When Charlotte was born back in 2014 I felt so overfaced by all the baby classes which were available to us. I was very keen to get us out of the house so I could meet other mums and so she could socialise with other children, but I didn’t really know where to start. (I now know there’s plenty of websites to search for activities so I’ve listed a load here if that’s helpful for you). I really wanted to make the most of my year off work with my baby but I was so spoilt for choice. People were telling me we should most definitely do swimming lessons (we didn’t!) but after that there was baby sensory, Jo Jingles, Tumble Tots, Diddi Dance, baby massage, Bilinguasing, baby signing...the list goes on. Obviously, we couldn’t do everything. Firstly, there’s not enough hours in the week and secondly, there’s not enough money in my bank account!
During my search for classes I found that lots of groups offer a free taster session - you can try the class, see if it works for you, and then sign up to the term (or not) if you decide it’s a good fit. The two taster sessions we loved, and so classes we committed to, were Kindermusik and Tiny Talk. The Kindermusik class had a great structure, the teacher was excellent, and the days and times fitted really well for our routine.
I really liked the idea of baby signings as soon as I read about it. The basic premise behind baby signing is that you teach your baby some simple sign language so they are able to communicate before they are able to speak. I must admit, at the start I wasn’t entirely convinced by how successful signing would be but decided a taster session was still worth a shot. The classes I found after a quick Google included Baby Sign, Sing and Sign, and Tiny Talk. We went with Tiny Talk purely because of the location of the classes. Straight away we loved the sessions. The teacher, Michelle, was really enthusiastic, we enjoyed the singing, the other mums were really nice, and if Charlotte picked up any signs along the way I figured it was just a bonus.
I was genuinely surprised at how quickly Charlotte picked up various signs. First signs tend to be standard things like waving for "hello/goodbye" or clapping but not long after she was using signs for animals (strangely, both Charlotte and Benjamin’s first "proper" sign was “pig” - I’m not sure what that says about us!), to ask for milk, food and drink. However, I don’t think we’d have had as much success if we’d just signed once a week at the class. We practiced a lot at home and baby signing became a regular part of our day. I even taught grandparents a few signs and so they were also using signs with her too. I found that, as Charlotte was using signs well before she could speak it eased a lot of potential frustrations. She could very easily tell me she was hungry, thirsty, tired, had a dirty nappy, or that she wanted to play or read a book. Using all the animal signs we were able to talk about books we were looking at or animals we could see when visiting a zoo or farm.
Although Benjamin hasn’t attended any baby sign classes we have signed with him from birth. Charlotte has loved joining in the teaching and both kids communicate really well with each other. At 18 months, Benjamin’s speech is already progressing really well and I think that the signing has encouraged this. We always use signs and words together, this way he isn’t missing out on learning how to talk, but he is confident enough to try as the signs back up the meaning behind what he is trying to say. His speech may still sound a bit gobbledegook but if a word is accompanied by a sign I still understand what he is trying to say so I then repeat the word for him, I respond to him, and we are already starting to form small conversations.
I’ve added a video below of just a few of the signs Benjamin uses on a regular basis. He does use a lot more but these are just a few I captured. (Apologies for the video quality and editing! Videography definately isn’t my forte but I think it’s a good illustration of how useful signing can be.)