Using Sign Language to Communicate with Your Hearing Baby

Did you know that babies can communicate before they can talk? I have experienced the joys of signing with all three of my children and I always tell people that signing with them was one of my best parenting moves ever. Babies naturally communicate with gestures, facial expressions, sounds and body language before they can speak, so tapping into that ability and teaching them sign language is easier than you may think.

I became a baby sign language instructor so that I could share this gift of communication and fun with other families. Signing can be very helpful before babies learn to talk because they can tell you what they want or need. I remember when my son was a baby, once he learned the sign for “milk” he would ask for milk regularly when he was getting tired or if he was not feeling well. It was so nice that he had a way to tell me that he needed a little milk and the snuggle that went along with it. Baby signing also gives you a window into what your little one is thinking since they can tell you things about their surroundings like if they noticed a dog or a bird at the park. Around the time that my daughter turned one, Ella Signing Flowershe was obsessed with flowers and dogs and would sign “flower” or “dog” every time she saw one. It was amazing how aware she was of her surroundings and how excited she was that she could share her experiences with us and that we could understand her. My daughter is now almost two, and signing has become even more useful as she is learning to talk. Sometimes a lot of her words still sound the same and it saves a lot of frustration for both of us when she can use her signs to complement her sentences and help me understand what she is saying.

Dusty Riemer and her daughter attended one of my Introduction to Baby Signing Workshops, after the workshop they started using the Signing Time DVDs and CDs that my classes are based on to continue learning and introducing new signs. Here is what she bst_fullcollectionhad to say about signing with her little one “My daughter is easily able to communicate with us and is elated that we understand her, we’ve even brought her grandparents on board! I get so excited to introduce signing to my friends who have little ones. Most can’t believe how fast and much can be learned at such a young age. Do I recommend signing with your baby? Yes, you have to try it!”.

Babies usually make their first signs around 10-12 months of age, but can start understanding signs much sooner, and in some cases they even start signing sooner. Some popular signs to start with include “milk”, “more”, “all done” and “eat”. It is a great way to communicate, but the bonding experience can be even more powerful when you can tap into your little one’s thoughts and show them that you understand what they want or need.

I teach classes in Calgary to help other families learn how to communicate using baby sign language. My classes are full of songs and books to keep the little one entertained while the parents learn the basic signs and how to incorporate baby signing into their day. For registration details or to learn more about baby sign language, please visit my website:

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Potty training before your baby can talk using sign language!

Banner 728x180When I went back to work in between having my two boys, we put my son in daycare at my office. I delayed my return from maternity leave a couple of months so he was almost 15 months old when he started. He went into the baby room with the 12 – 18 month old babies. At 14 months old he was doing the majority of his bowel movements in the potty and they were surprised and unequipped for a toilet training “baby”.  I ran out to the store and purchased a potty for his room at daycare and proceeded to teach his caregivers how he would sign “poop” to indicated his need to go potty.

The first few weeks were an adjustment as he learned to communicate with his caregivers and as they learned to “listen” to his signs, but once everyone adjusted they were amazed that he would indeed ask to go potty which meant they had one less dirty diaper to change at changing time.  He became a bit of a phenomenon at daycare and other parents and caregivers were always asking me how we did it. My answer was baby sign language and a consistent routine.

I put him on the potty for the first time when he was 8 months old. Not because I wanted to do some crazy early potty training but because he pooped at pretty much the same time every morning. Our morning routine involved him hanging out in the exersaucer in my bathroom while I got dressed and ready for the day. Every morning I would put him in a new diaper before putting him in the exersaucer because I didn’t want him sitting there in a wet diaper, and every morning he would poop in that nice clean diaper. My Mom and Grandma were in town visiting and I was complaining that he pooped every morning right after I put on a clean diaper and my Grandma suggested I put him on the potty instead of in the exersaucer. This hadn’t even occurred to me, but for my Grandma who raised four kids before disposable diapers became available it made perfect sense.  That afternoon, my Grandma went out and bought us our first potty, and sure enough, the next morning my son had his first poop in the potty at 8 months old!

We were happy with just catching his first poop of the day in the potty for awhile, but after we realized he was more comfortable on there we established a routine that allowed us to catch most of his poops and after that, the number of dirty diapers we had to change diminished quickly.  At the same time, we were teaching him baby sign language and on the day he turned 14 months old he “told” us he needed to go potty for the first time using his sign language. He wasn’t fully potty trained for several more months, but the decrease in dirty diapers in our house was an awesome accomplishment.

PT_DVD_coverart (1)When our second son was born we decided to try the same technique with him and we have been pleasantly surprised to have similar results. This time we were aided by a DVD from our favorite signing series (Signing Time!) that is called Potty Time, so in addition to using sign to tell us when he needs to go potty, our younger son reminds us to wipe, flush and wash with soap as well!  We managed to sing and sign our way through potty training.

I offer a workshop based on the Potty Time program where I teach the potty training signs and help prepare people for this important milestone. If you are interested in my classes or in purchasing the Potty Time DVD please visit my website at