This week, Shelley, HQ at Little Signers Club, explains why toddlers benefit from the use of signing.
Little Signers Club uniquely focuses on how signing compliments communication development, enhances responsive interactions between small children and carers as well as increase spoken ability, impacting on self esteem and confidence.
Using signing for speech development and support for toddlers.
“The more you know about all the factors involved in making speech sounds, the more you wonder how anyone manages it. The brain has to send a signal to the muscles, and then the airflow has to be co-ordinated with moving the tongue, mouth and gums (teeth in older children and adults). A baby can move their hands with some control from very early on. Babies will not talk until 12 months of age or later but they can indicate by gesture or sign much earlier. Early communication intention is about making choices and making your needs known.”
Using a sign in conjunction with speech can help with confidence, be a memory prompt for a word or convey meaning. It also allows a child to concentrate on higher level learning and I am a huge fan of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, upon which principle our training and classes are uniquely centred around. Created in 1943, the Hierarchy of Needs was based on Maslow’s theory that Man’s “most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire or focus motivation upon higher level needs.”
Basic needs are literally the requirements for human survival; food, drink, sleep, excretion – signs which we would recommend that everyone start with (please see my previous guest post!). Without these needs being met, quite simply the body cannot continue to function. If a child is unable to communicate these needs and be understood, they are unable to progress upon higher level needs, impacting on interests and learning – always concentrating on the unmet need, feeling “anxious and tense”.
A toddler’s comprehension and understanding is 6 months ahead of their ability to express themselves – it’s no wonder then, that this frustration manifests itself in hitting, tantrums and other behaviour that communicates their distress.
ICAN, the children’s communication charity note that toddlers of 12-15 months old can be expected to have around 10 words at this age which increases to around 50 words between 18 – 24 months – most of which will be unclear as speech is very limited. This can be so frustrating for the little child who is trying to get their point across as well as to the adult who is responsible for their care.
By comparison, a child of a similar age may have dozens of signs if given enough input and the research that Dr Garcia undertook indicated that this may be as many as 75 different signs at the same age. The implication, of course, is that babies and toddlers who can sign have an advantage over those children who cannot sign – they are able to express their needs and have them met quickly, without resorting to tears.
For non signing toddlers who are slightly older and have more command over simple words, sometimes larger words, more complex ideas that they wish to express just simply overwhelm them. They can’t think of the correct word or they have so much that they want to say that the words will not form. They stutter and stumble trying to communicate, becoming more and more frustrated with themselves when using just a few gestures can alleviate this problem for them until they are more confident with the necessary vocabulary.
|Signing “chocolate” while eating chocolate cake!|
For those who worry about toddler’s speech development, I would like to make it very clear that signing is always replaced by speech once a child feels confident with the spoken word. From time to time a child may use the sign as well as the word, to reinforce an important point for emphasis or to make it very clear that they require a need to be met. Signing also helps when toddlers are ill or tired as they will revert to the simplest form of communication to get their needs met. Please note – a toddler wouldn’t be speaking more extensively if they couldn’t sign. They’d not only be not speaking but also be unable to communicate in any other way.
|Signing “Wash face”.|
Ultimately, the use of signing, always in conjunction with speech, results in incredibly independent, articulate and confident children at a very early age.
This week we have a free download available for Early Years professionals, linking signing to the current EYFS and Development Matters. It also explains how simple activities such as blowing bubbles, reading stories and singing nursery rhymes help children to be develop speech and acquire language.
You can register for the Early Years download here – http://eepurl.com/JC7p5 and if you missed it last week, download your FREE baby signing e-book at www.littlesignersclub.co.uk/baby-signing-ebook.htm
1 . Begin with a few simple signs that are relevant to you, the children you care for and your setting and do them regularly. It’s easier to remember and concentrate on 6 or 10 rather than dozens of signs. Start with the signs in the free e-book as they meet basic needs
2 . SAY the word as you sign it
3 . SIGN so that you are in a child’s line of vision
4 . REPEAT lots and lots!
You can find out more at