Updated: Jan 25
I have an academic background in linguistics and set up Chatterparrot baby classes in 2019 after having my own three children. They offer parents and caregivers the time and space to boost early communication through baby sign, while having fun with their baby through music and sensory play. The focus of the classes is on early interaction and communication with each week introducing a new topic (e.g. food, everyday routines, vehicles, animals etc.) and different sensory experiences. Classes are now being offered in Baby Sign for English native speakers and there are plans to offer Baby French for French native and non-native speakers in 2022.
Why Use Baby Sign?
Baby sign language uses simple signs along with spoken language to help your baby identify keywords and communicate with their hands before they can talk.
Babies can understand word meanings many months before they can co-ordinate all the complex muscles in their mouths to speak. There is now scientific evidence that babies can understand word meaning between 6-9 months.
Given the right level of input babies will often start signing meaningfully from eight months. But at younger ages many babies will simply smile when parents sign something they want like a nappy change or some milk! It is important to note, however, that just as with other developmental milestones, such as sitting up or walking, the age at which your baby will sign can vary quite a lot and will also depend on how much input they get. In other words, the more you sign to them, the quicker they will pick it up!
Signs are always used with spoken language and never replace speech. Before babies can talk, using keyword signs alongside spoken language gives babies a visual clue to word meaning and helps them to identify which sounds work together to make a single word.
Most parents find that their signing baby's first words are the same words they have been signing and usually as babies or young toddlers become more confident with their words, they naturally drop using signs. Just like adults, babies and toddlers always gravitate to the quickest and easiest means of communication!
And for babies growing up in a bilingual environment, signs can bridge the two languages, making it easier to learn that the sounds “báinne”, “lait” or “Milch” mean the exact same as “milk”.
Why is Music Important?
In very early life basic music and language are learnt together. Lullabies draw babies’ attention to the language around them and through rhythm and repetition help them to break up all the sounds they hear to distinguish different words. If you have ever got a song stuck in your head, you will know how powerful music is in making language memorable!
Even parentese or babytalk – the way we sometimes talk to babies – is musical. It has a clear melody with stretched-out vowel sounds, a high pitch and a slower speed or tempo all of which help babies to learn language. It has been proven to increase a young child’s vocabulary. Funny to listen to, but great for language learning!
Why Sensory Play?
We learn about the world with all our senses and being introduced to a variety of sensations early in life helps babies to grow accustomed to them and to feel more safe and confident in their world. These sensations include differing tastes, smells, sights, feelings and sounds as well as the baby’s sense of where his or her body is in space (proprioception) and his or her sense of balance, which forms the foundation for confident crawling, walking and climbing. Plus, the more senses we use in exploring things, the easier it is to learn about them!
Chatterparrot classes offer a rich experience for babies’ development and plenty of fun and interaction for everyone!