Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Signing

If my baby learns signs, will he still learn to talk? When will my baby be ready to start learning some signs? How can I learn? How does my baby learn? What do we do next? What happens to the signs, as my baby starts talking? I'm so busy! Will I find the time to learn baby signing? What if I am spending days back at work now?
My baby is 18 he too old? Do you have any classes in my area and how much do they cost? What are the guidelines for successful baby signing?

If my baby learns signs, will he still learn to talk?

Yes, of course he will! Signing does not delay speech. Signs are never used in place of spoken words and your baby will be greatly encouraged to communicate verbally, not in any way discouraged. Baby signing is not a replacement for talking to your baby, in fact the whole point of it is that it encourages you to talk more, and more appropriately too! The use of gesture is a natural form of early communication and gives it a boost!  

The simplest way to appreciate this is to consider how “Bye-bye” is often among the earliest words babies say. Think about how we all encourage babies to wave bye bye, recognising they will enjoy this and that it helps to make them aware of an important concept. Waving encourages a baby to verbalise “bye bye” because of the positive feedback and enjoyment of the sign. The principle is exactly the same for signs used with any and all other words in the Sing and Sign programme.

When will my baby be ready to start learning some signs?

You can start any time, but in the first six months your baby will be more intent on eye contact and watching your facial expressions! This builds the framework for communication and is a vital stage of development. We recommend you then become consistent using a few key signs with your baby any time from 6-8 months. From this age, children become increasingly receptive to language. Your baby will start to use these signs when he or she is ready and in the meantime will get a great deal of benefit from simply being signed to in the early stages. This is a sometimes underestimated stage of the process, which is very valuable for your baby!

How can I learn?

Sing and Sign venue classes in most local areas have re-opened for this term with an adapted curriculum of COVID secure measures. For those who wish to remain at home, babies will not need to miss out on the fun and the learning as we have also put all our class material and the full 10-week course curriculum online!

Sing and Sign has three levels, all developmentally appropriate : 

  • Babes (non-mobile babies), this course is currently being delivered by Zoom, availability varies, please check with your local teacher
  • Stage 1 (6 months plus and recommended if you've not done Sing and Sign before) - this full 10-week course is available online
  • Stage 2 (14 months plus) - this full 10-week course is available online

Babes builds the framework for our core curriculum Stage 1 classes when your baby is around 6 months old. From this age we recommend you are consistent in showing a few of our key signs.  We suggest eat or drink (also milk) and more to start with. The concept of "all gone" is also easy to grasp. These are the signs to begin with and to use regularly as part of daily routines. These signs are demonstrated in the extensive dictionary (as well as in the songs and signs) of our comprehensive Sing and Sign Online resource.

How does my baby learn?

The best way to understand the process is to think about how babies learn to wave "goodbye", which is something we encourage all babies to enjoy . There seem to be four typical stages :

  • Your baby will first start to recognise and enjoy Mummy and Daddy waving goodbye
  • Then start to imitate you when you wave (probably to great applause and family excitement!)
  • Soon start to wave spontaneously as you get ready to leave (this is when we would say the baby is 'signing')
  • Eventually say the words "bye-bye!" while waving.
  • You don't have to wait until your baby masters the early signs you chose before moving on to more exciting ones. From about 9 months, once your baby begins to communicate interest in things by pointing, then you can be ready to use some more signs.

What do we do next?

Follow your baby's lead. Each baby is special and has different interests. While one points to and is excited by anything with wheels, another may be fascinated by the family cat or the swings in the park. You know your child, and only you know what other signs will be motivating. As your baby points to something of interest, then looks back to you, say the word while showing the relevant sign.

Sing and Sign targets many of the signs babies find motivating. By enjoying Sing and Sign songs you will probably know many of the signs your baby will show an interest in.

What happens to the signs, as my baby starts talking?

Your baby will use signs and immature speech together for a while. As speech improves, signs fade away until they are probably dropped altogether. Some favourites might stay around for a while!

I'm so busy! Will I find the time to learn baby signing?

Of course! Baby signing is easy, in fact it is so instinctive that most of us already use signs and gestures with babies without realising. For instance, we all wave goodbye to babies happily and comfortably all the time without thinking much about it. We all know this helps them start to understand what goodbye means and that when they wave back to us they are well on their way to saying “bye bye!” too. Sing and Sign simply encourages you to use a few more gestures for other important words in your baby’s world. It isn't necessary to learn a whole dictionary of signs! Just enjoy a few of our songs with your baby and you'll find you can cherry pick the signs which suit you.

What if I am spending days back at work now?

If your baby spends some time in the care of others you are still probably spending more than enough time together to make baby signing worthwhile. Morning and evening routines, a mealtime or bath time all offer ideal opportunities to reinforce signs and can make your time together even more special. If whoever is looking after your child (nursery, child minder or grandparent) is happy to  use a few signs too then that is wonderful. You can make it as easy as possible for them by printing out a page or two of your baby’s favourite signs from our online dictionary, or sharing your membership login with them to show them our filmed content.

Many nurseries are now adopting some simple signs from our programme as a part of the day's regular routines. This helps the children aniticipate what will happen next, understand boundaries and helps promote a calm atmosphere. Sing and Sign offer a Nursery Affiliation Workshop Programme and if your nursery would like to know more about how baby signing can help in childcare, please recommend they contact your local Sing and Sign teacher via our website.

My baby is 18 he too old?

At eighteen months your baby is probably already communicating all sorts of things, in gesture and in words. However there are probably quite a few spoken words that are unclear or not being used yet.  Increasing your toddlers vocabulary with a few signs is still a great idea! Many nursery settings now use signs to help encourage the development of speech.

If you do have concerns that your baby is not saying words, or is not pointing things out to you or making good eye contact at this age then it is a good idea to mention it to your Health Visitor or GP who can refer you to a speech and language therapist for advice. You can make this referral yourself if necessary. Children all develop at different rates, but some milestones are typical. Thanks to the input of speech and language therapists in its development we can be confident that Sing and Sign will always be helpful in these cases. Signing should be recommended particularly if a baby's communication is likely to be delayed.

Do you have any classes in my area and how much do they cost?

We may well have a group running near you, we cover much of the UK so please visit our classes near you page to find out! All our teachers around the country set their own prices as they have varying venue hire costs and other considerations, so please contact your local teacher direct to ask the price of a class in your area. If you don't have a local teacher then your baby needn't miss out! You can still enjoy S&S at home with our online classes

What are the guidelines for successful baby signing?

  • Begin with basics such as more, finished, eat, drink/milk starting at 6-9 months
  • Follow your baby's lead. From 9 months onwards, watch to see what interests your baby and introduce signs you think your baby might WANT to say
  • Always say the word as you sign. Never sign in silence.
  • Speak slowly but in a natural way
  • Keep it simple, use just one sign per sentence when speaking with your baby. Signing fuller sentences is fine in songs.
  • Happily accept any signing attempts by your baby, even approximate imitations of the signs you show........
  • ....but you must be consistent in how you show a sign, however your baby adapts it.
  • Avoid trying to get your baby to "perform" signs on demand
  • Be patient and relaxed about baby signing.
  • Praise, praise, praise!

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