When my daughter was born in 2009 I looked at a million baby classes and groups and I couldn’t seem to choose one, we could only afford to pay out for one kind of class so choosing was tricky. That was, until my friend showed me a video of her one year old daughter signing for ‘biscuit’. I was utterly amazed that this ‘baby’ was able to tell her Mummy what she wanted without the usual cries and pointing. My friend went on to explain to me about the other things that Elsie could communicate with her and when she told me that she hardly ever cried for what she wanted because she could ‘tell’ her instead, I was sold!
I began to look for baby signing classes in my area and did a little bit of research of my own, I was a bit worried about the impact of signing on the development of my daughter’s speech. It turned out that my original worries couldn’t have been further from the truth.
There is now so much research to prove that signing with babies and children actually enhances their initial speech, some research even suggests babies and children who are taught signs from an early age actually learn to speak faster than those who haven’t because they have been taught the ‘art’ of communication early.
This information is taken from a recent article on the subject:
A common myth about using sign language in children is that as a child grows up will choose to use signing over verbal speech. On the contrary, our research suggests that verbal speech is preferred over signing because the vocabulary skills of children who are taught the sign language are enhanced. Children use gestures as a natural social language of childhood and in this context signing can provide a more natural experience than English when it comes to learn a spoken language. Again, sign language is used to bridge the gap between the signals and imprint of the language.
Conclusively, learning sign language includes a broad range of benefits enhanced communication skills and stronger relationships between parents and children. Without any doubt, children benefit from development of fine motor skills, increased IQ scores, enhanced vocabulary, enhanced reading and spelling skills and increased creativity. Parents benefit from a great bonding experience with their children and a wonderful communication.
So off I went to my local signing class ‘Sing and Sign’ with my 6 month old little girl. I am going to be completely honest with you now..I was a new Mum, I knew no other parents what so ever and the only nursery rhyme I knew was Three Blind Mice! So you can imagine I was a little in at the deep end when I joined this group of all singing all signing Mums! The first class I felt like a complete plonker, I didn’t really fancy singing out loud and the other parents knew most of the words that I didn’t! I was about to reverse my decision and join a random baby group where I could drink coffee and moan about my lack of sleep, until a lovely lady with a beautiful little girl named Blossom (I’ll never forget this lady even though I’ve never seen her since those classes 4 years ago) came and sat next to me. She could definitely tell I was WAY out of my comfort zone and she told me to relax and have a giggle. After that I let my guard down and started to enjoy the class, once I started to look around I realised that some of these babies actually COULD sign and it wasn’t just a myth. Now I was determined to communicate with my baby girl.
The rest as they say is history! I wish I had taken photos of all the signs that my daughter had learnt! By the time she was one she could sign about 15 signs independently. The girls at the nursery she started at couldn’t believe it all and the Sing and Sign teacher even went to the nursery to teach all the staff the signs and they became an affiliated nursery.
Don’t get me wrong, there were still people who thought we were bonkers, but I proved them all wrong! By 18 months my daughter’s speech was amazing, definitely advanced for her age.
I believed in baby signing so much that I decided to become a teacher myself, I hope I was able to pass on my enthusiasm through my classes, I felt such a sense of achievement when Mums would come to me week after week with their stories of when their baby first signed for ‘milk’ or ‘more’!
I then became pregnant with my little boy and sadly couldn’t commit to teaching my classes every week, however, that didn’t stop me signing with him! He is now 15 months old and can sign for milk, more, finished, raisins, what, where, home, bird, pig, cat, duck, change your nappy, bedtime and bathtime and his favorite Iggle Piggle!! AND he took his very first ever steps towards Jessie Cat, the sign and sign mascot during his nursery Christmas party.
My husband (who was reluctant to sign with our daughter.. I think he felt silly, hee hee) signed straight away with our son and I can’t tell you what a difference it has made. He’s never been to a class and he knows exactly how to tell us what he wants now and his words are beginning to accompany his signs, no doubt he will become a chatter box just like his sister! 🙂
Baby Signing is one of those things where you need to put the effort in to get anything out, you do need to be committed to learning and using the signs regularly with your little one, but believe me if you do put in the effort the rewards will be astounding.
Below is some more in depth information about Sign and Sign from Pippa Jenkins who runs the classes in the Warwickshire area.
