Which Signs Should You Start With?
Deciding which signs to start with is one of the first big questions parents face when beginning with baby sign language.
To make things super simple, I’ve put together this collection of 9 videos of my absolute favorite starter signs and created a totally FREE printable chart to go with it. Download the free chart below and print it out as a visual reminder of which signs you’re using and how to do them!
How to sign ALL DONE in American Sign Language. Oh the possibilities for this one are endless! Use this one whenever you are transitioning from one activity to another and your baby will get the idea. You can sign “all done” when you’re taking your baby out of the carrier, high chair, bath, car seat, you name it.
You can sign & say this at the end of a feeding or when you finish a book. You can use this sign along with the words “all done,” “finished,” and even “the end.” Once your baby starts signing this one back to you, it’s really helpful that they can let you know when they’ve had enough BEFORE the tears come.
How to sign BALL in American Sign Language. Curve all your fingers (this is called a “claw” handshape in ASL) and bring your hands together to show the shape of a ball. Pro tip: You can do this sign with a ball in your hands if it’s small enough. This is a great technique to show your baby the sign, because their eyes will be on the ball…AND your hands!
How to sign BATH in American Sign Language. Sign bath to your baby as you’re getting ready for bath time and during the bath. You can also use this sign when you see someone taking a bath in a book you’re reading. You can sign this one on your body or right on your baby’s body (if they don’t mind).
How to sign BED in American Sign Language. This one is super easy and babies can learn it really quickly. Ask your baby “do you want to go to bed?” when you suspect they’re getting sleepy.
How to sign DOG in American Sign Language. This is definitely not my best video because you can’t see my hand – sorry! But this is a super easy sign – just pat your thigh with your hand like you are calling a dog to come to you. Easy peasy.
There are 3 ways to sign dog in ASL. 1) Pat your thigh 2) Snap your fingers or 3) Do a combo of the pat & snap. I prefer keeping it simple by patting your leg. You can even pat your baby’s thigh to teach them this sign, just to give them the idea.
How to sign EAT in American Sign Language. The sign for “eat” is the same as the sign for “food” in ASL. I recommend introducing this sign when your baby starts eating solid foods. Use it every time your baby has something to eat and remember your baby’s sign might not look much like yours! They’ll do their best by either touching their mouth (or maybe even their ear, like my first did!). You don’t need to correct them, just keep doing it the right way and they’ll copy you to the best of their ability.
How to sign LIGHT in American Sign Language. Open your fingers to show the rays of light shining down on you. This is probably by *favorite* baby sign ever. Both my girls did this one early & often. It’s not one that you might typically think of, but it’s really motivating and exciting for babies.
Pro tip #1: Hold your baby and let them play with the light switch to show them this sign.
Pro tip #2: When your baby signs this one back, it might look a lot like the sign for “milk” but with their arm extended.
How to sign MILK in American Sign Language. Just open & close your hand like you’re milking a cow. This is an excellent first sign! If you think your baby’s ready for a feeding, you can sign milk and ask them “do you want some milk Then you can reinforce it by signing & saying it again while your baby is feeding. Use the sign for milk whether your baby is nursing or bottle-feeding.
How to sign MORE in American Sign Language. With fingers touching your thumbs, bring your fingertips of both hands together a few times.
This is a great first sign but can sometimes cause a little confusion. Babies quickly learn that they get something they want when they sign “more” so will often start signing “more” all the time. Parents are then left wondering, “more WHAT?” This is an easy first sign, but remember to also introduce signs for specifics things your baby might want (milk, book, daddy, crackers) so they can be more specific about what they want. ;)
Download the Free Baby Sign Language Chart!