ASK THE EXPERTS

No - it’s actually the opposite!  Research has shown that using signs in addition to modeling verbal language DOES NOT delay spoken language skills. In fact giving them two ways to build the receptive language (understanding) part of the brain may help build more language connections.

A study by Goodwyn,et. al. (2000) suggests that “sign training might facilitate rather than hinder the development of vocal language.

Using sign language or gestures with a baby can often help him communicate earlier than they can by producing verbal language because imitating gestures is easier than imitating words. Using signs with a young baby is a great way to lay down a strong foundation for language skills. It allows you to purposefully engage with your child, repeat and model common vocabulary words, models turn taking in conversation, and stimulates the language centers in the brain.

Bree Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT
Occupational Therapist & Founder of
Sprout and Thrive
Fun Fact: Bree is also an Early Intervention Specialist (specialize in babies birth-age 3) and trained in ASL


Most experts recommend starting to sign to your baby around 6 months. It can take a few months for reciprocation though, so don’t be discouraged if it’s been a few months and you haven’t noticed much in return. They are surely watching and absorbing, so just be persistent and keep signing and saying the word consistently! Babies can communicate through their first signs long before spoken language is a consistent form of communication. 

Bree Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT
Occupational Therapist & Founder of
Sprout and Thrive
Fun Fact: Bree is also an Early Intervention Specialist (specialize in babies birth-age 3) and trained in ASL


Babies who sign often show increased problem solving skills and most speak earlier than those who do not sign. Using sign language or gestures with a baby can often help them communicate earlier than they can verbally. 

Generally speaking, imitating gestures is easier than imitating words. Babies can see and hear words spoken and parents can help baby move their hands/arms to make the sign. This is powerful multi-sensory learning for your baby! Using signs with a young baby is also a great way to lay down a strong foundation for language skills. It allows caregivers to purposefully engage with their child, repeat and model common vocabulary words, models turn taking in conversation, and stimulates the language centers in the brain.

Bree Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT
Occupational Therapist & Founder of
Sprout and Thrive
Fun Fact: Bree is also an Early Intervention Specialist (specialize in babies birth-age 3) and trained in ASL


Great, go with it! Fine motor skills (hand skills) are developing rapidly and baby may not have the dexterity to make the “perfect sign.”

 If their gesture feels appropriate within your routine/context and makes sense to you, give them praise, “you want more!” model the sign correctly, and pair it with spoken language. Repetition drives mastery and learning!

Bree Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT
Occupational Therapist & Founder of
Sprout and Thrive
Fun Fact: Bree is also an Early Intervention Specialist (specialize in babies birth-age 3) and trained in ASL



Give everyone a copy of the book  Sign Me Up for a Happy Home (wink-wink)

But seriously. Meet up with your baby’s caregivers, decide which signs are most important for your baby, model how to do the sign for everyone, have them do it, and agree to all “sign and say” the word when they care for your child. You’re likely to be surprised at how quickly your baby will pick it up when they see it modeled over and over again!


Bree Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT
Occupational Therapist & Founder of
Sprout and Thrive
Fun Fact: Bree is also an Early Intervention Specialist (specialize in babies birth-age 3) and trained in ASL


Instead of setting aside time to sign, just use the signs within the context of your day! When you’re changing a diaper, offering food/drink, or getting ready for a nap, sign and say what you’re doing within the context of your baby’s already established routine. This will help build language skills (signed and spoken) most quickly. 

Bree Milani, MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT
Occupational Therapist & Founder of
Sprout and Thrive
Fun Fact: Bree is also an Early Intervention Specialist (specialize in babies birth-age 3) and trained in ASL