Baby Sign Language Training on Development – Monkey See, Monkey Do
Jenny Galvao

Not much research has been done in “baby signing”, which is a communication style that teaches keyword signing to babies so they can communicate through signs before they can talk. Curious to know more a study was conducted by, researcher Vanessa Mueller of the University of Texas and associates.

Results suggest that baby sign training has a significant positive effect on children’s development.

The areas of development this study was focused on were cognitive, social, communicative, adaptive behaviour, and physical development. Amazingly, it was found that baby sign training enhanced development of the baby in all of the areas listed above.

“Much of the research on baby sign has focused on supporting or disclaiming the alleged benefits of its use. The impact of parental training of baby sign use and subsequent developmental progress in children, on the other hand, has received little attention. Perhaps the key difference is the approach researchers take to baby sign parental training,” the researchers explain, indicating that this study was carried out very differently from previous work.

In the current study, the researchers used 11 infants with ages ranging from 6 to 29 months old. The researchers incorporated 200 signs (so parents could decide which were the most relevant and useful in their lives) into their 5-week long program. Throughout the experiment, the researchers were available for assistance on how to effectively implement the signing program at home. The families met once a week for 2 hours, where a researcher who was also a certified ASL interpreter taught each class.

Each of the five weeks had a theme (week 1 was family members and greetings, week 2 was food items and related verbs, week 3 was toys and animals, week 4 was emotions and routines, and week 5 was miscellaneous). A random list of 74 signs was created during the first 4 weeks.

In order to assess the infants, the researchers used the DAYC (Developmental Assessment of Young Children), which evaluates the 5 areas of development the researchers examined. Children were assessed before, and 6 weeks after completion of the program.

The results showed that the infants significantly improved in all 5 areas of development after the implementation and completion of the baby signing program.

It makes sense that a well-executed intervention had a positive impact on the areas of development it sought to improve. Giving babies an alternative way to communicate provides them with a more thorough understanding of the world around them. When signing is shown to the babies, they received auditory stimulation because the parent says the word, and they are also get the visual component as they watch the sign.

Before infants can even talk, it’s possible that they can learn nonverbal communication; highlighting its importance. Not only does this nonverbal communication provide infants with a way to speak without speaking, but it also has positive effects on their development.

Jenny Galvao_smallAbout the Author: Jenny Galvao is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph studying psychology.





Mueller, Vanessa; Amanda Sepulveda; and Sarai Rodriguez. The effects of baby sign training on child development. Journal of Early Child Development and Care, 2014. 184:8, 1178-1191. DOI: