Bub may not understand your words, but you can still “talk” to him with these simple hand signals.


At least for the first year, your kewpie will rely heavily on his non-verbal communication skills (and his ear-splitting cries) to try to communicate with you his needs and wants.

He will learn how to point far earlier than to speak his mind. So, you can actually make his gesturing habits work in your favour.

Baby signing, as the name suggests, is the use of simple hand gestures to communicate with babies and toddlers who haven’t learned enough words to speak their mind. There are several benefits from introducing baby signing – it helps to reduce your little one’s frustration from not being able to communicate, thus sidestepping unnecessary tantrums.

Sprengers points out on average, babies will start to respond using hand signs from 10 to 12 months of age.

Interestingly, signing to your baby can also actually speed up his language-learning abilities.

“Research from the University of California Los Angeles-Davies has shown that children who have been signing as infants, on average, will start talking sooner as they have mastered the ‘system’ behind language and are more eager to communicate,” notes Crista Sprengers an occupational therapist and owner of Baby Signs with Crista.

If you are worried that your little one might get too accustomed to signing instead of talking, Sprengers says parents do tend to stop using the sign for a word, once their child has gained the ability to speak and recognise it.

Here are some other questions you may have regarding baby signing…

When can I start signing to my baby?

You can start gesturing to your baby from as young as 6 months to 8 months. This is the time when he has learnt some basic vocabulary and has a better grasp of his motor skills. Although bub may take some time reciprocating your signals, Sprengers points out on average, he will start responding from 10 to 12 months of age.

When should I be signing to my baby?

There’s no need to wait for a specific time of the day to start signing. Sprengers says, “To make it easier on the parents to keep signing, we advise to start with signs they will be able to use throughout the day.” Junior will learn how to sign quickly and more efficiently when it is repeated often and consistently.

Can bubba and I have our own secret sign language?

Yes, you can! However, since these gestures are meant to help your little one communicate with people around him, it may be counterproductive to use a sign that no one else understands. Besides, Sprengers points out, you will never sign in silence — you should always say the word before gesturing — so the “secret” language will be revealed soon enough.

If you’re thinking of introducing a few signs to your little ones, remember that his motor skills are still developing, so gestures that require intricate finger movement won’t be very suitable.

Sprengers suggests starting off with the following basic signs…


Main Photo: iStock

Infographic by Rachel Lim

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