When I originally signed us up for Sing & Sign with Suki, it was more about me getting out and about with a new baby. We did a taster session in December when Penny was only 2 months old and she pretty much slept through the whole thing. We signed up for the “Babes” group, which is from birth to 6 months, however Suki was honest with us at the sign up, that from around 12 weeks would be a better time to start, as baby is awake longer and can make eye contact with you more effectively.
Most of the sessions during “Babes” were focussed on getting baby to look at you while you sign and do a few signs. To be honest, they are very few, but the sessions ease you in. The songs are easy to remember too, and many of them are common nursery rhymes that we all know anyway. I however am RUBBISH with tunes for songs, so we bought the Jessie Cat book and CD. At £12.99, was a great buy, as it also gave us a head start with learning the songs and meant that we could continue with what we had been already learning in class.
The babes class only lasts for 30 minutes, but for anyone who has tried keeping a baby occupied and attentive for 30 minutes will know that that can sometimes feel like an age. We signed up for Stage 1 which was due to start just as Penny turned 6 months. So far Penny wasn’t showing any hints of signing herself, however she loved the songs and we as a household soon learnt which ones were guaranteed to stop a meltdown in it’s tracks. “Change your nappy” and “Little Green Frog” to name a few.
At first I used to get funny looks when I spoke to people about our Sing and Sign sessions. I’d get ‘isn’t it a waste of money if she just lays/sits there?’, or ‘we didn’t have any of that in my day and all my kids turned out ok’. And I agree that it’s probably not for everyone, however I am also a believer in not knocking something until you’ve tried it. I ignored the sniggers and little looks I’d get from some people. I knew what they meant. The ‘Emma’s following another fad’ sort of look. But I didn’t care. I was most definitely getting something from it, even if Penny was showing no real change.
Stage 1 started in April and we looked forward to the now 50 minute session. New songs and a much more attentive baby who was now sitting up. Hurray! Penny also fell in love with Jessie cat. Hugs, kisses and cries when Jessie had to say hello to another baby. I did get slightly disheartened midway through the course that Penny wasn’t signing anything yet that I could tell. Suki assured me that most children start during their second term of Stage 1, so I resigned myself to the fact that it wouldn’t happen. I believe now that it was partly my fault too. Signing for 1 hour a week will not help your child to learn. It really does need to be a daily/consistent activity in order for it to work. I was in two minds about whether I could really justify spending more money on another term when suddenly at 9 months old, Penny signed ‘Milk’! And then ‘Please’ while we were on summer break.
I found that getting the whole family involved was a real help. Not only where they singing the songs (although not in their sleep, like I was), they were also using signs and loving that Penny was now suddenly communicating with them. We are now a few sessions into our second Stage 1 term, and this one has been our most challenging. Mostly because Miss Penny has been walking for 3 months now and has perfected it. She dislikes sitting still, and much prefers spinning in circles in the centre of the class, climbing up things and even stealing Suki’s spot up front. But she is still learning. Every week, we see something new. Whether it be “ducks’ quacking, or stamping her feet, we love them all. Her new favourite song is ‘If you’re Happy and you know it’. It’s our go to song when a paddy is imminent and as a feisty 12 month old, that’s pretty much daily.
So, does this mean that Penny doesn’t actually speak? Of course not. Signing is used alongside speech. We never sign in silence as the ultimate aim, is to promote communication via speech once speech is possible. Penny speaks quite a bit for her age, but she does find it much easier to make herself understood by using her signs. Some of these she has adapted for herself which is ok, as long as they are understood at home where they will be used. A lot of signing for babies is gesture based, so you probably already do some signing without realising it. Signs such as ‘Where?’ and ‘Bye’ are very common.
We are really enjoying our classes again, and look forward to stage 2 after Christmas. Penny has met some great little friends along the way as well as everything else she has gained from the class. I’ve also met some lovely ladies and babies as well as getting out of the house one morning a week. Some days it’s a challenge, but never on Sing and Sign day!
Like I said before, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. You don’t even need to start from a baby either. Look out for free taster sessions in your local area and go along. I promise you won’t be disappointed and Jessie Cat will soon become a lifelong friend to your child. You can’t find details of your local classes here, as well as some great resources you can use at home.