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One of the foundation skills for learning to talk is Imitation.  Copying skills are often practiced in these contexts;

  • action nursery rhymes  / finger plays
  • Simon Says games
  • funny faces
  • signing / gestures

Learning how to sign or gesture has many benefits for language &/or developmentally delayed children.  It develops imitation skills and can be a bridge to further communication development.  Always sign and talk at the same time!  Using signs / gestures with hearing children should never be done silently.

Most countries have their own sign language which is usually based on the sign language used in the deaf community.  (Australia -Auslan,  the US – ASL and in the UK – BSL.) Key Word Sign (KWS) is the combination of manual signs and natural gesture, used to support communication. It is designed for use with children and adults who have communication difficulties.  Key Word Sign is used internationally and uses the signs of the host country.

We have chosen some resources which are useful for young toddlers or developmentally delayed children who are starting out with sign. They are a combination of Auslan, ASL and BSL, so you might need to choose your signs carefully with the aid of a speech pathologist.

These are our picks for recommended resources for early signing;


1. My First Baby Signs Board Book series.  This series has 3 books – First signs,  Baby Signs for Animals & Baby Signs for Mealtimes. These small, sturdy board books have a picture of an object (eg cat) and then a photo of a baby doing the sign.  Clear photo images and a simple design make this a great starter for learning some first signs.

2.  My First Signs by Annie Kubler. This is another series of larger board books with the topics – My First Signs,  My First Animal Signs. These books are in the design of a child’s picture book with coloured line drawings.  The pages are quite busy with lots of information – better for an older child.  There are also nursery rhyme books with actions for the rhymes like Incy Wincy Spider& Wheels on the Bus.

3.  I Can Do That! A beautifully illustrated book with line drawings of actions that young children like to do.  Kiss, drink, eat etc.  A great way for children to copy a natural daily action.

4.  CopyCat Animals – This book is difficult to find unfortunately!  You will need to track it down on Amazon or Ebay.  However, it is a beautiful way to introduce some very easy gestures.  The book has about 5 different animal actions. Each page has one child dressed up an an animal doing an animal gesture.  These are not based on Auslan – they are more natural actions.

5.  Baby Faces– this is a short, simple board book with different facial expressions.  These are not signs, just copycat faces to try if you are developing some imitation skills. Use a mirror to show your child what he is doing or a photo from your phone. Make silly faces and combine noises too!

6.  Signing Smart – My first Signs. This book has both an adult and child doing the same sign. See if you can copy the parent one and the child one.


Teach your Baby to Sign. Very clear set of photo cards of a young child doing early signs. Auslan Flashcards– a set of cards with line drawings of a person signing and clipart.  For the more advanced user.


Sign Planet

Key Word Sign



Please note the following statement.  

It is the position of Speech Pathology Australia that the best way to successfully stimulate children’s speech and language development is by talking to them and sharing joint experiences. If parents wish to use baby sign with their children, Speech Pathology Australia would recommend that sign is always accompanied by talking. However, using baby sign is not necessary for successful language acquisition in normally developing children. Research does suggest that the use of augmentative communication, such as sign, is beneficial for children with developmental delays and/or those who are at risk of speech and language difficulties.