Signing with Toddlers
Hello everyone! My name is Beth, and I teach TinyTalk Baby Signing classes in and around Wokingham, Berkshire. As a mum with two small children myself, I’d like to talk about something that I’m experiencing at the moment – signing with toddlers.
Now that your little one is on the move – crawling, walking, climbing and often generally wreaking havoc – life has changed! Perhaps they’ve even started speaking – maybe ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ – or even the name of the family pet! And perhaps it seems like signing isn’t relevant anymore as they’re gaining another way of communicating. It’s true that this is what you want – you want your child to stop using signs as they begin to speak. Both of my children had almost stopped signing by age two, and definitely by age two and a half as their speech was developing well and they could tell me what they wanted to needed rather than having to sign it. However, it can be those intervening months when they’re transitioning from one method of communication to the other when signing can be very useful.
On my very first interview to become a teacher with TinyTalk, the lovely Fiona told me a story about her son. He walked into the kitchen one day and said, ‘Boo’. Fiona smiled and said, ‘Peekaboo to you too!’ Her son looked at her as if she were crazy and said, ‘Boo!’ again. She then asked what he would like, and he signed ‘food’. After she gave him something to eat he went away, happy. She was convinced (as am I from my own experience!) that signing helped to avoid frustration and tantrums that might occur in this stage where the need to communicate is often hindered by the inability to say what you mean.
Add to that the new things that toddlers encounter every day – learning to share and how to take turns, learning the names of shapes and colours, starting to count, recognising letters and words, seeing and finding out about people in the wider community such as teachers, firemen, police officers – it’s a pretty challenging time. Signing can be a link to something familiar and give them a way of expressing the things they can’t put into words yet. Often a child (like my son!) will refuse to say ‘sorry’ when they’ve done something wrong – but they will sign it. Signing can also be useful when you’re out in a busy place and want to tell your child that it’s time to go home but don’t want to bellow across the playground, or ask discretely if they need the toilet when you’re potty training.
At TinyTalk, Toddler classes focus on transitioning children from signing to speech, and also introduce many skills they will need when going to preschool and playgroups. Besides learning new signing vocabulary we talk about ourselves, our feelings, taking turns and sharing with others, colours, shapes, counting – all things that can be introduced and supported with signing. And we have lots fun!
I hope you have fun signing with your little one this week!
I am a mother of 4, teach baby signing and also BSL level 2 qualified, love TKD and much more.