Thursday, August 19, 2010

"When do you start signing with your baby?"

I get asked this question a lot by parents and it's understandable. The reasoning seems to be they don't want to start "too late" or "too early." The fact is that there is no perfect time to start signing with your baby. (That probably doesn't sound very helpful at all, does it?) Let me highlight some different stages that you can start signing with your baby and the advantages and disadvantages of each stage.

Birth to 8 Months
Many parents start signing with their baby from birth. This is a great way to expose your baby to both signs and words from the very beginning of their development. This approach will take patience, however, as you baby is unlikely to sign back to you until he/she is a bit older (almost 12 months). They will understand the signs you use but developmentally they will be unable to produce them themselves.

8 to 12 Months
Many parents wait until their babies are 8 to 12 months old to begin signing with their baby. The advantage of starting at this age is that you're more likely to see your baby start using the signs and communicating with you. If you prefer more immediate results, then starting during this age may be ideal.

12 + Months
Many parents are surprised when I tell them that it's perfectly fine to start signing with their baby at this age. Many assume that 12 to 18 months is "too late." "Aren't they talking by then?" they ask. Yes, but most only have about 2 or 3 words. Even at this "later stage" many babies don't have all the words to express their thoughts and feelings. Many times the few words they do have sound the same. The advantage of starting at this age is that they are more likely to pick up the signs quickly, sometimes after a few days. Babies at this age will not use signs as long as those who started earlier. They are closer to the age of gaining more vocabulary and as the words come easier the signs will start to drop off.

All babies want to communicate and many do not have the words to do so. Don't worry about starting too early or too late, just start! Remember that repetition is key. The more you use the signs and incorporate them in your daily life, the better your chances are for success.

Happy Signing!