- No specific age is “best” to start baby signing – if as a parent you believe that there is a benefit to starting baby signing then it’s a good time to start!
- Developmentally, from approximately six months of age babies generally have the ability (physical and mental) to be able to learn baby signing
- Baby signing is most beneficial between nine months and two and a half years – dependent on the child’s development
- Your baby is never too old to learn baby signing as long as you feel there is a need for it
It is a two-way street though – your baby also has to want to communicate.
Examples that indicate that your baby may be ready to start learning how to sign are:
- Is the baby beginning to point to things?
- Have they learnt how to clap hands?
- Can they imitate your actions – such as playing peek-a-boo?
- Is your baby beginning to wave “bye-bye”?
- Is your baby beginning to shake their head to say “no” and nod to indicate “yes”?
Even if your baby isn’t yet doing these things, you can still start to use baby signing, but be aware that they won’t necessarily sign any earlier. As a guide, from approximately 7-8 months old is a “good” age, and you can expect the baby to sign back from 9-12 months.
We have had different timings with all of our kids. We started at about 11 months old with Maia and she was signing back within a month. With Keira we were consistently signing one sign (MILK) from six months old and she was copying by about eight months and then signing by nine months. With Matilda we started again at six months but even thought started signing at about eight months, she didn’t start consistently signing back until 11 months – and even then it was only when she wanted to. Every child has a different temperament, learning capacity and desire, so there is no set time or timeline with regard to when they will sign back, or even if they sign at all.
Starting earlier (from 0 ? 8 months) is okay if you have the persistence and patience to be signing without much indication of whether your baby understands and means you will have to be signing for a lot longer before your baby is signing back. It is good however for developing the habit of signing, and does increase your babies exposure to signs and words.
Starting around 8-12 months is a more common age for parents to start signing with their baby as this is the age where babies are closer to the age where they are actually able to produce signs themselves. You will probably feel like you are getting more immediate results – good for those impatient parents among us!
From 12 months onward, babies are likely to learn to sign back very quickly, and the benefits are still very worthwhile as even if they are speaking a few words, it takes a lot longer for them to be able to say all of the words that they need to communicate effectively.