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from the hands of babes

Originally posted on October 29th 2017

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in your little one’s head? Or said to yourself when they were crying “I only wish they could talk and tell me what’s wrong”? So have we… that’s why we were delighted to hear about Sign 2 Music.

Sign 2 Music is a fascinating concept based around British Sign Language (BSL) which teaches your baby basic signs through song and rhyme. When we first mentioned to family and friends that we were doing Sign 2 Music with Starfish and we described it as Baby sign language; the first response was usually “But he’s not deaf” and next came “Won’t that delay his speech”.

I’d done my research however (as I have painstakingly before every parenting decision we’ve made so far) and I was confident that it was something that would improve and encourage Starfish’s communication skills rather than delay them.

A number of doctors in USA began research as far back as 1970 when they found that children of hearing impaired parents could communicate their needs and desires at a much younger age than children of hearing parents. The difference here was the exposure to signing so they began to explore the impact of signing to hearing babies of hearing parents. Studies showed that babies exposed to signs at 6-7 months old began to communicate at 8-9 months old but at this point they lack the physical ability to speak, tongue, mouth and jaw muscle control. Signing improves this and has also been proven to give babies a more sophisticated grasp of language than their peers.

Another study showed that on average signing babies had a higher I.Q (as much as 12 points) and a greater interest in books. Signing children are also proven to have a wider vocabulary than non signers; this is thought to be because words are presented verbally and visually at the same time.

I’ve seen so many babies and toddlers have tantrums and get frustrated trying to communicate when adults don’t have a clue what they are trying to say, I’ve actually been the clueless adult on more than one occasion! This can be heart wrenching for both the child and the adult.

We didn’t need any further convincing; we made enquiries about classes straight away!

So that’s the science, how does it work in practice?

As Starfish was still quite young, I was delighted when we contacted Roberta and she said we could have a private course in our own home.

Roberta arrived with her trusty assistants Signing Sandy and Daisy Doggy (signing puppets), shakers and Sandy’s little bag of sign cards.

The first lesson we learned essential signs like Baby, Milk, Food, Drink Change Nappy, Change, Help, More and Bath. Next we learned family signs, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Granny etc

All this learning happened to songs (and yes we did have to sing along) while Starfish looked at us like we had lost the plot.

Daisy Doggy was a huge hit `however and he even had a brief go at one of the shakers.

The key to success with signing, as with all child development; is consistency and routine. From day 1 of the course, we started using the signs for milk, help and nappy change. We say “let me help you” while signing help. Then “nappy time” with the sign for change nappy and “milk time” with the sign before each feed.

Starfish watched our hands move with interest and waited for what came next. Within just a few days he obviously started to recognise what the signs meant along with the words we said. For example, if he needed a feed and I said “milk time” or “food time” with the signs he would be calm while I prepared us both for the feed.

Over the next few sessions we learned meal time signs including “more” “full up” and various different food signs, signs for emotions, sad, happy, worried, angry, morning and night time routine signs such as “sleep”, “bed” “get dressed” “bath” etc. We also learned animal signs and many more such as “which”, “where”, “hot” and “cold”

All this happened through song, most of which were popular nursery rhymes or to the same tune as popular children’s songs. Starfish’s favourites are Baa Baa Black Sheep and Miss Polly had a Dolly.

After the second session, not only was Starfish watching our hands intently when we signed but he had started wiggling his own little fingers as if he was trying to copy us! He hasn’t yet managed his first sign himself but I’ve no doubt it’s not far away. He definitely understands the basic signs now and knows what to expect when he sees them.

Now that we are embarking on our weaning journey we have plenty of opportunity to introduce more signs and words to Starfish which I know he will enjoy.

Santa even brought Starfish his very own Daisy Doggy and Sign 2 Music CD which he absolutely loves