What is baby signing?
Baby signing - communicating with your very young child using simple signs and gestures - has grown in popularity as parents have realised its benefits. Here, Katie Mayne, founder of baby signing classes, Tiny Talk, explains all you need to know
Baby signing is using simple signs and gestures with pre-verbal children, helping them to understand and to communicate before they can talk.
Why do we do it?
Most of us have been in a situation in a foreign country where we didn’t speak the language and found it really difficult and frustrating to communicate. The same is true for babies when they can only cry or point to tell us things. Signing gives them a way of letting us know how they are feeling and what they want without the crying!
How does it work?
Signs provide ‘pictures’ to the babies, helping them understand what is being said to them. Babies can also use their hands to make signs long before they can put words together.
What are the benefits of baby signing?
• It reduces the need for the child to cry or point to get their message across.
• It reduces frustration for babies and carers.
• It strengthens the bond between child and carer.
• Happier babies mean happier carers.
Will it stop my baby from talking?
No! Baby signing is always done at the same time as talking to the child. This encourages and speeds up their speech development.
When can I begin?
You can begin to sign with a baby from birth- the earlier the better as it becomes a natural part of your communication.
When will my baby sign back to me?
The average baby is physically able to make the signs when he is around 6 months old. It might take him two to three months before he signs. However, babies will understand and respond to signs long before they can sign.
Is there a best time to sign?
The best time to sign is when the child is alert and happy. If they’re not in the mood, try again another time. Signing should always be fun!
Where can I sign?
Anywhere! But keep the signs relevant, for example, if you see a cat, sign ‘cat’, if you are reading a book, sign ‘book’, if it’s milk time, sign ‘milk’.
Who should sign?
Everyone! Signing should be for the whole family so that everyone can communicate with your baby.
Interested? Then follow our top tips to get you started….!
Baby signing is very easy. Here are some top tips to get you started:
• Begin with a handful of signs, including milk and food – things that are of interest to the baby! If you’ve got a pet then include that too.
• Make sure the child is facing you and can see your mouth and your hands.
• Use lots of facial expression and vary the tone and pitch of your voice.
• Repeat the sign a few times each day at the appropriate time, for example, “Would you like your ‘milk’ now?”, “You’re drinking your ‘milk’ aren’t you?”
• Always remember to speak at the same time as showing the sign. This helps the child recognise that the object, word and sign go together and will help their speech to develop.
• After the sign has been introduced a few times, begin to help the child to make the handshape himself.
• Keep it relaxed and fun and always be pleased and positive with them. Perhaps give an instant reward to reinforce meaningful communication!
• Make up games, sing songs and rhymes, use puppets, toys and books to introduce signs, for example, ‘Where is the ball? There it is!’
• As the baby begins to make noises, copy them and see their face light up as you have a ‘conversation’. This encourages communication and turn- taking.
• Try to keep background noise and other distractions to a minimum.
Most of all enjoy spending time having fun and communicating with your baby, learning about the things that they are interested in. They have so much to say. Don’t you want to know what they are thinking about…? Let them tell you.
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Find out more
Tiny Talk runs baby signing classes across UK, Ireland, the UAE and Australia. To find a TinyTalk Baby Signing Class near you, visit the UK website for UK, Ireland and UAE or visit TinySign for Australian venues and information. Otherwise email firstname.lastname@example.org.