We like to incorporate baby sign language to games. This is particularly useful with a highly verbal child.

  26. Carrie

    I just came a across ur website and I love it. My nephew is 16 mo old and unfortunately we only see each other “physically” every few months. However we do “see” each other via FaceTime many times a week. I was wondering if you had any thoughts/advice on how to start using ASL via FaceTime, is there anyone who has tried this before with success? English is not my sister in laws native language and I would love to incorporate ASL into “our” routine when on FaceTime so as she can continue at home. Thank you….

    ADMIN – Hi Carrie,

    We have done BSL via Skype with my niece. We use flashcards, songs, and small toys on both sides as we practice together. Her mother is very supportive and signing adds dimension to our relationship.

  27. Mia

    Hi, my daughter is 14 months old. She can sign sleep, bird, book, eat, dog, rabbit.
    My question is, she says “papa” already, but doesn’t know the sign yet. Should i still teach her the sign? Also a few other words that she already says, like “water”, “cat”.

    Hi Mia,
    Many parents approach us with a similar question. We find that integrating signs to words that toddlers are already using enhances their ability to use their whole body for expression. I would incorporate the signs in the context of games as an additional skill above and beyond verbal expression. We like to do it in games of matching the word to the sign or the image in the flashcard to the sign and word as expressed verbally.

  28. Jessica Hamilton

    My 17 month old loves bsl. Her favorite sign is thank you. Since we started signing with her we’ve noticed her tantrums are not as often. Also it is important my daughter knows how to sign since her older sister is deaf.

  29. Amanda Nour

    My son is only 3 months old and already knows/uses (sort of, hand control still a little wonky) the signs for Mama, Milk, and Tired. It’s AMAZING! I travel internationally a lot with half my family speaks a language I can not (and vice verse), and my son is not use to, but he still lets them know what he needs and it makes everything so much easier. My mother-in-law and sister-in-laws are just amazed when he does the signs. Thank you for making my multi-lingual family better understand my son’s wishes!

  30. Alicia

    I have an 11 week old son and I am SO excited about teaching him BSL that I have been using more than the 4 words recommended. He seams to recognize when I say mama and kiss but I’m not sure if by introducing so many words at once if I am impairing his abilities to learn BSL.

    ADMIN – Hi Alicia,

    Congratulations! It is helpful to a have a core of around 5 words that get a lot of repetition. You want to avoid is doing a lot of words with little repetition for each word (because that way the child doesn’t end up getting enough exposure to learn any of the words). If you end up doing more signs, that is great. But, make sure there is a core set of signs that is used many times during each day.

  31. Kim

    My son is 11 months old. Is it too late to start signing now?

    ADMIN – Hi Kim,

    Yes, you can start at 11 months. As long as they aren’t at an age where they are speaking easily and confidently (say 18 months) signing will be a big help in helping them communicate.


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