When is Your Toddler Ready to Use Signs?

June 3, 2018


Sometimes parents try to teach nonverbal children or late talking toddlers sign language when they are just not ready for it. Yes, your two year old might have the physical capability to use signs but there are other prerequisites.


These developmental requirements for signing include:

  • They are socially ready. Meaning, they are interested in focusing on you when you interact with them.

  • Can take turns. Do they engage with you in any sort of turn taking activity? Playing ball or making sounds back and forth?

  • Imitate actions. It can be anything like clapping, beeping on their nose when you do, waving, or jumping up and down. T

  • Have receptive language skills. Their expressive language skills might be what you need to work on but do they understand what you say? Will they look for grandma when you say "where is grandma?"

If your child has met these requirements, they might be ready to sign. You can see a list of the best late talking toddler signs I recommend starting off with here. What you choose to teach your child should be highly relevant. Meaning, it gets them what they want quickly. For example, the sign for "more" is applicable in so many situations: more cookie, more ball, more milk, more up, more Sesame Street. And remember, one of the most important signs we use is pointing. Keep using and encouraging pointing to items or actions your child is interested in and get them to follow your point when you give them directions.


The more relevant the signs are to your child's life, the more likely they are to be motivated to use them and frustration might also be decreased since they now have a way to get what they want.


Try to get a good mix of signs for your toddler to learn. Don't only choose nouns (person, place, thing) like ball, car, book, cup. Instead add some verbs (action words) like go, open, and up. Toddlers that are late talkers have been show to use disproportionately more nouns that verbs so getting a good mix is important.


Ultimately, you want your child to learn two key points:

  1. You need to learn to imitate me

  2. You need to do something (communicate) to get something

These skills build the concept of communication and helps get your child ready to talk.

To get help with diagnosis or treatment, or to schedule a free consultation with a speech therapist, please contact me at Speech Therapy that Works.

©2020 by Speech Therapy That Works
Policies and Terms of Use
info@speechtherapythatworks.com