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There has been some debate between some friends and myself about at what age should parents start covering their daughters with hijab or niqab? Should it be from birth? when she starts school (mixing with boys)? At an age when potential husbands are being searched? when she starts puberty.... or should we simply speak with her at young age and explain that Allah desires females cover themselves and let her decide whether she would like to fulfill Allah's wishes or go against his will?

Thank you all for your responses.

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    Brother, please remember that she has to be aware of the purpose of hijab and it shall be her choice as if she does not agree and is forced to do so this is not Iman and there is no benifit of doing so as it is not in the niya and she may be forced to it, explain to her and make her aware, remind her of the sins she may gain from disobeying Allah and inshalah Allah will Guide her, Inshalah no evil shall harm her – Aboudi Aug 28 '14 at 2:55
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According to Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, wearing hijab becomes mandatory only after she has reached puberty.

His complete fatwa (#20475) can be found on IslamQA.com; the following extract is taken therefrom (emphasis added):

A person is not considered to be accountable until after reaching puberty. Before puberty he or she is not accountable, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Pen has been lifted from three: from the child until he reaches puberty, from the sleeper until he wakes up, and from the one who has lost his mind until he recovers.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4402). Based on this, then a girl has to put on complete hijab when she reaches puberty.

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When they reach puberty ( get their period because that is when their sins start being counted) and the prophet said in a hadith when they reach their menstrual age they should be covered. But starting like a few years before that is good for practice so when the girl has to start she wont be shocked and upset and will already be used to it and know about it. Even before they start you should dress them modestly like no tights and skinny jeans and always cover their backsides and not force them to wear tight clothing.

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quran 33:59, here and later "Umm Muhammad" / "Sahih International" translation :

O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

there is word "nisa" used. what does it mean? let's look at http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=nsw . you can see that at least at some places it means "female human":

quran 4:176 :

They request from you a [legal] ruling. Say, " Allah gives you a ruling concerning one having neither descendants nor ascendants [as heirs]." If a man dies, leaving no child but [only] a sister, she will have half of what he left. And he inherits from her if she [dies and] has no child. But if there are two sisters [or more], they will have two-thirds of what he left. If there are both brothers and sisters, the male will have the share of two females. Allah makes clear to you [His law], lest you go astray. And Allah is Knowing of all things.

quran 7:127 :

And the eminent among the people of Pharaoh said," Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?" [Pharaoh] said, "We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them."

so, you cannot surely interpret that 33:59 commands hijab only to pubescent female human. so, at least it is dubious, and so, acording to a hadith, we should move away from dubious things. i have found such hadith : https://sunnah.com/urn/678240 :

Al-Hasan bin 'Ali said: "I remember that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said: 'Leave what makes you in doubt for what does not make you in doubt. The truth brings tranquility while falsehood sows doubt.'"

take in account that it is possible to judge actions of parents and actions of children. according to hadith cited in answer of oshirowanen, children are not guilty if they do not wear hijab and cannot be executed. but question is about actions of parents, and i answer about actions of parents.

so, i think, it should told by parents to female children from birth, (when they do not understand speech they should clothe them), and they should prepare the proper cloth, but the hadith http://www.sunnah.com/abudawud/40/52 disallows executing/punishing, so i think parents should not force their children with anything like serious execution like hitting or not giving some essential food.

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