This blog was written by Clare Banham from The Signing Company St Albans, Harpenden and Redbourn and is about signing with children and the benefits of it.
Hi, I’m Clare Banham. I am married and have twin boys, Harry and Sebastian. I have been running signing classes since September 2017 and have loved sharing the signing experience with families and watching the children grow with confidence by communicating their needs.
I enjoy meeting other local business owners at networking meetings and I’m a member of The Business Community. I live in Letchworth and I’m a member of my local Ladies Circle and volunteer as treasurer for the Girlguiding uniform shop in Hitchin.
What are the benefits of signing with children?
- With a few basic signs (that we learn in week 1), a baby can tell you if they are hungry for food or milk, tired, wants to have more or they have had enough i.e. full and even a dirty nappy.
- Increases your bonding experience with your baby.
- Improves your baby’s confidence and self-esteem.
- Aids speech development
- Learning British Sign Language (BSL) is teaching you and your family a second language.
- It’s fun!
Does signing with my child delay their speech?
There is no evidence to suggest a child’s speech will be delayed if they learn Sign Language. In fact, teaching a baby / young child to use signs and gestures before they can speak has lots of benefits of them being able to tell you what they would like etc. Thereby reducing their feelings of frustrations and alleviating the associated tantrums often felt by children and their parents.
We always say the word at same time as signing to enable the connection between the spoken word and the sign.
I learnt to sign with our twin boys, mainly for this reason. Having two children screaming at me and not knowing what they wanted was my worst nightmare, so I jumped at the chance to join my local signing class with The Signing Company.
I’ve heard signing is hard to learn
Signing is a very visual language and we often know more signs that we thought such as hello, goodbye, and all gone we’re already doing them. Signs can be easier to remember when you are given the reason for it too.
I had never signed before joining the classes with our twin boys who are now 6 years old. Every week we were given new signs based on a topic, therefore increasing our knowledge. I was then able to practice them at home and build my confidence. I also realised that learning to sign popular nursery rhymes and songs meant we learnt more signs without thinking about it.
Following these same steps in all our classes more parents, grandparents and carers are able to practice just a few simple signs and slowly add more into the conversations with their little ones once their confidence grows.
I’ve heard signing is too difficult for Babies.
In our classes we use BSL Signs, the only sign that is simplified is milk to make it easier for the babies to use. The rest are the same as adults use.
The difference with our signing is that we use Sign Supported English (SSE) which means we speak the English language and use signs for the keywords in the sentence and we don’t use the BSL grammar, although you will have a good understanding of the signs to pick up learning the language at a later date.
Remember when we are signing with the children like the spoken language we use the correct sign, when the child starts to sign it maybe their own interpretation but you’ll soon learn what they are asking for and you repeat using the correct sign just the same as you do with the spoken words.
I know one little boy in my class soon learnt using the milk sign got his parents attention, so he would use the sign for everything for example pointing to his cot. It was his way of saying I want to sleep.
I love hearing how children use the signs and it is great for the child to know he can tell you want he wants without having to cry and you the parent not having a clue
I’ve been learning to sign with my child but they’re not signing back. Are they interested?
Babies brains are like sponges and often they are learning to do so much in such a short space of time they need to concentrate on one stage at a time i.e. learning to sit, crawl and walk and gaining teeth.
Just keep practising the signs as home it’ll soon feel natural. Then just watch for the sense of recognition when you are signing milk for example; there may be a twinkle in the eye, a raised head, or even a movement of arms and feet showing they are excited and a level of understanding.
Once the child is ready, they will start signing and you will have what we call “The Golden Moment” or a “Signing Explosion”. It is wonderful to watch, and you’ll soon be very excited, and the child will be too because of the praise they receive, thereby increasing confidence and raising self-esteem.
Our “golden moment” happened when our boys were about 8 months old, we were having lunch in a pub (as you do). Suddenly Sebastian popped up and Signing milk, it was a wonderful sight and so memorable.
Later in the year, the boys were looking at an animal book with their grandparents and started signing giraffe. My dad was so shocked that they knew the animals and could tell him via signing he started to realise the benefits of signing and made us realise how much of the world babies do understand and with signing they can tell us too.
I would like to find out more?
The Signing Company offers three programmes. Signing Babies (5 months plus) you learn to use BSL Signs based on everyday themes such as food, animals, colours, family etc. We have puppets, you learn to sign songs and nursery rhymes and we finish with bubbles.
Signing Toddlers (18 months plus) we explore and focus on new key vocabulary to encourage your child’s communication skills using puppets, songs and fun activities including bubbles.
Signing Talkers (2 years plus) we focus on Phonics with signing. These classes are ideal for preparation for nursery or pre-school. We focus on a different Phonic sound/letter a week, story-telling language, emotional vocab, basic maths and more and have bubbles too.
To get in touch
Classes in St Albans, Harpenden and Redbourn are with Clare Banham.
More classes are available across Herts, Beds and Bucks.
Any questions, please contact