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Sing and Sign – baby sign language classes

We’re just over halfway through our Sign and Sign course, so I thought now would be a great time to write my thoughts about the…

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We’re just over halfway through our Sign and Sign course, so I thought now would be a great time to write my thoughts about the baby sign language class.

We attend one of the York Sing and Sign classes. I wanted to get Leo onto the course from September, but there were no free spaces on the days we could attend. I followed the Facebook group and then before Christmas, I saw that there was a taster session for a new venue! I quickly signed up for us and off I went.

Sign and Sign Jessie Cat

The Taster Session

At the taster session, Leo was the oldest baby. He had just turned one and all the other babies were still not even sitting! But that wasn’t too much of a problem. Anna, the teacher, assured me that it was fine for Leo to crawl around (not that I can stop him!) but I did feel a bit conscious of him being a bit rough with the babies. He goes up to other babies and children looking all sweet, but he can bash them at any moment!

We sang songs and learned some key signs that we could use at home. The ones I remembered the most were: milk, cat, eat, drink, more and bath.

After the session, Anna suggested that I could always start Leo Stage Two rather than Stage One so he could be with some of the older babies. She explained how they do repeat a lot of the signs so I would still be able to follow along.

So that’s what I decided to do. After all, it’s more of a social thing for him so I wanted him to be with babies his own age!

What are the three Sing and Sign Levels?

  • Babes (non-mobile babies), specifically targeting the precious early months and building the framework for communication
  • Stage 1 (6 months plus) – The core curriculum. This full 10-week course is also available online
  • Stage 2 (14 months plus) – this full 10-week course is also available online

Our stage two lessons

As I said, I decided to sign Leo up for the Stage 2 class so he could be with others a similar age to him.

In our first lesson, it didn’t take long for Leo to start moving around. He tried to escape out of the door and was crawling about like this usual self. A lot of the other kids seemed to stay by their mums and watch the teacher much more.

There are a couple of girls that are a bit older, they are talking and communicating much more and they are more ‘interactive’ in the class which is lovely to watch! Then there’s a few that are around Leo’s age.

Leo crawling and walking around isn’t really a problem in terms of him learning signs. The key is for us as parents to learn the different signs and then work them into our daily conversations at home. Well, that’s the impression I get, anyway! Leo will never sit and watch someone for an hour. He’s 15-months old and distracted by everything. He just wants to be off exploring.

Anna is very enthusiastic and animated. I wish I had that kind of energy to entertain kids! She leads the class by singing various songs about different things. A lot of them are repetitive so we can do the signs a few times, changing one or two words. We have a theme each week, such as weather, colours, affection and helping at home.

The songs are a mixture of popular children’s songs and others more unique to Sing and Sign. For example, we sign ‘wheels on the bus’ quite often which enables us to sing the words like ‘the mummies on the bus go chatter chatter chatter’ and sign out ‘mum’, ‘dad’ and ‘babies’.

There are lots of signs used for animals, colours, food and learning about everyday words such as sleep, milk, nappy, bath, cuddle and home.

As well as singing the songs, there are props involved! We all bring a scarf and something that can rattle or shake. We play peekaboo and shake our rattles fastfastfastfast, sloooooow, LOUD and quite, incorporating the signs for this while we do so.

Anna also has props to help the children visualise the words and signs. She has a board which she sticks items on after talking about them and a bag with different things in for us to learn about. Then there’s the famous Jessie Cat!

Jessie Cat is the mascot of Sign and Sign and comes out once a lesson, a total crowd pleaser!

I haven’t found it an issue that I didn’t complete Stage 1. It’s basically just copying the teacher as she does them. She goes over them fairly often and will say ‘we learnt this sign in Stage 1’ and demonstrate it again. I can’t say I remember them all and if I did do stage 1 I probably would know much, but I feel very comfortable in this class.

Leo has a blast in the class, it’s a mixture of him being able to run around an open space and signing, which he loves. In the past couple of weeks, he’s really started to enjoy singing and actions.

It’s also good for learning normal new words and language skills as we learn about everyday objects, bringing more attention and focus to them than we would at home.

sign and sign teacher, baby and jessie cat

Will I continue with Sign and Sign?

