When to Start Signing

One of the most frequent questions our network of Baby Signs® Instructors hear when they give their Parent Workshops and Sign, Say & Play® classes is “When should we start signing with our baby?” Truth is, there’s no “perfect” time to start signing. Over the years we’ve noticed three different approaches parents take to the issue of when to get started. Each has its own advantages. I will describe all three approaches so you can decide which approach will work best for your family.

Birth – 8 months

Some parents start early – at birth or sometime during the first 8 months. These parents want their babies to get lots of exposure to both signs and words from the very beginning. And they like getting into the habit of signing early on. If you know that you have the patience and the persistence to use signs yourself even though your baby is unlikely to sign back until she’s a bit older, then starting early may be a good choice for you.

8-12 months

Many parents choose to wait until their babies are 8-12 months old to start signing. The advantage of starting during this time period is that babies are closer to the age that they can start using signs themselves (usually around 10-11 months). If you like to see more immediate results, starting during this age range may be best for you.

12+ months

Some parents wait until their babies are 12-18 months old before they start using signs. Even at these later ages most babies still don’t have the words to express all the thoughts they want to share. The advantage of starting during this time is that babies are likely to learn signs more quickly, sometimes within a matter of days. With this approach, however, babies will use their signs for a shorter length of time because signs drop off quickly once babies start using more spoken words.

Finally, is it ever too late to start signing? No, not if a child is still frustrated because he or she can’t say the words needed to communicate important things. In other words, any baby or toddler who shows readiness to communicate, but cannot do so effectively with words, is a candidate for signing, and as a parent, you should not feel that it’s too early or too late to start.

Happy Signing,

Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
and Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program

For more information on how to get started with the Baby Signs® Program, visit our website, www.babysigns.com or contact us today.