Saturday, 16 October 2010

Baby Signing

I invited Louise to tell us all about baby signing! Over to Louise...

Have you ever thought about baby signing? To some the idea sounds a little strange, why try to get your baby to talk to you before they are ready?

It’s simple...they may not be developmentally ready to talk to you but that does not mean that they don’t want to explore all the wonderful things they see and hear during their day! You are the most important thing in your baby’s life, they are looking to you to show them the world around them.

So what better way than through a fun, interactive method that can create such a special bond between you and your little one? Baby signing encourages you to be down on the level of your baby, talking directly to them and explaining the world. As you say a word add in a simple gesture and before you know it they can be signing back to you.

Yes I make it sound simple, that’s because it really is, you can start signing with your baby from any age really, though the true optimum age would be from 5 months upwards, most little ones will be copying and signing back to you around the age of 8-10 months. Once you start with a few of the ‘official’ signs it is not long before you and your little one are making up signs that only the two (or three) of you understand! This is the magic of baby sign language, although it is based on British Sign Language and Makaton the fundamental idea is to facilitate communication between you and your baby. Does it matter that only you two know what you are talking about? No, but if it is making your baby giggle, and smile are you going to stop?

Learning the basics is done in a fun and interactive way during group classes, but the real way to see the benefits is including the signs into your daily routine. Your baby needs repetition and consistency in their routine so it makes sense that you need to do the same when you introduce the signs. Just doing it once or behind them in the kitchen whilst getting lunch ready, they are not going to be able to learn what sign you are using. The classes provide you a platform to learn the signs in a relaxed and friendly manner with an expert teacher on hand to help you along the way. It helps to build your confidence too. Many a mum starts a class saying they feel embarrassed to sign in public - by the end of the course every parent is telling me tales of signing ‘cow’ in the queue in the supermarket getting odd looks!

The moment your baby looks you in the eyes and beams at you because they realize they have just made you understand that they just saw a cat run passed, or they desperately want you to sing that song again is amazing. You will be hooked.

The list of benefits are well received, many feel it eases frustration for your baby because they can sign to tell you if something is wrong, it eases frustration for you because you can understand what has perhaps upset them. You are welcomed into a world you otherwise would have not had the pleasure or ability to enter, which strengthens this special bond between you. However most importantly I think baby signing encourages interaction between you and your baby, it is too easy to forget to chat to someone who can’t talk back!

So does signing with your baby delay speech? - absolutely not, you are encouraging such a big vocabulary that by the time they get to 3 (my daughter’s age) you might be wishing they would give you 5 minutes peace to drink your tea! I am often asked whether toddlers prefer signing to talking, and the honest answer is I find it still has so many uses! Toddlers can be shy in new environments so may revert back to using signs with you to get you to understand if they want to go home or need an emergency loo break! But most toddlers prefer speech once they have found their voice but I think its a valuable tool for them to fall back on if needed!
Louise's daughter signing Biscuit!
So have I convinced you to give it a try? Or have you still got questions?

Baby Signing Mummy is me, predominantly a mummy, who understands those sleepless nights and inconsolable crying episodes! I am always here to answer any questions you may have. My belief is that signing with your little one is so much fun that every parent should experience it - if you are not sure whether there is a class near you then check out the interactive map. If there is not one near you I am always adding new classes as and when I hear about them!

Baby Signing Mummy - A place to discover and explore the world of baby signing

Find me on Twitter as @babysigningmum
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Finalist in Best New Business Venture in Hampshire Winning Women in Business Awards 2010, Finalist in Best Start Up at Mumpreneur UK 2010

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