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The Beautiful World of Baby Signing

When Emily was born, there weren't too many baby classes I was interested in. I wanted to enjoy quality time with her, focus on her and really take everything in. I didn't want to be rushing to and from a dozen different classes, feeling like a maniac. But one of the classes I always knew I'd sign up for was Baby Signing. I'd heard about it years ago and instinctively knew it would work for me. So when Emily was about to turn 9 months, I signed up.

The class I chose was Sing and Sign. There are other programmes out there, but this one came recommended so I gladly went with it. The concept behind baby signing is to be able to communicate with your baby before they are able to speak. One of the rules is to never sign without saying the word. The aim isn't to replace speech but to complement it.

Classes were great fun and our tutor, Lorraine, was fantastic. We sang songs and signed along and when we went home we tried to remember to sign along with certain words that we'd learnt. I was lucky in that David was extremely supportive and asked me to teach him the signs too, so he'd also be signing with Emily.

For ages our main sign was "milk". It was obvious that Emily knew what this meant, she reacted appropriately whenever we made the sign/said the word. But for a while, there was not much more communication on her part other than the widening of her eyes in eagerness when we mentioned something she wanted.

And then one day, she signed "milk". It was a beautiful moment: our daughter was finally able to communicate with us. We'd been attending baby signing classes for just a few weeks.

Slowly but surely, her "vocabulary" increased. We'd sing songs and sign along at home as well as in class and you could actually see her taking in new signs, and then trying them out. She doesn't always get them right but they're always similar enough to know what she means to say. She also usually tries to say the word along with her sign.

Emily began talking quite early. By just over 10 months old, she was calling things "pretty" and by 11 months she could tell us when she was "happy". My personal theory is that her early speech is at least partially due to the fact that communication channels, so to speak, were opened so early. She felt that she could communicate with us and therefore she tried to do so all the more.

At this point, I have lost track of the signs she knows. There was a time where I kept a mental list, but there are far too many signs that she uses now to be able to remember them all. By way of some examples, she will sign "carefully" when she knows she was close to losing her balance. She will sign "nappy" when I ask her if she needs changing. She will tell me she's hungry and when she's ready for bed. She can ask for more of whatever she wants more of. She will sign "naughty" and "sorry" when she's done something she knows is naughty. If she sees a picture of a cat or a duck, she can tell me what they are, and she can also make the sound they make (although her "meow" sounds more like "waaa" at the moment...!). She will sign "home" when we are out and she wants to go home (she did this in Paris, oops!)

Her most recent sign is "love you". My heart melts a little bit each time she signs that one.


Now I didn't take it as seriously as I could have done. I missed several classes and never ended up attending the second term, which I was very disappointed about. But in my eyes, the outcome has been hugely successful anyway. I can communicate with my daughter in ways I know I otherwise would never have been able to. It's a beautiful feeling to be able to know what a child this young wants, to know I am helping her sort through her thoughts and therefore helping her understand herself better.

I couldn't recommend Sing and Sign enough.

This is not a sponsored post. It's simply been a very positive experience which I couldn't help but share with you all.


  1. I started using a few signs with Robin too the past three weeks. She signs milk but gets it confused with 'bye' which she signs in a very similar way (she's been saying bye that way for about four months now so there's no changing that one now!). I was going to write a post about speech in my girls too since there's an ENORMOUS difference between M and R (M spoke very early too but R not so much). I loved this post and am very interested in E's progress. She's such a clever girl!

    1. I have heard that in many cases the second child takes longer to start speaking though... apparently it's all about the older child doing all the talking for them!

  2. Huh! You can say that again! Maia never EVER's what we argue most about. Robin makes herself understood otherwise. I'll have to write about it...I'm so bad at keeping a record of her milestones!

  3. Read this with interest as my area of specialisation is augmentative Communication and, as you said, signing will never replace speech, it enhances communication and increases language development.

    I'll post this interesting article regarding the language development of a 2nd born child as the research states otherwise

    There are four reasons that a child communicates 1) To refuse, 2) to obtain, 3)Social interaction 4)Seek information. They also need to have the means (signing, speech, pictures or any other alternative means of communication),the reason and most importantly the opportunity to communicate. 2nd born children may not always be given the same opportunity to communicate.

    Twin language development is also extremely interesting.