Monday, September 22, 2008

When are babies able to use Baby Sign Language? Is it normal to start signing and then stop?

Smart Baby Sign Language reader Makaela asked the following question:

I've been signing to my LO for the past 5 months - I think that she understands when I sign eat, milk, bathtime. When are they able to sign back? I thought that she was signing eat a few months back, but stopped. Is that normal?
I've heard of babies signing their first sign as young as four month old. But don't be discouraged! That's not the norm. Between 5 and 12 months is more average, and many groups consider between 8 and 12 months to be normal. (Don't take that to mean signing later is abnormal!)

Signing Time: Children can begin signing back at 5 or 6 months.
Signing Smart: The average child who uses Signing Smart has 5 signs by 8 months old.
My Smart Hands: Babies generally start signing back between 8 and 12 months.
Baby Signs: "The answer varies enormously from baby to baby depending on a child's interest in communicating (some babies prefer climbing bookshelves to reading books), development of related skills (e.g., memory, imitation, attention), and the frequency with which parents model the signs. The most typical age range for first signs is between 10 and 14 months."

When your child begins signing back in American Sign Language or baby sign language is going to be affected by many different factors. How often you sign, your comfort level with signing, how fun and interesting signing is to your baby, how interested your baby is in the signs you choose to teach her, how many people sign with her, how long you've been signing, etc.

I started signing with my daughter when she was 5 months old. She signed back for the first time at 7.5 months old. She wanted my attention when I was distracted by lots of relatives. Wow! Did she get attention. But like Makaela's daughter, she didn't sign again for about a month. She learned to walk instead. But then she steadily picked up more and more signs and used them more often throughout the day.

She has periodically reduced the amount she signs. When she started speaking more, she decreased her signing. But I continued signing, and soon she was signing even more words to me. It almost seems that when a more challenging tasks comes along, the sign language is put on hold or reduced while the next task is mastered. (Just my thoughts.)

Now that my daughter is two, she sometimes tells me to stop signing (especially if I'm not talking). But then, a week or two later, she discovered the benefits of signing while we're playing hide-and-seek from Dad.

Just keep on signing and she will, too.


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