Part 3: When Will My Baby Start Signing?

When will my baby start signing? This is the question we get asked the most and is the hardest question to answer because each baby will have a different signing experience. A rough guide would be that if you started at six months, then typically it will take two months to see the first signs. If you started later, at twelve months, then you would typically see signing within around one month.

These are, of course, very rough estimates. Some readers’ babies sign at 4 months and some readers’ babies start signing at 18 months, but most of us are somewhere in the middle. In general, girls sign a little earlier than boys (mirroring their faster verbal trajectory) but again, there are plenty of exceptions.

Day Three: Stages of Signing Development

Signing comes in stages. In today’s video, we are going to look at the five stages of signing: Recognition, Imitation, Understanding, Initiation, and Combination. Knowing these stages will help you gauge your progress and help you spot areas for further development.

Signing vocabulary typically starts with a few words with initial progress being slow. A six month old may only add a new sign every week or two. However, as the baby’s developmental window for communication opens, you will see an explosion of signing. At this time, children can often acquire new signs every day. They will often start asking the sign for everything they see, so be prepared!

talkative signer

New signs are often learned in clusters. For example, animal signs like dog, cat, cow, goat, chicken, lion, and tiger or transport signs such as car, bus, train, and boat.

It is worth remembering, just like every other aspect of child development, babies will acquire new skills at different paces. This is just the natural way. In the same way that some children are early walkers and other children are later walkers, but all children end up walking. So too, some children are early signers while others are later signers, but all eventually end up signing. This should be no cause for alarm – they will sign eventually and when they do, they will usually develop faster and quickly catch up to their earlier developing peers.

Video: Jackson Signing More at 7 Months

Tomorrow we are going to discuss how you make use of support from family, friends, and caregivers to teach Baby Sign Language.

Have your own parents ever told you about what you were like as a baby? Tell us in the comments how your development was unique.

5 Responses to “Part 3: When Will My Baby Start Signing?”

  1. Mariana

    «Have your own parents ever told you about what you were like as a baby? Tell us in the comments how your development was unique.»
    I grew up in what I like to call a bilingual-and-a-half language (Spanish, English, and some Italian.) I grew up with Spanish as first language, English as second, and Italian almost as a third. I’m fluent in both English and Spanish, and I can understand a lot of Italian, but don’t speak a lot. As a child, I used to use either language (English or Spanish) depending on how easy or difficult a word would be in one or the other language. For example, the doble R sound is one of the most difficult sounds to master in Spanish. So instead of saying “perro,” I learned to say “dog” earlier. Since my entire family (close relatives and extended) is fluent in both languages, I was very fortunate and didn’t have a lot of problems communicating back then. But that changed when I started to go to kindergarten at the age of 2 (no daycare facilities for 2-yr olds back in those days and where I come from.) Many of the other kids could not speak English, neither did the teachers. I had to catch up with Spanish very fast. Now I have an almost 6-month old daughter. My husband is American and does not speak a word of Spanish (neither does his family.) The baby stays with my mom while I’m at work and she speaks in Spanish to her all the time. My husband always wanted our baby to be fully bilingual, so she’s exposed to both languages. Nonetheless, since I found out I was pregnant, my main concerned had been for my daughter to be able to communicate with her father when he might not understand the Spanish words she could be using. That’s when I remembered the “Meet the Fockers” film and how Little Jack would communicate using sign language. That’s when it hit me that I needed to do the same thing to bridge the language gap and communication in general. I also believed that it would make it easier for her to communicate since babies cannot speak until way later in life. I already knew some sign language before even finding that ASL is used for babies. I was already using some signs with my baby girl as young as 3-months old. She’s a very alert baby and I had noticed that she was using body language to communicate with me very early on. One thing she does when she wants you to do something again or wants more of something is, if she’s laying down, she pushes her lower body up and stomps the pad or mattress with her feet; then looks at you and then the object she wants. She doesn’t fuss or anything; however, I figured that was not a really good way of asking for more or again. That’s when I started to look for formal resources for ASL for babies, since I didn’t know how to say “more” or “again.” I stumbled on your site by accident. My daughter is almost six months now and she clearly enjoys when I sign to her. I sign as much as I can, signs such as bottle/milk, eat, drink, sing, play, piano (she has a little piano that she bangs all the time and she loves playing with), change, diaper, daddy, mommy, grandma, grandpa, girl, baby, tiger, lion, bird, duck, please, thank, all done/finished, butterfly (she LOVES her butterfly mobile,) and many more. She clearly stops to look at the sign I’m making, looks at me, and smiles every time. I have a feeling she already understands many of the signs I make, since she gets very excited when I mention bottle and other things. She also stops complaining when I say that I’m going to change her diaper (and use both signs, change and diaper) and waits for me to change her. I don’t know if she’s trying to sign back at me, yet. I do notice her moving her arms like crazy when I say things like bottle/milk and more. So I’m guessing she’s already trying a bit. Even if she might not, I reinforce the fact that I have acknowledged her supposed effort, in hopes that one day that flapping around might actually become more, milk, and so forth. I truly believed even before doing some research, that my baby would benefit a lot if I would try to find other means of communicating with her that went beyond plain words. I’m so happy to have found your resources and for helping me achieve my goal of making it easier for me to make it easier for my daughter to be able to communicate ahead of being able to talk. Thank you, BSL!

  2. Maxie

    I started a week ago with my 7 month old baby… I can see how she is ejoying the signs as she smiles every time I do them. I think she can already understand the sign for “pick me up” , because she can be crying but when I ask her if she wants me to pick her up she would give me a smile like saying “yes, please!!”. Can’t wait to see her signing back =) … Thanks for all this help! Signing is so much fun for everyone.

  3. Katherine Kolind

    I want to add that she is also already responding to some other signs, even if she isn’t using them yet. She went hunting her bottle yesterday when I told her to drink her milk, and looks at her brother when I ask where he is. She looks so happy (she recognizes this sign too) when she realizes we are really communicating. It is amazing how fast she is learning! And fun for her brother and me too.

  4. Katherine Kolind

    I just started seriously signing with my 8 month old (if I know the sign, I use it with the word every time I say it). I picked her up from daycare and they said she’d been blowing kisses, which I thought was sweet but odd. Then at dinner when I stopped feeding her, she brought her hand up to her mouth and tapped twice. She was still hungry! She repeated it when I was eating soup she wanted. She wasn’t blowing kisses, she was signing eat! I am so darn proud. And it has really only been a week!

  5. Ginger

    I would like Lila to sign all of the new words that you describe in the lesson.

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