When I was pregnant I first heard about signing with babies and decided I’d like to try it. When the pob was born i decided to find out a bit more about it. There was sing and sign and tiny talk classes in my area. Tiny talk is about having fun, playing and spending time together. It teaches how signing can bring you and our baby even closer. Sing and sign seemed very structured, teaching lots about sharing, manners etc, all sounded great but we couldn’t start until the term after the pob was 6 months. Which turned out would’ve been a huge shame for us. We went with tiny talk and started at four months.
The first few sessions were really about me learning. And we both couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. Fran Rolfe runs the tiny talk in my area. Having a teacher that is so passionate has made a huge impact on mine and the pob’s communication. I have to say before I’d experienced baby signing myself I just thought that babies couldn’t really communicate, or it was very limited. Fran opened my eyes and showed me that babies have so much to say. The energy she shows when she’s signing and running classes is wonderful. She instills confidence in mothers (and fathers/grandparents/carers). She explained that the classes were fun and for us to learn but the real importance was signing at home. So we picked three signs, mummy, cuddle and milk to focus on with he pob. After two weeks the pob signed cuddle. I really feel like we picked the right class with the right teacher, if we’d gone to sing and sign we wouldn’t even have started classes for another two months.
The pob would sign cuddle quite a lot, then at about 5 1/2 months he started signing mummy and milk, mainly when I was trying to wean him. It really helped me at the time as It made me realise I was trying to set his mealtimes at the wrong time when he was too tired and just wanted mummy’s milk.
Then it went really quiet. Fran offered reassurance that he’d be taking it all in, to carry on signing as normal and that even if he didn’t sign back he’d understand what I was saying, sucking it all up like a sponge. He really didn’t sign much for probably eight weeks or so. I have to admit I did doubt it was all going in, especially when i’d look like a loon walking done the street signing tree, snack or drink to the pob in his pram. Occasionally I’d think…hmmmm was that food/ drink he just signed but it was hard to tell.
Then, all of a sudden he discovered he could sign bird. That was it, birds were EVERYWHERE! Everything was birdie this, birdie that. He was 7 months.
Signing bird for the first time perfectly. (with a gammy eye)
Then he stopped, I mean completely. Not a single sign for two weeks.
Luckily for us Fran came to the rescue again explaining that sign was like buying a single, stay with me. She said its like when you play a song over and over and then you get bored of it do you stop playing it altogether. The pob was sick as a parrot of signing bird(!). Fran explained that we needed to try some new signs. So off we went armed with frog, dragon (thats not my dragon was his favourite book), dog, more and finished. We were also signing all the signs we’d already learnt, these were new. Fran explained early on you should sign everything but teach a few. Teaching was to repeat them and really emphasise the word you are teaching. although the pob wasn’t signing during this time he still understood me signing and would listen to me and my instructions.
A couple of weeks later I was in the shower the pob was sitting on the floor and our cat whizzed through the room and out again. The pob quickly turned and signed ‘where’. He wanted to know where the cat had gone. It was wonderful that he could tell me what he was wondering, so off we went to find him. He was delighted.
After this it was a new sign or two every week. At 11 months we went off on a family holiday. I don’t know if it was the excitement about new surroundings or needing reassurance or perhaps being with both mummy and daddy 24/7, but his signing blossomed. He could sign light already but one morning got into our bed in the dark and signed ‘lights’ ‘where’, we duly turned on the lights and he was so elated that he’d made that happen. Then we turned the lights off and he signed ‘lights’ ‘gone’. This became a preferred game which grandpops loved to play with the pob when we returned home, along with where’s the clock. He just was so pleased he could influence other people’s actions. Through signing. And I was extremely proud he linked two signs. He also signed ‘where’ ‘birdie’ ‘trees’ on holiday, where were the birds in the trees. Pretty amazing for a baby not yet one. Here’s him signing tree…
On holiday he also learnt fish, no, star. And duck. There was so many ducks which he loved, being a twitcher and all. He also started the say duuuuuuuuuuck and quack. I completely put this down to knowing he can communicate through what signing has taught him. A friend of mine is a speech therapist and told me to start the next stage, saying bbbbbbbb book, ccccc car etc. it’s worked so well and with that and his signing his speech is brilliant. His first word was duck on holiday, a perfect word. A perfect pob.
The pob signing duck on holiday
We’re now at month 14 and he literally learns a new sign each day. We’re up to about 35 signs now but it’s hard to keep count. He’ll start to sign a new sign in his own way and I’ll have to keep repeating it and showing him and eventually he’ll perfect it. Like star which started like light but he’s now got the one-two flick motion. Or mouse which started as a poke to the back of the head but which is now a poke and twist to the nose.
Animals have been his absolute favourite signs and he can sign frog, bird, duck, cat, dog, horse, cow, goat, pig, mouse, rabbit, bee, lion, bear, butterfly….it’s wonderful when he points them out to me. Like his toy rocking horse in the garden, he’ll wander over to it signing horse.
He has loads of fun signs (including fun!). But on a more practical level it’s been extremely useful. No is a strong sign and he knows I mean business when I use it. Same with hot, dirty or pain. I can tell him, look at mummy signing and he does, even if he is angry, I will say look at mummy I’m signing to you. I will tell him it’s ouchy, or hot, like a radiator or oven. He knows why he doesn’t touch and understands and accepts it. I don’t even have to tell him all the time, once or twice does it and he’s got he message. He really listens to me when I sign because he understand and can tell me something back. He knows how it feels to be understood and understands I need him to listen.
It’s bought huge fun in playtime. And tears of joy. Once when he was eating lunch I was letting him feed me and I was just being a bit silly, he was laughing hard and I signed fun to him, this is funny and his signed it back, perfectly, just like that. Yes mummy you are totally hilarious! It absolutely knocked me. He was having fun. Hurrah!!!!
At the moment we’re working on please and thank you. He can sign them but is a bit unsure when to use them. Last week he was playing with his toy phone which has a police man at the bottom which sounds a siren. He kept pressing it and I said ‘that’s the police’ he signed ‘please’ back. So very similar, it was very cute. Fran’s now taught me police so I can explain to him.
Our family have been wonderful in his signing development. Tying hard to learn signs themselves and teaching him new signs. Even when at first, like I was, they were a bit sceptical as to how much a baby can communicate. They’ve seen first hand how important it is. Last week the pob signed snack to his nanna, she knew what he meant and without tears or trial and error satisfied his need. All our family have made a huge effort and I’m extremely grateful, it’s been brilliant.
Lastly a thank you to Fran who has been our guide along the way. Long may tiny talk continue!