Learn when to introduce baby sign language, when babies usually start signing, and what to expect depending on your baby’s age and developmental stage.
When to Start Baby Sign Language
The question I get asked more than any other is, “When is the best time to start signing with my baby?”
The Simple Answer to the Question: When to start baby sign language?
The short answer: You can start anytime, as long as you have realistic expectations.
Here are the facts…
- Most babies start signing back in the 8-12 month range (with 10 months being the average)
- Some babies might start signing back as early at 5-6 months old
- Other babies might not pick up signing until after their 1st birthday (and that’s ok!)
Just like other developmental milestones like sitting up, crawling and walking, all babies are different and have their own timeline. So use the information above as a guideline to decide when you think is the best time for you to start signing with your baby.
Signing with your 0-6 month old baby
If your little one in under 6 months old and you’re eager to get started, should you wait to start using sign language? Not necessarily.
As mentioned above, some babies start signing as young as 5-6 months, so you never know! Just keep in mind that it’s not typical for babies to start signing this young and you might be signing for quite a few months before you see that first sign. But it will happen if you stick with it!
Another thing to keep in mind is that your baby with recognize and respond to YOUR signs before they ever make their first sign, so signing to your young baby is still beneficial and sets the groundwork for using your hands (along with your voice) to communicate.
One last important thing to keep in mind when signing with your baby at this stage… Your baby’s vision is still developing during these early months so she’s focused on things within about a foot of her. That means that if you’re signing from across the room, she’s not going to see you. Any signing done during these early months needs to be in pretty close proximity to your baby in order to be seen by your little one.
Signing with your 6-12 month old baby
Every month of your baby’s first year brings exciting new developmental milestones. One of the big milestones that happens in the 5-7 month range is that your baby will likely start sitting up independently, which frees their hands and arms to reach, grab and explore their world in a whole new way. It also around this time that some babies will start clapping or raising their arms to be picked up. These are great signals that your baby is ready to start signing!
Of course, there is a BIG difference between a 6 month old baby and a 9 month old baby, and again, all babies are different, but if your baby is in the 6-12 month range, it’s a fantastic time to introduce sign language! Just be patient and use the above guidelines to manage your expectations.
Signing with your 12-18 month old baby
By the time your baby turns one, their receptive language (what they understand) has really exploded! They understand almost everything you say to them, even though they may only be speaking 1 or 2 simple words. This is when sign language really becomes essential for everyone’s sanity.
If you haven’t started signing with your baby yet, you may be wondering if it’s too late. Not to worry! It’s definitely not too late to start, and the good news is, your little one will likely pick up signing really quickly at this point.
You’ll find that your older baby/young toddler has a LOT they want to say and giving them the tools to express their thoughts and wishes will alleviate much of the frustration & meltdowns that typically start around this age.
Signing with your 18+ month old baby
If you’ve got a toddler who is getting really frustrated by their inability to communicate with you, you might be realizing just how helpful sign language would be!
So what are you waiting for? It’s not too late, and your toddler will pick up signs faster than you. ;) Jump in and start learning some signs for their favorite foods, toys & activities. You’ll see their frustration decrease and everyone’s happiness increase.
The Best Time to Start Signing with your Baby
To wrap up, whether your baby is 6 or 16 months old, you can start using basic American Sign Language vocabulary to facilitate early communication. You can start signing with your baby anytime, as long as you have realistic expectations and are patient. Don’t give up! Stick with it – you and your baby will be so glad you did.
Get Started Using Baby Sign Language Today
So now you might be wondering which signs you should start with and how to learn them. I can help! Join the Tiny Signs community today and get started signing with your baby. You’ll get free access to my video dictionary, as well as a free checklist and more!
Get Started Signing Today!
Download the FREE Easy Start Guide to Baby Sign Language and get started signing right now. Includes a free printable baby sign language chart!