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When Will My Baby Start Signing?
by: Kelly Ward
I love this question, because my three children are examples of the wide ranges of times when your baby begins to sign back to you. We started introducing signs to all of our children when they were 7 months old.  My oldest daughter began signing to us at 9months.  By the time she was 13 months old she had a signing vocabulary of over 50 signs and she was frequently combining 2-3 signs together.
My second daughter started signing around 10months of age and she quickly settled in on a solid dozen of her favorites.  She would demonstrate other signs as we showed her, but would only use her favorite 12-15 on a regular basis.
My youngest didn't start signing until he was about 13 months and now at 18 months has made the connection with words and signs.  Over the course of three months his signing vocabulary has exploded from four to more than 70 signs!
One walked at 13months, one at 10 months and our youngest at 16 months.  This is just one of the many ways my children are different and are developing at their own individual paces.
Each baby is unique and each baby will sign according to his/her own time frame, just as babies all learn to sit up, crawl and walk at different times.  A key to signing success is your own consistency, persistence and enthusiasm while signing within context!   If you are consistently saying what you are signing and referring to actual people/places/things that are important to your baby, s/he will soon begin signing with you.
Babies who experience signing beginning at 6mos. or earlier may take 2-4 months before they are developmentally ready to make the physical signs.  Many will often show receptive understanding of signs much earlier.
Babies who are introduced to signs at a later age, (11 mos +) may often begin signing a short time after being introduced to the signs.  It is not uncommon at this age for babies to produce a sign within the same 24 hour time period when they are shown the sign. This is especially true of the starter signs "more", "milk", and "eat".
Babies will sign what is important to them.  Consider signs that are of great interest or highly motivating to your baby. If your baby has a favorite book or stuffed animal, use these signs consistently when talking with your baby about these items.  S/he will make begin to make the connectionbetween the item, the spoken word and the sign.
Just as all babies meet their developmental milestones at different times, your baby will sign when s/he is ready.  Don't give up! Be persistent, consistent and enthusiastic, your baby will make theconnection and you will soon enjoy the benefits of the efforts you have made.  Keep signing and when your baby signs back toyou, celebrate!
Kelly Ward is a certified Sign2Me® Instructor in Marion, Iowa. She is also the Owner of "Signing' Tots... Sayin' A Lot Before We Can Talk!", a business dedicated to exposing pre-verbal infants and toddlers to American Sign Language.

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