Sign Language for Toddlers

Guide for Signing with Toddlers (13-36 months)

Signing with toddlers is fun and rewarding because toddlers have a passion for communication. Toddlers’ first attempts at speaking are not always clear. Signing can empower them to express their wants and needs in a way that is easy to understand, which can help reduce tantrums.

Watch Signing Time Together – and Learn Together

As soon as you receive your Signing Time videos, start watching them. Rachel demonstrates every sign so you can learn how to sign correctly. In addition, Signing Time includes engaging music, animation, and shows lots of children signing. This teaches your toddler that other children sign too, and facilitates quick learning.


Interact with Your Toddler

Interact with your toddler while watching Signing Time videos. Make the signs along with the DVD so your toddler can see you signing too. Sing and dance as you sign with
the songs for a fun movement activity. To learn more signs that toddlers love, check out the Baby Signing Time series at 

Use the Signs Frequently and Consistently

Use the signs you know as frequently and consistently as possible. Mealtime is a great time to sign. When your toddler wants more food, sign and say, “Do you want some MORE ___?” This is the key to signing success: frequency and consistency.

Talk to Your Child

Signing doesn’t mean being silent. When you want to communicate, look at your toddler and make eye contact. Make the sign directly in your toddler’s line of sight so your toddler can see your eyes, the sign, and your mouth. Then speak with your toddler, emphasizing the word you are signing. For example, you might sign and say, “Do you want some MORE crackers?”

Sing and Sign

The Signing Time Music CDs have amazing original songs from the DVDs that both you and your toddler can enjoy. Lis- ten to the songs together and see how many signs you can remember. We’ve included lyric pages at the end of this Guide for the songs from the CD you received with this Guide. You can download lyrics for the songs from all of the Signing Time DVDs and CDs from the Resources area at 

Read and Sign

Reading is one of the best things you can do for your toddler’s development. Sign- ing while you read adds a fun interactive dimension to reading and can increase your toddler’s interest in books, especially if they are visual or spatial learn- ers. As you read together, your toddler may ask you how to make a sign you don’t know. If you don’t know the sign yet, don’t worry. You can look it up later on a Signing Time video or an ASL dictionary. Next time you read together, incorporate the new signs you’ve learned.

Look for a Sign

Most first signs don’t look ex- actly right since children adapt signs to their physical abilities. As fine motor skills develop, signs will also develop. (This is very similar to how speech develops. Daa-daa becomes Daddy and Bah-bah becomes bottle.) That is one of the fun things about Signing Time—you can see children of all different abilities signing.


Encourage any attempts your child makes to communicate with praise and positive reinforcement. If you think it is a sign, say: “Oh, you’re signing MILK. Do you want some MILK?” Continue to make the signs correctly and your child will learn to make the signs correctly.

Sign Language for Toddlers

Sign in Your Daily Routine

Since repetition is the key to signing success, watching Sign- ing Time once daily is a good idea. You can either master the signs one show at a time or use all the DVDs interchangeably. Either way works fine. It’s up to you and your child.

Just Sign What You Know

Remember that signing is not something you have to stop your life to do. Signing fits naturally into your daily activities. As you talk with your toddler, sign the words you know. Don’t worry that you don’t know how to sign everything.

Keep it Fun!

When eating, make sure to use the food signs you know. Songs like the Silly Pizza Song and Five A Day also add a fun element to the eating experience. When you know your toddler will want more of something, wait for your toddler to sign MORE. When you play together, make the signs for the toys you are playing with. Use the signs you know consistently and repeatedly. The more you use them, the easier it will be for your toddler to learn the signs.