It was about 15 years ago when I first heard about baby signing. My friend Lucy was taking her baby to classes and about 9 months old she was starting to communicate with her mum using gestures. I thought it was quite cute but I didn’t really understand how not only could it be useful, but also incredibly rewarding until I had my daughter 12 years later.
We moved back to England when my daughter Rita was a few weeks old and moved to a village just outside Cambridge. In the UK, thanks to longer maternity leave, there’s a great variety of activities for parents and babies. In the village where we were living there was an activity I could take Rita to every day of the week. I was keen to start socializing and making new “mum” friends so I signed up for baby signing classes with the award-winning Sing and Sign programme. My Spanish husband was a little sceptical that our daughter would be able to communicate with us, but was proved wrong!
Rita was the smallest in the class at only 4 months old, she couldn’t even sit up by herself. But she loved seeing the other babies and listening to the songs. It was a great way of seeing a different part of her personality. I remember her first sign really well, she was about 6 months old and we were walking through the park on a spring morning when she did the sign for bird. And sure enough, there were birds singing in the trees. At home, I would sign to her as often as I could using the signs I remembered from class. The signs are based on Makaton signs. Makaton is a sign language which has been developed for children with learning disabilities, speech delays and speech problems. It’s widely used by nurseries, childminders and nannies, schools and health professionals.
Baby signing doesn’t delay a child’s speech. It just gives them another way to communicate and helps avoid some of their frustration. When signing to your baby, always sign as you say the word too. In bilingual families like ours, we would sign and say the word using our native language (OPOL, one parent one language). Another curious thing about baby signing, is when you’re talking to your baby you really focus on eye contact with your baby, and you slightly exaggerate your speech. Bilingual babies often speak later, but Rita started saying words before she was one. Studies show that babies who have been signing speak earlier, and we certainly found that to be true.
I’ve been teaching English as a Foreign Language for over 16 years now, 12 of those in Seville. In my class I teach signs which can be used in every day routines through popular children’s songs. The class is suitable for native speakers of English and their babies, and any other parent who has a good level of English (B2) and would like to learn some signs or have fun singing some songs in English!
– Clare –
Join us every TUESDAY from 10:30 to 11:30. Eli Nervión