If you are a parent of a baby or toddler (or currently pregnant) you probably have heard of “baby sign.” But what exactly is it and why would you want to use sign language with your child? How? Where and when should you start? This is one of many posts I am writing this month on the topic of sign language and why I think it’s awesome for babies and children of all ages to learn it!
This week, I shared the definition of sign language and why I am thankful I am using it with with my 16 month old son Ev. I also shared the many benefits of teaching sign to your little ones. But when to start?
When should I start teaching sign language to my infant or young child?
I get this question very often. The good news is that there is no right or wrong age to start teaching your infant, toddler, or young child sign language! You can start at any age. However if you are looking to reap the benefits of early communication and decreased frustration and tantrums…you can start signing as early as birth! Yes, you can start as early as birth, however don’t expect your little one to sign back for a while. If you choose to start at birth, you just have to keep in mind that it could be 8-12 months (or longer) before he signs back to you, though it can definitely happen earlier.
So when is the best time to start? Most experts recommend starting to sign to your infant around 6 months of age for the earliest benefits. I have talked to parents who have started as early as birth and others that didn’t start until close to the first birthday. I recommend starting as early as you feel comfortable. I feel like right around the 4 month mark, your baby really starts interacting with others and his routine has started to solidify…which means you are getting more sleep! Your more-rested self may finally feel ready to add sign language to the daily routines around this time, especially if this is your first baby or at least the first baby you are signing with.
When can I expect my child to sign back to me?
Just as there is a huge range of “normal” for when a child will produce his first spoken word, there is a huge range for when a child will produce his first sign. Many factors are at play including age of exposure to signs, frequency of exposure to signs, motivation and interest in signing, developmental progress (i.e. cognitive, motor, visual skills), etc. Most experts in the field say the average age of first signs is somewhere between 8 and 12 months. I have known a couple babies who started signing at 6 months!
Wondering which signs to start with? Wondering how exactly do you teach your child sign language (and yourself?) Worried that teaching your child sign language will delay his speech? Check back!
If you have signed to your child, when did you start? When did he/she sign back to you first? What was his/her first sign?