Skip to main content

10 Baby Sign Language Words to Teach Your Little One

Despite not being able to speak, your baby can still express her needs through the use of sign language
Updated: December 1, 2022

For new parents, communicating with your bundle of joy presents a daily puzzle that needs solving. Without the ability so speak, babies rely on crying to express their needs and emotions. One way to bridge the communication gap is through the use of baby sign language. According to Psychology Today, babies can understand language before possessing the ability to speak. At such a young age, when they have better control over their hands, it makes sense to teach them how to sign.

Here are 10 baby sign language words care of The Mayo Clinic and Baby Sign that will come in handy until your infant is able to communicate verbally.

Mama and Daddy

What two words should she learn first that are more appropriate than the two people who care for and love her the most? Both words are similar. For mother, open your hand (fingers pointing up) and tap your thumb to your chin. Father is the same open hand but the thumb tap is to the forehead.

Mom and Dad with Newborn

Photosource: Flickr/Kyle Adams

Food Signs

As your baby transitions from breast milk to baby food and onto solids, it's important to know when they want to eat, what they want, and if they'd like more. The symbol for eat is to bring your fingers to your thumb and then touch your mouth. Drink involves forming the letter C shape with a hand and then tipping that hand in your mouth's direction. If your daughter loves her milk, open and close your fist as if you're milking a cow. If she's still hungry and wants more, bring your fingers to your thumbs on both hands and tap them together. Ask her if she's all done by showing her the backs of both hands and then flip them around so she sees your palms.

Babies get their diapers changed every few hours more or less so it helps if they know how to sign diaper. Place both hands at your waist and tap your index and middle fingers to your thumb.

One of the few things they do more of than diaper changes is to sleep. Knowing the word for sleep can be especially helpful when you sense they're tired and potentially on the verge of a meltdown. Take your open-palmed hand and run it down your face so that your fingers and thumb close just beneath the chin. Also, close your eyes when making that motion.

Sleeping Baby

Photosource: Flickr/Cody

Letting her know it's bath time is a good way to wind down her day and prepare for bed. Simply take both fists and simulate rubbing them up and down your chest.

Tempering Expectations

Now that you have an array of words to teach your child, the real work begins. offers some tips for getting started.

  • Patience: Remember, she's still a baby so learning sign language isn't going to happen overnight. Give it some time.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Repitition will help her learn. Sign with her on a daily basis.
  • Know Her Surroundings: Select words that are a part of your baby's daily life.
  • Use Your Voice: While the concept of signing is great, don't forget to keep talking to her. Signing shouldn't be a substitute for speaking.
  • Avoid Frustration: Teaching sign should be a fun, positive experience. Don't go the opposite way if it isn't as smooth as you hoped.

Babies present an entire set of new challenges for parents; communication chief among them. Taking the time to teach your little one baby sign language - even just a handful of words – can make it that much easier. Before you know it, they'll be talking a mile a minute.

FamilyEducation Editorial Staff

About FamilyEducation's Editorial Team

FamilyEducation is a trusted leader in parenting and pregnancy… Read more

Subscribe to Family Education

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.