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Tiny Talk: The Benefits of Baby Signing

Updated: Mar 7


The benefits of baby signing By Kath Greaves, TinyTalk Belper


Have you ever wondered what your baby is thinking? Or tried to imagine how they view the world? Ever found yourself asking your baby ‘What’s the matter?’, or ‘Why are you crying?’. You may even have found yourself wishing your baby could talk, to tell you how you can help them. Being able to understand your baby would make life so much easier as a new parent, right? This is where the wonderful world of baby signing can make all the difference. Babies understand far more than they can express up to the age of about two years old. Using sign language helps babies communicate their needs when they are really little, preventing frustration and enhancing the parent-baby bond. It’s incredible watching your little one as they begin to link signs with objects, words and actions, and it is spine-tingling when they begin to use those signs to communicate with their grown ups. Let me give you an example. My second baby, Edie, now 11 months, had no feeding cues as a tiny baby. A combination of tight neck muscles and a tongue tie prevented her from poking her tongue out, nuzzling or chewing her fists. There was zero build up to feeding time, instead she would scream the house down while waiting for her milk to warm up. It was stressful and frustrating, until I thought to teach her the sign for ‘milk’. It took two weeks of practice and then she began to sign it back, calmly squeezing her little fist in the air. And we were away!

Baby Signing works. It’s scientifically proven. Research published in the Child Development journal confirms that “baby signing facilitates pre- verbal communication”. Attempts at speech will naturally follow signing, and the reward of being understood can open the floodgates for more signs and two-way conversation. Also, far from hindering speech, signing gives babies the confidence to begin making initial speech sounds, such as ‘b’ for ‘book’ or ‘d’ for ‘dog’. Signing babies are happy and self-confident babies, able to get their message across. And the sooner you start practising baby sign, the sooner baby will start piecing words and signs together, so it’s never too early to start!

So, how can I teach my baby to sign? The best way to learn baby sign is to take a baby signing class. Classes are lead by an experienced teacher and full of carefully picked nursery rhymes to help parents and babies learn a handful of signs each week. Lots of repetition is essential, so another benefit to using songs is that they are easy for parents to recall at home! Take play time to the next level The sensory fun we have each week in class, such as bubbles, mirrors and scarves, test baby’s visual tracking and field perception. Musical instruments help babies to discover how to coordinate their bodies, and explore how they can make different sounds. This isn’t just for small babies either, as research shows sensory play is beneficial to development and speech right through early years and into toddlerhood. Baby signing (and toddler signing, too!) can take sensory and musical play to the next level, using the vibrant and exciting moments of play to teach a new sign, so baby can link the action or object with the sign faster than if sensory play wasn’t part of the lesson.

See it, say it, sign it. This is our motto at TinyTalk. Repetition is key to teaching baby sign, as is taking every opportunity to teach signs when you see the object or do the action. Feeds and mealtimes are a great time to get plenty of signing practice in, when baby is facing you and you have their attention. You can sign ‘milk’ just before you offer them their milk, or ‘food’, ‘drink’, ’hungry’, more?’ And ‘all gone!’ when

baby starts on solids. Taking a walk can also be an opportunity to sign a few key words like ‘tree’, ‘sun’, ‘cow’, ‘slide’ and so on. The more you practice with your baby, the more connections they will make, and before long they will begin to use these signs too. Signing babies are happy babies. Imagine you’re checking into a hotel after a long journey, and you’ve not eaten for hours. The concierge ignores when you ask for a menu and keeps telling you to have a pleasant stay. Your frustration levels rise. You’d probably complain! It’s the same for babies who haven’t yet reached the developmental milestone of being capable of speech. They can’t get their message through to us. Once they have the tools to start asking for their milk/food using signs - or to go home, to take a nap, or for a cuddle with mummy - they will be more content and super proud of themselves when they are understood. It’s not just babies who benefit from TinyTalk classes. The singing we do in classes has also been proven to make a difference to our mental health, much like exercise. The endorphins released when we sing give us such a ‘natural high’ that postnatal depression symptoms are improved twice as fast as by any other means, including taking medication. It’s a wonderful way to beat baby blues and even post natal depression, and boost the parent-baby bond. Plus you get a hot cuppa and a biscuit made and brought to you at the end of each class, while you take time to meet and chat with other local parents.

Where can I find my local class? TinyTalk Baby Signing classes are now running in Belper, and are suitable for all babies aged 0-2.

Book your place on the mat or enquire online at www.bookwhen.com/kathgreaves There are more TinyTalk classes in Derbyshire and around the country! Search all TinyTalk classes at www.tinytalk.co.uk I love that there are so many tangible benefits of teaching your baby to sign. You can play a big role in your baby’s early learning, then watch and enjoy as they grasp new signs, and start communicating with them before they have the power to vocalise their needs. It’s astounding and gratifying in equal measure! Babies have so much to say. What does your baby want to say to you?



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