According to my daycare lady, most babies' first signs are related to food: "give me" and "more" and "milk" (although not necessarily in that order). I found this to be true with both my babies, and I only wish I'd known that earlier, before my ambitions exceeded my first child's abilities.
See, someone gave us a deck of sign language cards when my oldest was born, and being a bright-eyed first-time parent, I diligently learned the signs for airplane and tree and helicopter and turtle, and then tried to teach them to an infant who barely knew what any of those things were in the first place. I didn't realize that my baby wouldn't be interested in communicating about any of these things for some time, and at least not until he'd mastered signs that would take care of his basic needs, the first and foremost of which is always FOOD.
It would be useless, for instance, to expect a one-year-old to master complicated signs (like the "I love you" in the photo above) (or is that baby throwing rock-and-roll horns?). But boy is it fun to watch the lightbulb blink on over a baby's head as he realizes he can communicate before he can talk. Some babies will even make up their own signs, and some babies will never sign and be perfectly fine with that. Above all, signing should be pressure-free. I mean, it's great and all, but if a baby wants to "talk" about a ball or a horsie or whatever, pointing and grunting remains amazingly effective.
What I learned was to keep my babies' vocabulary of signs small and simple and relevant to their interests. Mostly, baby sign language has been useful in getting my kids through that frustrating gap between when they know what they want but just can't say it yet. If you're considering teaching your baby some signs, definitely keep it simple.
Do you use sign language with your baby?
Image © iStock/S847