What Babies Really Want

What do babies really want? Babies want to be understood.

Being able to speak is a fine motor skill that gets developed between eighteen and twenty-four months of age, but babies know what they want before that.


You can tell when babies need something when they point, reach out for something, gesture or babble. When babies are not understood using those communication methods, they get frustrated and the tears begin. The needs of babies fall into three main categories: To get attention, to make a request, or to leave a situation.


An excellent tool to use to understand what babies really want in each of those categories is by using total communication. Total communication is combining visual (baby sign language), auditory (speech), and Kinetics (movement) in any activity you do with babies throughout the day.


In the following three instances, total communication was used, it illustrates what it is that babies really want which is to be understand in any circumstance.

To get attention: Baby is in a stroller heading to the park, baby wants to get your attention because they see a rabbit, baby is pointing and gesturing, you say and sign key words “yes, look an animal”, or “yes, its a bunny” or “what do you see”? Teaching babies the signs for animals is good because twenty-five percent of what children talk about is animals. The name of the family pet or even the words dog and cat are often baby’s first word.

To make a request: Baby is tugging on your pants and trying to communicate what they want with no avail, the tears start, you say and sign “Show me please”, Baby stops crying and takes you to where a toy fell behind a couch

To leave a situation: Baby wants down from his high chair, baby starts to babble and fuss, before baby can get frustrated, Sign and say, “What do you want?”, “You want down?” or “you want to play with toys”? Baby signs down in return.


Be animated in your movements and facial expressions (kinetics) for anything you want babies to be motivated to model or pay closer attention to. Babies understand what they can see before than can by hearing, as you noticed they are fascinated with everything you do, babies are often compared to a sponge for all the knowledge they are able to soak up simply by observing their environment.


Baby Sign Language which is derived from American Sign Language is an effective way for babies to get want they really want, to be understood. Sign language requires gross motor skills which is developed much earlier than fine motor skills are. If a baby can hold a rattle or their bottle, then they can make a sign.


Introducing babies to signing as young as five months of age increases their communication skills and decreases their frustrations. By the time those babies are eight months old, they may be able to communicate seven to nine words. Sign Language is not just for Deaf people.


Sign language is a visual language that babies can understand, it allows for lots of interaction, it is animated and a fun way to learn. Discover as many baby signs as possible but use no more than ten at a time. The Ten baby signs should be what would be the most motivating for the baby to use to get what they really want and right for the family to use everyday. Repetition is the key to success; using the signs before, during, and after any activity.


There are plenty of teachable moments throughout the day by using total communication like in the following scenarios:

Before giving baby his sippy cup, using my voice and getting down to baby’s level,

I can use the signs to ask if baby “wants a drink?”, “do you want a drink?”, or “are you thirsty”?

I then sign and say, “do you want milk, water, or juice”? Baby signs back milk

During the moment when baby is happily drinking their choice of drink, I say and sign to ask baby if they “you want more?”, “is it good?” “or “do you enjoy it”? baby smiles back.

After baby is finished, I say and sign to baby to find out if baby is “full?” or “all done”?

Before I dress baby in one of their jumpers, I say and sign “it is time to get dressed” or “Now it is time to get dressed”.

During the time I am putting on the shoes, I say and sign to baby “put your shoes on”

After baby has them on, I say and sign “your shoes are on”.

You could incorporate colors, for example “your blue shoes are on”.


Use kinetics, Visual aids and your voice to help babies tell us what they’re really wanting at that time. Storytelling incorporates total communication. Use the communication tool at every story time with baby. The younger the child, the simpler the books should be. Babies will be more engaged and more likely to pick up the communication and concepts with books that only have one theme and contain just one or two words per page. Babies will feel like they can actually read when they are understanding what the words you are signing, and speaking are. Because the books are so simple, you won’t even need to look down at the book, you can concentrate on the kinetics.


What do babies really want? Babies want to be understood and using total communication helps them tell us what it is before the tears can start.

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