Sadly I had already booked a block of messy play sessions that clash with the Sing and Sign class. This is a shame as I really do want to carry, but it means we will miss 4 out of the 10 sessions that we have to pay for. I hope that we can return for the Autumn term, though!

I could to a different venue on another day, but I feel a bit sad about that. I like the venue and the children that go to our current class, I’m a bit of a creature of habit and don’t want to change!

When I started the class, I was a bit worried that Leo wasn’t getting a lot out of the class as he’s too busy crawling and walking around but my opinion of that has changed now. I’ve found Anna great at making an effort to involve each child and getting them to engage in the songs or play with the props – even if it’s just for a short while. It was probably naive of me to think he would watch and listen. Now I see it as more of an hour of exploring and fun for me, while I try to learn the signs that I can use at home.

There are so many benefits to baby signing such as:

  • Helping to understand your baby’s needs, thoughts and ideas
  • Reducing frustration (for baby and parent!)
  • Enhancing early vocabulary and understanding
  • Encouraging the development of speech
  • Enriching your baby’s relationships
  • Building confidence and self-esteem
  • Stimulating your baby’s intellectual and emotional development

How much is it?

Each class has a different price as it depends on things like venue hire cost and capacity. You can find out if there are any classes near you here.

There is also the option to do Online Classes. We did this one week when the teacher had Covid, but Leo wasn’t interested and was a bit of a pain during that time. He enjoys it much more in person!

Is it hard to sing at home?

In theory, no. The signs are easy to learn and they do tend to make sense and fit in with what you are doing. The reality is that you do need to get into the habit. I tend to do better at the food-related signs around dinner time. I also use the sign for ‘cat’ quite often when our cat comes into the room and ‘open’ most days, especially when opening the blinds.

There is always room for more though. I try not to overwhelm myself or Leo but doing lots of signs, I just stick to a few that are relevant in our daily lives.

Check out some of the other baby classes we attend:

Waterbabies swimming
The Little Gym York

18 comments

  1. It’s sounds like you got a lot from the experience of these classes! It’s a shame you’re booked with something else and can’t continue for the time being though. Love that photo of Leo staring up at the teacher, so cute! He sounds like a super inquisitive baby!

  2. I worked at an autistic clinic when my daughter was about 1. We had a few non verbal kids so I picked up on sign quickly. I began teaching my daughter what I learned at work (not a ton lol). It made it easier to communicate/understand. At the time, finances were tight with a new baby so thankful I didn’t have to pay. Loved this article!

  3. My sisters and I all took sign language to be able to communicate with my autistic brother. Love this post!

  4. These sessions sound fab! It’s a shame they clash with something else. Where we’ve moved to there isn’t a great deal like this for babies. If we were still in Leeds though I’m sure we wouldn’t struggle. There was a similar sing and sing element to the baby sensory I used to take Amelia to when she was a baby (waaaah). She was always the baby at the front of the class too. And I also wish I had the same energy levels the teachers seem to have. Hahaha.

    Claire.X
    http://www.clairemac.co.uk

  5. I think it’s so neat that they combined singing and signing into one class. Growing up, I learned a decent amount of ASL, but I didn’t retain much of it aside from the alphabet, unfortunately. I love seeing people teach their tots how to sign. It’s such a great way to learn how to communicate with more people from a young age!

  6. What a fun experience, and I love that you can join the different stages without dependency on having started at the non-mobile baby level! While it is always a bummer when event dates clash, here is to re-joining more regularly in the fall. 🙂

  7. This is honestly a fantastic idea! I’d never considered it, but (like you said) it must be so much less frustrating for children to be able to communicate using sign language when they’re younger/can’t verbalise yet. Plus, if you keep it up, what a great skill to have! Hopefully you guys can re-enrol in the Autumn term 🙂 x

    mia // https://miasdiyprojects.com/

  8. This is such a great idea for a baby class, I love the idea of using signs with babies/toddlers to get them used to them!
    Amy x
    callmeamy.co.uk

  9. This sounds brilliant! As a primary music teacher, I love it when children are already exposed to lots of songs and willing to join in and this type of thing really helps!x

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