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Video: Introduction to Baby Signing

By: Clare Birtles - Updated: 24 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss

Video Transcript

Hi I'm Therese Markham from TinyTalk in Warrington and on behalf of BabyandPregnancy.co.uk I'm going to give you a brief introduction to baby signing.Baby signing is using sign language and meaningful gestures with pre-verbal children helping them to understand and communicate before they can talk.

From around 6 months babies know that objects have names and they have the motor skills they can use their hands, their playing with toys, their waving and their clapping, they just aren't able to talk to you because their vocal cords haven't developed enough and they don't have the skills to be able to use their tongues and get the breathing right to actually physically talk. Therefore they get very frustrated, frustration leads to a lot of tears on their part and on their parents part.

What baby signing does is actually bridges the part in communication, from around 6 months when babies can use their hands through to about 18 months, when they actually have the skills to verbalise words.

Babies are taught to form different shapes and gestures with their hands so they can let their parents know what they want, what they need, what their thinking even what they are seeing. No longer do you have to guess the cry, are they tired? Are they hungry? Are they thirsty? Do they just want a cuddle? Or do they need to have their nappy changed?

This means with have happy babies and happy babies means with have happy parents. It is a common concern that baby signing will delay speech development; this is not true it is actually the opposite in fact.

When you baby sign you say the word so you are giving the baby something to actually concentrate on, a word and a sound as well as making a gesture and a sign with their hand. It is human nature to want to talk what actually happens as a baby gets older they start to say the word, for example my own daughter, when I shown her the sign for book, (which is that) she started off by saying b,b,b, gradually her hands went together to make the sign for book and she started to actually say the word book, when she could say book clearly she didn't need to make the sign anymore.

A great way to learn baby signing is actually in a baby signing class, the classes themselves use a whole host of traditional and favourite nursery rhymes and action songs making it fun and relaxed for everyone involved. There is also a great social time as well. Which is important as the singing and the signing for both the parents and children a like.

The signs that I use in my classes and what I use with my own daughter are based on British Sign Language. We have simplified the signs to make it easier for the babies to use with their hands, for example the BSL sign for house is actually drawing a house, we just make the roof of a house it is a lot easier for babies to make my own daughter actually precisely do this, for our house sign.

We do actually use one American Sign Language sign and that is the sign for milk, which is like milking a cow with one hand, the reason being the British Sign Language sign for milk, is that, like you are milking a cow properly, but it is very difficult for babies to do. It is a lot easier for them to do and it is a lot easier for parents to remember.

The reason we use British Sign Language because it is a recognised sign language, it is recognised in this country, it is the first language of the deaf community as well and it is a living language.

My own daughter Hannah, I started signing with her when she was 10 months old, and I was absolutely staggered when literately 10 days later she was signing milk back to me it shows that she was absolutely desperate to communicate and she went from strength to strength and by the time she was 15 months old she could sign at around 50 different signs to me and then she started to talk and she hasn't stopped since.

I know from personal experience of running the classes in this area how rewarding baby signing is I have taught 100 children to baby sign, so why not give it ago with your own child.

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