When Can I Start Using Baby Sign Language?
I am asked this question a lot! And I love that so many families are thinking about when the ideal time for starting to sign with their precious little one would be!
The short answer is that it is never too early or too late to start signing!!
Let me break my answer down based on child development. Babies are born to communicate. Yet, oral language is hard and for this reason they communicate through non-verbals and cries. The positive is that you can give early language to your baby as soon as they are born!!
Babies are ready for signing when they start moving their eyes and head to track toys or their parents face. This shows they are interested in learning and ready to start communicating with you!
When you start signing, your child may show you many new reactions. This could be a frustrated or confused face, an interested expression, moving their hands in different ways, or smiling. These are all good indications that your child is trying to figure out what you are saying with your hands. Keep using ASL signs and soon your child will be signing back!
Most baby & toddler sign language instructors recommend waiting until your child is between the ages of 4 to 6 months of age. This is more due to the parents benefit of not having to wait long to see the results of efforts. Babies will sign somewhere between 7 to 12 months of age. However, children are also meeting important milestones during these two months including: eye contact, purposeful movement of arms/hands, and beginning to find new ways to engage with their parents such as squealing, smiling, cooing and babbling.
Did you know at Little Hands & Me Parenting Network we encourage families to start with their babies early? In fact, we have had children as young as 2 weeks up to 2.5 years of age in her classes. Our classes are created with multi-sensory based learning including: music, movement (gross and fine motor), sensory learning, lap-sits, and bonding and connection activities! Families who have started early with their children have shared that they are leaving classes feeling more confident in their ability to know child development, interact with their children in a meaningful way and confident in their daily signing!
A key point about signing, is to be consistent! Start signing with 2-5 words, consistently during the day. However, add more ASL in every week and find those motivational signs. Sometimes, what a child wants to communicate is not what the parent thought. For example both of our children signed milk at 6.5 and 4 months of age. This is a great starting sign! Mr E’s second and third signs were: light and fan! While Miss K signed for dog at 7 months of age. Finally, watch your child for signing approximations and when they start signing or moving their hands to approximate a sign, reward them with praise or what they were asking for!
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With you in your parenting journey,