One of the many benefits of baby sign language

Sara Bingham Orange-Sign

One of the many benefits of baby sign language: Larger Expressive and Receptive Language Vocabularies

When a baby’s brain develops, the area that understands visual information develops sooner than the area that understands auditory information, so a younger baby may be able to understand what they see earlier than they can understand what they hear. Adding the visual component, the sign, to the auditory component, your spoken words, may help babies to understand more. This may improve their receptive language abilities.

Children learn language by interacting with others. When they interact, they are able to make mistakes, get corrective feedback, learn and expand their skills. I can remember a time when my own daughter was about 13 months old. She has been signing since she was 11 months old and had about 5-6 signs.

One of her favourite signs (and play objects) was BALL. One day she pointed to an orange on the counter and signed BALL. I followed her lead and picked up the orange and showed her the sign for ORANGE. She looked at me like I was crazy and signed BALL back to me! I quickly peeled and cut up the orange into little pieces, gave her a piece and signed ORANGE. This was her first bite of orange and she loved it! I must have given her 30 little bits of this new fruit and signed ORANGE each time. Towards the end of the orange she was signing ORANGE back to me to request another piece of her new favourite thing to eat!

The mistake she made, introduced an opportunity for me to teach and she then learned a new word. A word is a word, whether it’s signed or spoken! There were countless times that our interactions, because she could sign before she could talk. For example she once pointed to a thermostat and signed “LIGHT”. I took that as a opportunity to teach her the sign for “WARM”. By the time she was 16 months of age, she had 80+ words: 20 verbal words and 60 ASL signs. Most babies at 16 months of age have 10 spoken words.

Benefits include:

  • a reduction in problematic behaviours like tantrums resulting from frustration; and
  • improved parent–child relationships.

Sara Bingham is the author of the award-winning The Baby Signing Book and the founder of WeeHands, a sign language program with instructors across North America. She is a frequent contributor to parenting magazines and babyrelated professional websites.

Since 2001, WeeHands has taught thousands of families and caregivers across North America to sign with their infants and toddlers. Get the latest news on baby sign language at




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