Here are some other people’s views!
“I am so pleased with how signing has worked for us. Matthew’s word’s are coming really quickly now and mostly from things he has signed although it is widening. I am sure he would not have been talking so early had it not been for the signing. We have so much fun using the words he can say and his signs. I will continue to recommend your classes and if I’m lucky enough to have another I’ll be giving you a call.”
Jill and Matthew
“Good fun, educational and a brilliant way to spend an hour.”
Rebecca and Lewis
“The course has really helped Chloe’s speech and social interaction. Thank you – we will miss Sing and Sign every Friday.”
Claire and Chloe
Babies use all kinds of signs and gestures as a natural part of learning to talk. Encouraging your baby with extra signs like “milk”, “more”, “change nappy” or “tired” will help your baby communicate! When you sign you always say the spoken word to encourage language development. Your baby will recognise important words sooner and can use the signs to “talk” to you before speech.
Why does baby signing work?
The best way to understand the process is to think about how you teach your baby to wave “goodbye”, which is something we encourage all babies to enjoy. There seem to be four typical stages :
- Your baby will first start to recognise and enjoy Mummy and Daddy waving goodbye
- Then start to imitate you when you wave (probably to great applause and family excitement!)
- Soon start to wave spontaneously as you get ready to leave (this is when we would say the baby is ‘signing’)
- Eventually say the words “bye-bye!” while waving.
The Sing and Sign Programme is approved by Speech and Language Therapists
Developed with the help of Speech and Language professionals and recommended by experts, Sing and Sign is Britain’s original and best loved baby signing programme. Attending a weekly Sing and Sign group with other parents and babies will inspire you to enjoy the wonderful benefits baby signing can offer and you will learn over 100 signs within your first term all connected with your babies world – mealtimes, bath-time, bedtime, emotions and much more.
Sing and Sign is widely recommended by Sure Start, the Government’s programme to deliver the best start in life for every child. Since 2002, Sure Start services across the UK have chosen to fund many Sing and Sign groups to benefit local parents. Susan Duffy, Speech and Language Therapist for Sure Start says:
“Sing and Sign is a brilliant programme. We suggest all our mums and babies use signs, as gesture is a natural first form of communication. The gestures shown in Sing and Sign can help babies understand more of what is said to them and enable babies to express themselves earlier. Using signs can make life for parents far less stressful”
The benefits of signing with your baby are potentially significant
Interesting research is ongoing into the effect of baby signing on the development of a baby’s brain. In the earliest years of life, babies’ brains are ‘wiring’ themselves through their experiences. While using signs, parents say accompanying words and tend to give greater language input. Signing babies can communicate complex things earlier, many experts suggest this stimulates brain development and enhances the building of brain circuitry.
Signing benefits include:
- Helping to understand your baby’s needs, thoughts and ideas
- Reducing frustration (for baby and parent!)
- Enhancing early vocabulary and understanding
- Encouraging the development of speech
- Enriching your baby’s relationships
- Building confidence and self-esteem
- Stimulating your baby’s intellectual and emotional development
If my baby learns signs, will he still learn to talk?
Yes, of course he will! Signs are never used instead of words and your baby will be greatly encouraged to communicate verbally, not in any way discouraged. Baby signing is not a replacement for talking to your baby, in practice it encourages you to talk more! The use of gesture is a natural form of early communication and doesn’t get in the way of learning to talk, other than to give it a boost!
When will my baby be ready to start learning some signs?
Sing and Sign has three types of class, all developmentally appropriate:
- Sing and Sign Babes (any age up to around 6 months) – a gentle introduction to the “framework of good communication”
- Stage 1 (6 months plus) – 100+ signs are shown
- Stage 2 (14 months to around 24 months) – advanced term
What happens to the signs, as my baby starts talking?
Your baby will use signs and immature speech together for a while. As speech improves, signs fade away until they are probably dropped altogether. Some favourites might stay around for a while!
Baby signing with Sing and Sign is easy because we make it fun to learn! Your baby will recognise important words sooner and can use the signs to “talk” to you before speech. Sing and Sign has been welcoming parents to class locally in Leamington, Warwick, Wellesbourne and Stratford since 2005 and all the teachers are passionate about helping you to enjoy the same baby signing experience that they have had with their own children.