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Our Favourite Ways To Learn Baby Signing

If you're waiting impatiently for baby's first word, or wish there was a way your baby could tell you why they are crying, baby signing might be worth a try

 

Baby signing means using simple actions and gestures with pre-verbal children, enabling them to communicate before they can talk. It allows babies to ask for things they want or need, or to share what interests them as they learn about the world. We asked Katie Mayne, founder of TinyTalk, to tell us why and how to go about baby signing.

Why bother with baby signing?

  • Babies understand so much, but their ability to speak lags far behind, causing huge frustration. Just imagine how you feel trying to make yourself understood in a foreign country. Although speaking is hard, as soon as babies are able to clap and wave (usually around 6 months or so, sometimes even earlier), they can also learn to use gestures to communicate what they need or are interested in.
  • Babies aren't the only ones feeling frustrated. How many times have you wished your baby could just tell you what they are crying about? With baby sign, they can!
  • Signing helps with parent-child bonding. Shared understanding leads to closer relationships and trust between babies and their carers.
  • It's incredibly helpful when babies are cared for by a number of people. If Mum, Dad, Grandma, big sister or brother and any nursery staff or childminders also use the same signs during baby's daily routine, it offers security and consistency - everyone knows what to do and can understand each other! It's quick and easy to learn what a baby wants and needs when they use widely understood British Sign Language (BSL) signs.

How to learn signing with your baby

Baby signing can reduce frustration See it, say it, sign it!

Use signs in context, i.e. when the object is there or the activity is happening, so that your baby connects the two. And always say the word as you sign it; this supports early speech development.

Sign the daily routine

Introduce baby signing by using signs for the things and activities your baby sees or does every day, such as 'milk', 'sleep' and 'nappy'. Even before they are able to make signs back to you, babies will start to recognise the signs you use regularly, perhaps calming down when you sign "your milk is coming!"

Repetition

Repeat signs lots of times throughout the day, whenever you can. For example, each time your baby has their milk you can say things like: "would you like some 'milk'?" "ah... you're drinking your 'milk' now", "oh! The 'milk' is all gone!"

Make it fun

Keep it fun and positive, using songs or rhymes and games such as peekaboo to engage your baby with signing.

Start young

Although babies need to develop some motor control before they can sign back, it's a great idea to start doing some simple signing with them sooner, even from when they are newborn. They will start to recognise the signs, and you'll build up a habit so signing comes naturally to you.

Go to a class

Learn baby signing

Remembering to use baby signs can take some practice, especially as a sleep-deprived new parent with too many other things to remember. Going to a regular class not only teaches you the signs, along with songs and actions to use, it is a great encouragement and support to keep going.

TinyTalk's fun and friendly baby signing classes have been running for 14 years and with 130 teachers running over 500 classes per week across the UK, they are a great way to learn what to do with like-minded others. The classes use popular songs and nursery rhymes, props, books and sensory activities to provide a rich and stimulating environment for your baby. There's also playtime for the little ones and refreshments and a time for the adults to catch up with each other.

 
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