Enhancing Early Communication: The Baby Signs® Program and Early Head Start


Communication is a fundamental skill that shapes the way we interact with the world around us. For infants and toddlers, the ability to express their needs and thoughts is especially vital as they navigate their early years of development. One innovative program that has gained significant attention for promoting early communication skills is the Baby Signs® Program. In this blog post, we will explore the Baby Signs® Program and how it’s enhanced Early Head Start programs, shedding light on how these initiatives are positively impacting the lives of young children and their families across the nation.

The Baby Signs® Program: A Brief Overview

Developed by Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn in the 1980s, the Baby Signs® Program is a research-based approach that teaches infants and toddlers simple signs and gestures to communicate before they can speak. The core idea behind Baby Signs® is to empower young children with a means to express their desires, emotions, and thoughts, reducing frustration and enhancing early communication between parents and children.

How the Baby Signs® Program Works

eat sign

The Baby Signs® Program is designed to be integrated into daily routines, making it accessible and practical for families. Parents and caregivers are taught a set of basic signs, such as “more,” “eat,” “all done,” and “milk,” which are commonly used in everyday interactions with infants and toddlers. These signs are introduced through consistent modeling and repetition, allowing infants to learn and replicate them.

Benefits of the Baby Signs® Program

  • Reducing Frustration: One of the most significant advantages of the Baby Signs® Program is its ability to reduce frustration in young children. By providing them with a means to communicate their needs and desires, tantrums and meltdowns can be minimized.
  • Enhancing Vocabulary Development: Research has shown that infants and toddlers who participate in the Baby Signs® Program tend to have larger vocabularies when they begin to speak. The exposure to sign language-like gestures aids in language development.
  • Strengthening Parent-Child Bond: The program encourages active engagement between parents and their children. By using signs together, parents and caregivers can strengthen their bonds with infants, leading to more positive interactions.

Early Head Start: A Vital Support System

Early Head Start is a federally funded program in the United States that provides comprehensive support to low-income infants, toddlers, and their families. Early Head Start focuses on enhancing early childhood development, promoting school readiness, and ensuring that children are well-prepared for the transition to preschool and beyond.

Baby Signs® and Early Head Start

The Baby Signs® Program and Early Head Start have a shared commitment to promoting early communication skills in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. By integrating the Baby Signs® curriculum into Early Head Start programs, children and families served by this initiative gain access to a valuable tool for communication.


  • Inclusivity: Ensures that children from all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to the benefits of the Baby Signs® Program, reducing communication disparities among young children.
  • School Readiness: Early Head Start’s emphasis on school readiness aligns perfectly with the Baby Signs® Program’s goal of enhancing vocabulary and communication skills. Children who can express themselves effectively are better prepared for formal education.
  • Parental Involvement: The integration of Baby Signs® into Early Head Start programs encourages parental involvement. Parents can learn the signs alongside their children, reinforcing the bonds and communication skills they share.

When incorporated at Early Head Start centers, the Baby Signs® Program offers a powerful approach to improving early communication skills in infants and toddlers. By equipping young children with the tools to express themselves and fostering stronger parent-child relationships, these initiatives are making a meaningful impact on the lives of countless families. As we continue to prioritize early childhood development and communication, partnerships like this one play a crucial role in ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive.

Research with Early Head Start

Dr. Claire Vallotton, now a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Michigan, State University, conducted a study with families from an Early Head Start Program in Northern California. The positive results were published in the journal, Early Childhood Research Quarterly (Vol. 27, 2012, pp.401-415). Here is a brief summary in her own words of what she found:

Mothers in the ISI [Infant Sign Intervention] group were more attuned to changes in children’ affect and more responsive to children’s distress cues. Mothers in the intervention group also viewed their children more positively, reducing parenting-related stress. This study provides evidence that a simple infant sign intervention is an effective tool to promote bidirectional communication and positive interactions for preverbal children and their parents (p. 401)

Dr. Vallotton found that moms in the signing group were more attuned to changes in their children’s emotions and more responsive to their distress cues. In addition, the signing moms also viewed their children more positively, a benefit that reduced perceived stress. All these positive changes are important because they are critical components of a healthy “attachment” relationship—which, in turn, is a predictor of positive emotional development long term.

Infant signs as intervention? Promoting symbolic gestures for preverbal children in low-income families supports responsive parent–child relationships:

How Do I Find and Choose a Head Start Program?

To find a Head Start or Early Head Start program near you, visit the online Head Start program locator. Once you find a local program, you can contact the program to learn more about how to apply for Head Start or Early Head Start services.

To find a Baby Signs® Class or Instructor near you visit

Other articles

Baby Signs and Early Head Start

Everyone Benefits from Signing with Babies!