When my little one was born, I had no clue Sign Language for babies was a thing. We took a free taster class when she was 4 months old and we both loved it! That was the beginning of our Baby Sign Language journey. Two years and a half later, she’s a bilingual toddler fluently speaking both English and Spanish in the UK.
Our amazing teacher was Becca Balcombe. It’s such an honour to have her on You are the Milk. I have no doubt parents, carers and educators will love to read what she has to say:
Sign Language for Babies
Thank you so much for being with us today to talk about baby sign language
Please tell us about yourself and how you discovered baby signing
Hello! I’m Becca and I have been running the Croydon and Purley Sing and Sign franchise for nearly eight years. I have two children, who are now 11 and 9, who I went to Sing and Sign classes with. I have lived in the area my whole life (except for three years up at University) and worked in marketing before having children.
I went for a playdate at a friend’s house when my eldest was about 8 months old and suddenly my friend’s little boy (who was 10 months old) starting using the sign for ‘where’ and ‘sister’. I was amazed that he was able to have a conversation with his mum at such a young age and asked her about it, and she told me all about the Sing and Sign classes they went to. I started picking up signs from her and using them with Freddie, and by the time we started going to Sing and Sign ourselves a few months later, he was already using the signs for ‘milk’, ‘more’, ‘bird’ and ‘dog’!
Is baby signing for all babies? What is the recommended age to start?
Baby signing is absolutely for all babies and has so many benefits! Our classes start at a month old, as even with babies this young there are songs, rhymes and exercises we can use to start to build the foundations for great communication, and to get the parents/carers into the best communication habits with their baby straight away.
People often think the babies only benefit when they start to sign back to us, but there are actually many things we can be doing before this stage to help them to understand what we are saying, and to build an even stronger bond.
Which are the most common signs babies use and at what age do they start signing them?
In my experience babies sign things which motivate them most! Common first signs have been ‘milk’, ‘more’ and then often animal signs like ‘duck’ (bathtime helps with this one) and both of my children’s first sign was ‘bird’!
I love to hear what a baby’s first sign is as I think it gives an early insight into their personalities and what motivates them.
What is Sing and Sign? What do babies enjoy most of your classes?
Sing and Sign is a baby and toddler class which is run throughout the UK and beyond (there are now classes in New Zealand, Dubai, the Netherlands and more!). In class we use music to teach our babies and carers simple signs to use at home alongside speech. Babies can often use many signs before speech and so, when parents use these signs often at home, babies can learn to communicate at an earlier age which reduces their frustration. Signing with babies while using speech is also shown to help aid early speech as well.
From my experience babies love the music and singing in class the most (the signing is for the parents to learn to use at home), and of course they love being with other babies and having that social time too. Once they have been coming to class for a little while they enjoy the regular routine of the class structure, and even love tidy up time! We use props, instruments and our mascot, Jessie Cat to keep things interesting, which they love.
Any final tips for parents that would like to learn signs along with their babies?
Start small! Learning anything new can be daunting but I only used around 5-10 signs for the first few months then built gradually when I was more confident. The more you sign with your baby the better, and if you don’t know a sign it’s ok to make one up! Our main rule is to always say the word when you sign as this encourages great speech development too.
Follow Becca and Jessie Cat
Follow Sing and Sign UK
On Facebook: ‘Sing and Sign – Baby Signing the Fun Way’ and Instagram (@SingandSignOfficial).