A little girl smiling and using sign language.

Effective Ways to Teach Makaton to Children



What is Makaton?

Makaton is a growing sign language skill used by over 100,000 children and adults to help those who have difficulty communicating. It can also be a vital help to those who struggle to pay attention, remember sequencing and more broadly, with listening and understanding speech. Not only can this help your child to articulate their feelings at a quicker rate as they develop, but it can also remove barriers with other people they encounter. It is an ideal skill to try and teach your children, even if it’s just the basics. 


To be clear, Makaton is a language programme that uses signs and symbols to enhance and enrich the quality of communication.  Rather than being purely composed of signs however, it is used in conjunction with spoken word for optimal clarity. The purpose of this is to help children and adults to communicate quickly, with the signs being dropped as speech develops and improves. This opens many possibilities that were previously blocked to people by their communication difficulties. 


Makaton is very flexible and can help in several other areas as well though! Not only can it help articulate your thoughts and emotions, but it can also be used to label objects, take part in games, tell stories, and provide accurate directions. 


The value of these signs and symbols is underlined by its absorption into mainstream culture. The Cbeebies’ show Something Special is characterised by its inclusive use of Makaton for instance. Meanwhile, more and more pre-schools and nurseries are also adopting its use. In response we’ve listed our favourite ways of teaching this important skill to your children. 

Free Resources 

One of the best ways to adopt Makaton is by incorporating it as part of a daily routine, and there are plenty of resources out there to help you with this. The Makaton charity offers a number of free resources if you cannot commit to classes. These take the form of mini games – such as the cauldron game – and visual prompts explaining a vocabulary set e.g. going back to school. 

Watching Online Clips Together

The Cbeebies website contains plenty of videos to help cover the basics of Makaton here One especially useful clip to get started is found here. These videos can serve as a way of finding out whether Makaton could be something you’re interested in learning further, or simply could be useful to raise your own awareness of sign language slightly.

Combine Learning with Nursery Rhymes

As you become more familiar with Makaton it can be easier to progress by making the process as enjoyable as possible. Using Makaton signing during nursery rhymes and songs is just one way of doing this. Moreover, Something Special even have their own video example of this that can help you along the way -  click here.

Local Classes

Local courses are an exciting and engaging way of learning Makaton, whilst meeting new, likeminded people. The Makaton charity have their own search engine to facilitate finding local workshops (click here) which can be the easiest way of getting started with your child. What’s more, by learning in a class environment there’s often added motivation to succeed and keep up with your peers, rather than giving up on the learning process. 



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