Frequently Asked Questions

What is baby sign?

Baby sign is a fun way to help your baby to communicate before they can even talk. Baby sign is about using hand-shapes (signs) and meaningful gestures as a pre-verbal tool to help communicate with your child. At Little Hands Baby Sign we use signs borrowed from British Sign Language (BSL), which is a living and vibrant language.

We all use gestures to communicate; pointing, clapping and waving and so on. From about 7 months old your baby can use their hands and communicate through gestures and signs, which is long before they can use their mouth and voice at about 18 months or so. Using baby sign is a bridge between these two stages and gives you a wonderful opportunity to share things, ease frustration, stop tantrums and have fun together.

How and when do I start using baby sign?

Your child is able to understand language and the environment around them long before they can fully take part. So start to sign as early as you can, try singing songs and adding simple gestures, wave hello, play peek-a-boo, this is all great visual communication.

From about 6 months old you can introduce some simple signs such as milk or more. Make sure your child can see the object, say what it is and use the signs, over and over again. You may notice your child trying to copy you, don’t worry if their handshapes aren’t quite right or if the sign is not in the right place, they are learning to use their hands!

You can then introduce different signs over the coming weeks and months. You may not get much back from your child for a while, but give them time, they are taking it all in.

Take a look at our Top 10 Starter signs to help you get started!

Will signing stop my child from talking?

Not at all. If anything it will help their communication and support their language. By using baby sign and focusing on what your child is interested in, you are giving them the time and skills to explore further. You can also ‘chat’ about what they are interested in which is great conversation and introduces turn taking and language skills.

Your child will babble and have immature speech for some time, so using signs can help to express themselves, give clear communication, support their interests and most importantly ease frustrations and tantrums. When you use signs you also say the words and this will help your child to link the word and the sign/visual clue. Once your child is talking you may find they drop the signing, but that’s ok, you have given them the most amazing boost in their early years.

He could tell me he wanted to see the ducks which gave him the feeling that he had some control over his life and I could satisfy his needs more easily- Catherine, Mum to Sam aged 2 years

Should we keep signing when my child starts to talk?

You may well notice that your child drops the signs as they discover their voice, but that is ok. However, you may find that some favourite signs stick around and may be useful in to help your child express themselves when they don’t know the word or when they are ill or poorly.

You can also continue to use baby sign to introduce new vocabulary and extend language. It’s up to you.

My child is 18 months old, is she too old to use baby sign?

Not at all! Your child may well be speaking a few words, although mumbled or unclear. By this age your child is really trying to express themselves and may get easily frustrated. You can introduce some signs that you think might be helpful and you might be surprised at how quickly they reply!

What is Makaton and how is it different from baby sign?

Baby sign and Makaton are very similar and both use signs that are borrowed from the parent language of British Sign Language (BSL). Both aim to promote communicate and ease frustration of babies and young children.

At Little Hands Baby Sign we use baby sign which is based solely on British Sign Language. BSL is a rich and beautiful language, it is full of meaning, has its own grammar structure and is a recognised language. Many of the signs we use are intuitive and visual e.g. the sign for drink is just like the action ‘to drink’. We will combine the signs with English spoken words to support the meaning and help with speech.

Makaton is a language programme created by the Makaton Charity and includes both signs, gestures and symbols. It is used a lot with children and adults who have learning difficulties and other speech impairments.

What does Mr Tumble use?

Mr Tumble is a brilliant advocate for signing with children and has been helping us all to learn signs right in our living rooms. Mr Tumble uses Makaton and they work with children with lots of disabilities. The Makaton Charity supports Something Special.

When you start using baby sign with your child you will see that many of the signs are the same as Mr Tumble. It’s ok if they are a bit different, use whatever sign you feel comfortable with and what your child knows. There are no strict rules!

Why are some signs different?

At Little Hands Baby Sign we will be using baby signs that are based on British Sign Language (BSL). Signs can vary from area to area, a little bit like an ‘accent’. Numbers and colours are the signs that vary the most. We will be using the London regional signs, but use whatever sign you can remember or feel more comfortable.

To add a little more confusion, some of the resources you may find online might use completely different signs. These may well be signs from American Sign Language (ASL) which can often be very different from British Sign Language (BSL). The alphabets are particularly different, ASL uses a one handed alphabet and BSL use a two handed alphabet. Just check the website you are looking at so you don’t get too confused.

Do I use my left or right hand to sign?

Use whichever hand feels comfortable. You may find that you have a more dominate hand, or the ‘pen’, and a non-dominate hand or the ‘paper’. Think of signing as drawing what you want to communicate with your ‘pen and paper’.

Where can I join a Little Hands Baby Sign Class?

Yes, I would recommend baby sign to other parents. It’s a fun way to improve communication and bond with your child.- Catherine, Mum to Sam aged 2 years

We are so excited that Little Hands Baby Sign classes are restarting in Brentford on Tuesday 17th April 2018, 10am. Full details available here.

Join us and learn useful and family friendly signs that you can use in your everyday life. You will also enjoy a drink and a biscuit at the end of the session while chatting to other local parents.

Our classes run in a 6 week rolling programme, during term time only. You can pay the drop in rate of £10 per class, or you can save money and buy a flexible 6 session stamp card for £50 and sibling cards at £25. Your stamp card is valid for 3 months from your first class.

Additional children and siblings are welcome and will be charged at £5 per child per class.

Join our classes and book your place now!