Baby sign & communication webchat Mon 10th May 12-1pm

Ever wondered what your baby is thinking? Find out the benefits of baby signing and how to master the technique in our webchat with Fiona Winterhalder from TinyTalk. Monday 10th May 12-1pm

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  • baby signing is fantastic! i've been doing it for 6 months with my daughter through sing and sign. she can sign all sorts at 12 months old. i dont think she would be so talkative if it wasnt for the signing.

    everyone should do it!
  • I can see how it can be beneficial for babies with special needs but I worry that a baby would try to sign instead of trying to talk. Have you ever seen that happen?

    Also, at what age would you except a toddler/child to be able to sign nursery rhymes? I can't find the answer in any books or the internet!
  • My lo has always been way ahead of her speech milestones without doing baby signing.

    I'm not saying it doesn't have an impact just I've seen it not work with a parent who was desperate to understand what her baby wanted.
  • Can anyone suggest some good books or web links for me to look at? I've never heard of it and I'm intrigued.
  • Hi Fiona,

    I started signing "milk" when my daughter was about 5 months (she is now 8 months). She has been signing "milk" for nearly 2 months now. I've introduced other signs as well and have expected her to be able to sign more but so far she is only signing "milk", and I'm wondering if I'm using too many signs at once. In addition to "milk", I'm signing "eat", "sleep", "more", and "all gone". Should I keep going or drop one or two until she's able to do more?
  • Welcome to today's webchat on the subject of Baby Sign, with Fiona Winterhalder from TinyTalk.

    Fiona will be online from 12pm-1pm to answer your posts.

    We see we already have some posts which is fantastic! Fiona has kindly told us that if this chat is as popular as we predict then she will happily come back online during the week to finish any unanswered questions.
  • Hello everyone, I'm Fiona from TinyTalk and I'll have a go at answering your questions.
  • Hi Fiona
    My son is a late talker he's coming up to 2 yrs. He is using what seems are his own signs for things, like his drink cup and teddy and bed. Should we just let him develope his own, or should we find a class so he learns the proper signs. This chat seems to be on baby sign is there anything out there more for toddlers? thanks in advance
  • Hi loopy Lou

    Thank you for your questions.

    The concern that a baby would try to sign instead of trying to talk is quite a common one, however, it is quite often the opposite that happens and speech comes through quite quickly.

    When we sign with babies we always say the word as we make the sign. Babies will always try to mimic us - even at an early age they like to have gurgle conversations - so when they start trying to talk the words are usually quite clear, probably because we are speaking clearly to them when we sign so they have a good attempt at saying the word like we do. If we just signed and didn't speak at all then probably the baby would just sign rather than talking as well, because that would be what was normal to them.

    The age when babies begin to sign varies a great deal. some can be as early as 6 months, for others it's a lot later. It depends on the age of the baby, when you begin to sign with them, and what else they might be learning to do. My eldest son signed milk at 7 months then food at 8 months, then nothing else until about 12 months. In the meantime he learned to crawl. Once he'd mastered that we got lots more signs from him and lots of words too.

    So, in short, the advice is always say the word when you make the sign and to be consistent with the signing. The more a baby sees the signs and hears the words the more likely they are to sign and make attempts at speech.

  • Hi Tronski

    There are several good websites and things to look at. If you google "babysigning classes" I'm sure you'll find a couple of websites that will give you more information and will have resources that you can purchase and use at home.

    Books wise to use with children, Child's Play have some good baby signing books - look on Amazon. There are also good DVDs that you can use to watch together with your little one and talk about what you can see at the same time as making the signs.

    One word of caution, however, there are different signing systems, so check whether the books, DVDs etc., use British Sign Language (BSL) or American Sign Language (ASL) or Makaton or Sign a Long. Whichever you decide to use is okay, but in the UK mostly BSL and Makaton are used.

    Baby Signing is a lovely thing to do with your little one and has so many benefits. Not only does it aid communication but it helps build a lovely bond between you as you can understand each other.

    Good luck!
  • Hi mn88

    How fantastic that your daughter is signing milk. Good for her and well done you for signing with her.

    You say that you are signing "eat", "sleep", "more", and "all gone" with her too but she's not signing anything else yet and you're wondering if you should drop one or two until she's able to do more.

    My advice would be to carry on with all those signs - they are perfect signs to start off with as all of those things will be of interest to her, probably "food" especially! However, I would really focus on teaching her just one or two signs even though you are using a lot of signs.

    What do I mean? Well, perhaps just focus on teaching her "eat" and "all gone". If she will let you move her hands in to the correct handshapes - or as close as you can get them! - so you help her to make the signs.

    With my sons I taught them "eat/food" when they were in their high chairs. Firstly they were a captive audience(!), sitting facing me, and secondly they were very interested in the food that they were about to get. I showed them the food and made the sign as well as saying the word. Then I put the food down and said "can you show mummy how we sign food?" I would then very gently move their hand to tap at the side of their mouth and say the word too and then give lots of praise as they did it. I had to help them do it for a while, then they got the hang of it and signed themselves - initially when it was food time, but fairly quickly after that they would ask me for food by signing too.

