Signs a Toddler is Ready to Sign… Prerequisites for Teaching a Late Talker to Use Sign Language


I’ve watched many families and therapists prematurely introduce signs to late talkers and then become frustrated when “it doesn’t work.”

The problem isn’t sign language.

The problem is that the child wasn’t ready to sign.

Know the prerequisites so you can accurately determine when teaching signs will be successful.

To help you, here’s a list!

Toddlers are developmentally ready to learn sign language when they:

  • are aware of you and focus on you when you talk to them (the social piece).
  • understand the back and forth piece of communicating—meaning they listen to you and then respond (the turn taking piece).
  • can imitate other body movements, like clapping, banging on a table, waving, and doing hand motions in songs (the imitation piece).
  • are beginning to link meaning to your words (the receptive language piece).

If a child is not doing these things yet, don’t waste valuable treatment time by having unrealistic expectations that he or she sign before they are able. Get them ready!

Learn how in my new book Let’s Talk About Talking… Ways to Strengthen the 11 Skills All Toddlers Master Before Words Emerge.

All those areas – the social piece, turn taking, imitation, and receptive language (or how a child understands words) – are prelinguistic skills that “get a child ready” to talk. In the book, I’ll walk you through how to teach a late talker any piece that’s missing or weak.



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