What is Baby Signing?

Jan, 2019 | Baby Signing, Communication, Early Years, Parenting, Signing | 0 comments

early communication for your baby (without tears)

Despite being around, formally, since the 1980’s, baby signing still seems to be a subject that seems a little mysterious – and almost taboo. 

It isn’t really talked about in parenting circles unless you actually do it.  

It reminds me of that famous quote from Fight Club, which I will paraphrase here:

“The first rule of baby signing is that no one talks about baby signing.”

So what IS baby signing?

And why should you be interested?

Let me take you back to 1986.

Dr Joseph Garcia, the worlds leading expert on using sign language with infants,  publishes his research.

He discovers that little children who can hear, who are taught to use their hands to ‘talk’ (alongside speech) by using sign language, can have as many as 75 signs by the age of 9 months.

“Not only does signing with your baby reduce frustration for everyone, but the depth and quality of such early communication is an experience that every family should enjoy.  

The window of opportunity is short – but the results that can be seen are extra-ordinary”

Dr Joseph Garcia.

75 signs!  At 9 months!

If you are not sure how remarkable that is, lets talk communication development – specifically, baby language development.

Babies of 1 year old might – only might – have ten words (source: ICAN).  Most of these words are not clear and only understood by people who are very close to them.

But what did this mean for the babies and their families?

Well firstly everyone knew what was needed or wanted or what was hurting or frightening.

This in itself was such a game changer for parents. 

But there was more.

Tiny tots were sharing their thoughts and interests by using their hands to sign about them too – an utterly fascinating window into their world, one full of wonder! It had never previously been know that such small children had such a rich inner world and comprehension of what was going on around them.  

(My own little lad, at 15 months, made up a sign for blowing dandelion heads, his utmost joy at that age.  I would have never know this if we hadn’t signed – I mean, who has a 15 month old that can say dandelion? But he could sign it with ease, clearly.  Can you imagine how stressful this might have become without baby signing to help us understand each other?)

Anyway.  More pragmatically – but equally importantly – Dr Garcia found that babies and toddlers who sign are:

  • calmer and more content (by up to a staggering 90%)
  • more confident
  • develop spoken language skills more quickly
  • have better bonding and attachment 
  • are ahead of the game for literacy and language – studies suggest by 12 IQ points

But this is just the tip of the iceberg!

We now know how crucial the first 2 years are for all little ones. 

Baby signing has the most remarkable effect on emotional intelligence, resilience and mental well-being for young children.

It isn’t just for babies either. 

In an age where we have never been more aware of how vital nurture, bonding and attachment are, baby signing is a parenting essential, your top tool to get to the heart of tears and distress, quickly and without having to guess. 

In an age where we have never been more aware of how vital nurture, bonding and attachment are, baby signing is a parenting essential.”

Perhaps – just perhaps – the question should not be ‘what is baby signing’ but to instead ask ‘why don’t MORE people know about the amazing benefits of baby signing?’ 

And why, with over 30 years of research to back up it’s claims, isn’t baby signing a standard part of infant communication?

As baby signing Daddy, Ben, states:

“Who wouldn’t want their child to be the first to be communicating, to be the most chilled out, to be happier, to have a real head-start?”

Who indeed?

Baby signing is an incredibly simple, very effective, communication tool for pre-verbal little ones that everyone can use. 

Baby signing isn’t a fad. 

It is the most precious of gifts to your child, starting in babyhood, that lasts a lifetime.

It just works.

And it’s utterly magical. 



Founder | Speaker | Author | Chief Bubble Tester | Mum

Shelley is the founder of Little Signers Club and has been teaching little ones, and their grown ups, how to use sign language for accelerated communication and understanding since 2005.

Kindly regarded as an expert in her field, Shelley regularly contributes to Childcare Expo, has been featured on BBC1, BBC Radio, in Junior Magazine, Gurgle Magazine, and was a contributing author for ToddlerCalm; A Guide to Calmer Toddlers.

She has three children of her own and, when she is not sharing her love of baby signing with the world, can be regularly found toasting marshmallows over a campfire.

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