Learn how to do 10 easy signs in this super simple guide to basic baby sign language.

Basic Baby Sign Language

by | Getting Started

by Lane Rebelo, LCSW

Now that you’ve learned the benefits of baby sign language, and decided when to start baby sign language, it’s time to get pick some basic baby sign language signs and get started! This is Baby Sign Language Lesson #2 in the How to Teach Your Baby Sign Language Series.

Learn how to do 10 easy signs with this super simple guide to basic baby sign language.

Basic Baby Sign Language

When I decided to start signing with my first daughter, one of the first decisions I had to make was which signs we would start with. There are so many to choose from and I knew I wanted to keep it simple.

Like many parents, I started with basic baby sign language signs like MORE, ALL DONE and EAT. My initial hope was that baby sign language would allow my daughter to let me know when she was hungry or tired.

And she did! EAT actually was her very first sign (although I missed it the first few times she did it). But I was surprised to find that the signs she was most excited about (and used the most) were for things like LIGHT and CAR.

I quickly realized that there was so much more to talk about than just food and naps! And in the 10+ years I’ve been helping new parents teach their little ones sign language, I’ve found that sometimes the best signs to start with are NOT necessarily the most obvious choices.

Learn how to do 10 easy signs in this super simple guide to basic baby sign language.

In fact, I’ve seen this happen with my students over and over. New parents start out signing with common basic baby sign language like MORE, MILK and MOM. They try and try to get their little one to sign back, but it’s just not working. They start to lose hope and consider giving up.

Then I’ll suggest picking some new signs based on their little one’s interests, and BAM, their little one starts signing back. I’ve had students whose first signs were BIRD, BLUEBERRY and even FAN. Some thoughtfully chosen playful signs will make a huge difference in how quickly your baby signs back.

Useful Signs

Most parents begin with what I call useful signs when they are first starting out. Some of my favorite useful signs are MILK, EAT, MORE, ALL DONE, and BED, which I’ll show you how to do below (it’s really easy!).

Useful signs will make life with baby a whole lot easier because your baby will be able to tell you when he’s hungry, sleepy or even needs a diaper change. Another great thing about useful signs is that you can use them many times throughout the day at every feeding, changing, and nap. This gives you lots of chances to practice signing to your baby, and lots of opportunities for your little one to see the signs.

Learn how to sign MILK, EAT, MORE, ALL DONE, and BED.

You’ll find even more examples of useful signs here:

You can also look up signs in the baby sign language video dictionary.

So, yes, while these useful signs are really practical, you might be surprised to learn that they might not be your baby’s first signs.

After more than a decade of teaching baby sign language, I’ve learned an invaluable trick to getting babies signing quickly is incorporating some playful signs when you first get started.

Playful Signs

Playful signs are important because they work with baby’s interests and motivate them to start signing.

Think of it this way, your baby is already a pro at getting her needs met. By crying and fussing, she can let you know she’s ready for a feeding or a nap. And while it might be hard to imagine right now if your baby is really little, there are lots of things your baby will be eager to “talk” with you about (like the DOG or CAT, or even the ceiling FAN!). This is where playful signs come in.

Learn how to do 10 easy signs in this super simple guide to basic baby sign language.

Playful signs are signs that will motivate your baby to start signing back, and they are different for every baby. Picking the right playful signs boils down to figuring out what tends to capture your baby’s attention, which you might already know.

If you’re not sure which playful signs to start with, spend some time today or tomorrow observing your little one. Does she kick her legs every time she looks up at the LIGHT or ceiling FAN? Or does she point, or smile, or make noises when the DOG or CAT is nearby? Does your baby have a favorite toy? Maybe a squeaky GIRAFFE or BANANA teething toy?

Some of my favorite playful signs are DOG, LIGHT, BALL, BOOK, and CAR, which I’ll show you below.

Learn How to Sign DOG, LIGHT, BALL, BOOK, and CAR

You’ll find even more examples of Playful Signs here:

You can also look up signs in the baby sign language video dictionary.


Picking the right signs to start with will have a direct impact on how quickly your baby signs back. In order to spark your baby’s interest in signing, you’ll want to think outside the box when picking first signs. Selecting a mix of both useful signs that you can use throughout the day AND playful signs to motivate your baby is the secret to your signing success!

More lessons in the How to Teach Your Baby Sign Language series:


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Hi, I’m Lane. I’m so glad you’re here!

As a new mom, I wanted to use sign language with my baby, but I wasn’t sure where to start.

After a trip to my local library and lots of trial and error, I figured it out—and I was honestly blown away by how much closer I felt to my daughter!

I decided every parent should be able to experience that deeper connection with their little one. So, I added American Sign Language training to my child development background, and I created my award-winning Tiny Signs program.

I’ve helped tens of thousands of families communicate through basic sign language, and I’d love to help you, too.

Lane Rebelo, LCSW, author of Baby Sign Language Made Easy and The Complete Guide to Baby Sign Language

Baby Sign Language Quick Start Guide

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