    You could perhaps do the same with "food/eat" and "all gone".

    Don't stop using the other signs you mention though. You'll be surprised at how much is going in! We always recommend that you use lots of signs but just teach one or two.

    Good luck, as your daughter is already signing "milk" I'm sure it won't be long till she gets the hang of a few more.
  • Hi Fiona,

    I've been using Signs with both of my children for almost 5 years now. We go to TinyTalk classes too. I can't recommend them enough! Its music, movement and storytime as well as the signing. My favorite part is the fact we also get time to chat to the other mums at the end whislt the babies play toys, we never get time to do that in the other groups we go to. My Son signed his first sign at 6 months, my daughter took a little longer at 8 months, but its still better than waiting for her to be able to say the word, and getting frustraited in the mean time whilst she is practicing the sounds of words. We have far less tantrums than some of our non signing friends.
    I recomend it to everyone. I absolutely love it and Its not just me, other mums in the class are just as enthusiastic!

    Keep up the good work you do! its a very worthwhile job!
  • Hi Honeybee

    Children often have their own home language - words and gestures that they use for things - so it's great that he is able to tell you that he wants his drink, cup or teddy bear.

    A class might help him to pick up more signs and words for other things too. TinyTalk Toddlers might be right up his street! The emphasis at the classes is on communication. Sign is used and there is lots of talking as well as language development activities too. The lessons use parachutes, props, books and instruments so they are really good fun - in fact the children don't even realise that they are learning!

    For those things that you know he already has a sign for stick with them. You may be shown an alternative sign for them at a class, but if your son is already using his own signs that's okay. Make sure, though, that other people who care for him know what his signs mean too. And I'm sure you do, but again, make sure you say the words too him as well. If he signs for his cup, say "you'd like your cup?" back to him so that he hears the words too.

    If you have time you could watch a DVD together, such as the TInyTalk DVD as it has 150 signs on it and lovely footage of everyday things that you can talk about together, for example, there are lots of animals that you can discuss as you learn the signs. Additionally, CBeebies has a program called "Something Special" that uses sign so that's a good one to watch together and talk about too.

    Finally, if you are concerned about his speech development refer to the Speech and Language Therapist service in your area. They'll be able to reassure you and suggest things to try as well.

    Good Luck!
  • What time is optimal to start baby signing classes? I'd love to do it and don't want to miss any language learning windows!!

    Hello Wanna-Bump

    You're interested in finding out when is the optimal time to start baby signing classes.

    You can begin signing to your baby from birth: the earlier you begin the earlier it will become part of your normal routine. I recommend that you start with "milk" as it is something every baby is interested in!

    Most babies won't have the ability to move their hands to make signs until they are about 6 months old, but you don't have to wait that long to begin signing. Start as soon as you can as babies learn through repetition and the more you do something the more likely they are to learn it too. They will also begin to recognise the signs and even though they won't be able to sign to you when they are very small their response and reaction to the sign will help.

    I began signing with my older son when he was 16 weeks old and he signed "milk" to be when he was about 28 weeks old, quickly followed by "food" at about 32 weeks. With my younger son, my husband began signing "daddy" to him when he was 2 days old! Guess what, though, my little one's first sign at 9 months was "daddy", much to my husband's delight!

    In short, my advice is to start signing as soon as you can and to attend a class as soon as you feel ready. Not only will you have great fun learning to sign, but you'll meet lots of other mums and babies as you relax after the class with a coffee and chocolate biscuit! Have a look at to find your nearest class. If there isn't one near you then search google for baby signing classes and i'll sure you'll find something.

    Good Luck!
  • Fiona, I agree, My son recognized the sign for milk at 17 weeks old. he would be happy in his bouncy chair and if I signed milk to him, woe betide me if I didn't have a milk ready. He would start rooting and if there was no milk (or I couldn't get it in his mouth quick enough, melt down! He definitely understood the sign for milk. when he was able to sign it back to me at 6 months old, 'milk' became everything for a while, but then we carried on with the other signs and he very quickly learnt that objects have names and 'food' was also a great part of his day!.
  • Today's chat is now coming to an end. Thanks to everyone involved and a special thank you to Fiona for such full and interesting answers.

    Log onto if you are interested in baby or toddler sign classes.
  • Hello Linda Sykes

    Thank you for your kind words and I'm delighted you and your children have been enjoying your TinyTalk classes.

    You've also experienced one of the benefits of baby signing - fewer tantrums. Reduced frustration for babies and their carers is one of the key benefits - being able to communicate is key and really helps. I can honestly say that with my sons we've never had a tantrum because we don't understand each other. We've had tears because we do understand each other - perhaps the biscuits have "all gone" - but that's all part of growing up!

    I'm thrilled that you and your friends love the classes. Perhaps you might feel inspired to join our team of teachers? Working as a TinyTalk teacher is very flexible and fits in well with family life. Have a look on the tinytalk website,, for more information if you're interested.

  • Thank you everyone for your questions and good luck with the baby signing. has lots more information.

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