Plenty of sign language purists will tell you to continue signing forever. I suppose this classifies me in the other category. I think I fall in line with the majority however. Baby signing to me, is a means to an end. Baby sign language helps me and helps my boy. I’ve preached many times about the benefits to signing and there are many, however, signing to infinite is not on my radar. This isn’t to say that signing is going to stop cold at some point. This blog talks deeply about the importance that signing has played in our family’s lives, but signing isn’t the be-all-end-all.
Knowing when to give up signing is not an exact science, nor even an art. Signing is something that can only happen with two volunteers. As you baby grows into their toddlerhood, there may come a time when they shun signing. Your toddler might even call signs “for babies” and seemingly reject them overnight. There isn’t much you can do about this and there’s no reason to continue pushing signs on your toddler if they aren’t enjoying it. Conversely, some children might adopt signing as a second language and do whatever they can to learn new words. This should be celebrated and your child will surely enjoy a partner in the process.
As your toddler begins to talk, you might wonder when it’s time to move on. My rule of thumb, if you wish to stop signing, is to stop offering signs just as soon as your baby can clearly say a word. If your baby or toddler struggles to be understood or can only say one syllable of a difficult word, then you should offer them a sign. Signing is not a “crutch” and won’t delay your baby in learning difficult words, it’s just patching your baby over so he won’t get frustrated and give up.
As your signing days wind down, keep my rule of thumb in mind and you can make a smooth transition into the verbal word.