Baby signing classes have long been established as a great way to help new parents bond and communicate with their little ones. Before they are ready talk, babies and toddler can make themselves understood through sign language – an amazing frustration-buster!
We’ve spoken to the team of fabulous teachers behind TinyTalk Kent to find out more about what they do and what they can offer local families:
1. What’s TinyTalk all about?
TinyTalk run baby sign language classes nationwide, teaching babies and their parents to use signs to communicate before they can talk. We have 15 classes across Kent catering to babies from newborn up to preschool age, including toddler classes which encourage social skills such as following instructions, waiting, turn-taking, etc., as well as supporting developing speech.
We cover 150 key signs which are relevant to baby’s lives, from essentials like milk, nappy and sleep, to signs which give you an insight into what your baby is thinking – like cold, pain and hug!
As well as being useful and reassuring for parents (no more guessing!), signing can be incredibly empowering for babies – to be acknowledged and understood long before you can use words!
2. What happens during an average class?
Each week we cover a new theme (bedtime, visit to the zoo, meals, etc.) during our 30 minute learning time, where we sing familiar nursery rhymes to practise the week’s signs. We also incorporate a communication themed activity aimed at supporting babies’ early speech sounds, or developmental skills – sometimes we use bubbles or mirrors or voile scarves.
We also read stories together and all shake instruments along to favourite songs like Old MacDonald. To vary babies’ perspective on things we also sing some action songs each week, like the Hokey Cokey or The Grand Old Duke of York with lots of ups and downs, and a few half ways!
After our learning time we put the kettle on and spend 30 minutes chatting and eating biscuits while the babies socialise with toys. This part of the class is invaluable to families, giving them chance to get to know others, share experiences and form friendships.
3. How does TinyTalk differ from other signing classes?
We use British Sign Language which is the official language of the deaf community in the UK. It’s accessible to all, and as a living language is a life skill which can be really useful in all kinds of contexts. Just last week one of our Mums who lives on a farm managed to sign to her husband across the field that it was time to get the dog in for tea!
Our social time is what really sets TinyTalk apart from other classes though – families love having chance to chat with likeminded friends – and is so loved by people who come, many of our families stay with us for several months, until their maternity leave ends or their circumstances change. Classes become an integral part of the family’s week, vital for parents and baby alike!
4. What do you love most about running your classes?
I love watching friendships grow. Mums who’ve maybe struggled to adjust to their new role as a parent finding comfort and companionship. Sharing in the joy as babies roll for the first time, sit up, crawl, even take their first steps in class; watching those little faces soaking up every word, every song, every sign, and then seeing them grow in confidence as they express themselves through making their own signs.
It’s such a privilege to share this invaluable tool with families, so they can really get the most out of those early months and years with their children.
5. Rebecca (TinyTalk North West Kent) had a pretty exciting visitor recently. What was that experience like?
It was so exciting having the fantastic Peter and Emily Andre join us in class! They were really down to earth, getting stuck straight in and taking their shoes off and sitting down on the mats with us all. There was then no shortage of babies for them to lift in the air for the hokey cokey, practice their animal signs with during Old MacDonald and cuddle during our signed book time!
They were really keen to remember the signs we’d learnt that week – even asking me to test them afterwards – and very interested to start learning with their new son, Theo. Our group welcomed them as warmly as they do any new family and everyone had a great time having a cup of tea and biscuits with them during the social part of the class.
6. What’s else does TinyTalk have to offer the community?
In addition to weekly classes for families, we also run specialist workshops for professionals in any field, who want to learn sign language – e.g. Childminders, Early Years workers, Nursery / Pre-school staff and Healthcare professionals. These sessions range from 2-3 hours long and the cost includes the TinyTalk Signing Pack as a take home resource. It’s a brilliant way to integrate signing into the whole community and work with local agencies that have regular contact with babies and children.
These sessions usually run quarterly, but can be requested at any time if you have a group of at least 5 adults who are interested. The next adult training workshop is likely to be in the summer and will be advertised on TinyTalk West Kent’s Facebook page.
7. If there was one thing you’d like to say to parents and potential new class members, what would it be?
We hear time and time again from our class families that it’s the one class which can actually change your relationship with your baby, and this is a lifeline as a new mum. It’s a deceptively hard question as it’s so personal, but the point is that it’s different things to different people and our families all come for different reasons.
TinyTalk offers all the advantages that signing with your baby provides, in a really accessible way through familiar nursery rhymes, experienced, supportive teachers and a welcoming group of other families to properly get to know over tea and biscuits!
For more information about the TinyTalk classes, visit: www.tinytalk.co.uk