Little Signing Sack; Five Little Ducks

Little signing sack

Interactive signing fun for your little one – with Little Signers Club  weekly (virtual) Little Signing Sacks!


Each week we’ll be popping a new video sign or two up on our Facebook page that you can use with your baby or toddler; learn new signs, favourite nursery rhymes and if you want to, a recommendation for a lovely themed book to purchase or get from the library.

This week, the lovely nursery rhyme ‘Five Little Ducks’.

With Spring now officially here, hopefully you’ll be out and about a little more and can go and see the ducks for yourself.  The Duck sign is always popular with small people so be prepared to practice a lot!

Step One: you’ll need your sign!

Click the links for the BSL Sign for DUCK

Step Two: a favourite rhyme to practice them with!

(bolded words are words to sign along to)

Five little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mother duck said quack quack quack quack

But only four little ducks came back

Four little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mother duck said quack quack quack quack

But only three little ducks came back

Three little ducks

Two little ducks

One little duck went swimming one day

Over the hills and far away

Mother duck said quack quack quack quack

And all five ducks came swimming back!


Step Three: a story to snuggle up and enjoy together


Lovely (and always really engaging) touchy-feely books from Usborne which you can find just here!

We hope you enjoy this weeks Virtual Signing Sack from Little Signers Club. If you have something you’d like to see as part of the Little Signing Sack, please pop by and let us know over on our Facebook page.

Until next week….. “Keep Signing!”


I Am Two

I won’t deny it has been a long year. A year of change. A year of resilience. A year where some of the time I have felt that all I have achieved is marking time.

Today my son was two. Two is a turning point for many parents. The official start of the toddler years. Renowned for tantrums and tears. For growth and assertion. For language and communication. I no longer have a baby in my home. I have a small, determined, vocal, independent two year old….

I’ve blogged about some of what my small son has shown me over the last year. The importance of signing to underpin his interests and higher level learning. Of meeting needs and of those magic parenting words ‘show me’.

His grasp of language I find astounding. There is much emphasis about a child having 50 words at two years of age. I haven’t honestly bothered to count how many my son has because there are so many but I would hazard guess its around the 200 word mark.  And not just random words either – connected sentences of up to 5-6 words with all of his language being functional and in context.

I am not the only parent to experience the joys of signing and the richness of hearing my child’s (advanced for age) speech development. There are those who still believe that a child who is using signing will not learn to speak – but when done correctly, with the right teacher and consistent input, signing is the most incredible parenting tool.  I would go so far as to say that it is a must have parenting tool.

My son now uses signing mostly for new words to make sure he has grasped their correct meaning and with people who he doesn’t know well. He signs for emphasis, to make sure that his point or need is being seen and met.

And now we are set for a new adventure into the pre-school years.  With confidence in his ability, we rise to meet the challenge.

Sign, Sign and Sign Again… (or, How Babies Gain Confidence with Signing)

These last two weeks have been a bit of a signing whirlwind in our home, with my 17 month acquiring signs almost as quickly as you can work out what it is that he wants the sign for.

He is an incredibly confident child – independent, curious and keeps me on his toes with his daredevil antics climbing way beyond Mumma’s comfort zone! – but this signing explosion is something that we see at our classes over and over again with older babies and toddlers.

Signing children, by their very nature, tend to be more confident.  Why?  In my personal opinion I think it comes down to the reassurance of a responsive parent who is able to understand AND meet needs without any difficulty.  This leaves little ones able to get on with the important things in life – climbing, gazing at butterflies, contemplating ants and eating daisies…..

I am a huge fan of Abraham Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, upon which principle our classes are uniquely centered 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. 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”.

By introducing simple first signs, children can be more confident of having their needs met even if they do not know how to ask verbally. A more confident child is a much happier child and consequently less frustrated and able to engage in learning; frustrated children are very often disruptive and unhappy.

Signing 'Biscuit'; Learning and implementing new signs enables small children to explain preferences
Signing ‘Biscuit’; Learning and implementing new signs enables small children to explain preferences

And so my boy is very confident of having his needs met – so much so that he can indeed focus his motivation on higher level needs and interests (back to climbing!) and also in gaining more non-verbal language to explain these interests so that I too can understand what motivates him.

At the same time, his speech development is being supported by learning and understanding new words; whilst he cannot yet say biscuit for instance, he can now tell me his preference and is practicing with new sounds.

I know without doubt that the word, and requests for new signs, will not be far behind.


I Mean It! – (or, How Children Add Signs to Speech For Emphasis)

Bethan Little Signers Club Teacher Bristol and Portishead
Little Signers Club Teacher
Bristol and Portishead

This week we welcome our Bristol and Portishead teacher, Bethan, to the blog with a piece about signing with older children and toddlers.  This blog is so insightful and I am sure will resonate with everyone who is experienced in using signing beyond babyhood.

If you would like to join our popular, fun and life changing baby or toddler signing classes in Bristol or Portishead, please contact or 07812 601676.

You can also keep up with Bethan via Facebook at

If I SIGN it, I MEAN it!!!

This phrase definitely goes for me and my little signers.  Lyla is 3 (and 3/4s!) and Noah is 2.  They know very well that signing adds importance, urgency or emphasis to what they want to say – and the same goes for when mummy does it!

So, signing with your pre-verbal baby is a wonderful gift.  You are giving them a communication tool that will enrich your lives together.  But it doesn’t end when they begin to speak, far from it!  At one year old Lyla had an impressive 5 words;  mum, dad, dog, ball and car.  Super proud mum!  But they weren’t useful things.  She also had signs for ‘eat’, ‘drink’, ‘more’, ‘bed’, ‘nappy change’,  ‘cuddle’ and ‘piggy’ (her bedtime toy).  Now that, in conjunction with her words, was a formidable combination. Of course by now she rabbits on continuously and uses signs more sparingly. So now when she signs, it acts as an automatic filter, ‘mummy this is important!’

If my children really want something, they sign it…‘biscuit’ quickly followed by ‘please’ and then (if they get one) ‘thank you’!

If they really feel something they sign it!  Noah was recently wowing some other mums at soft play as he displayed his ability to articulate his feelings.  He came to me crying and very distressed, but was able to splutter the word and clearly sign for “ANGRY”. We were able to discuss it later when he was calm, and there had been some altercation over the child to slide ratio.  The point is, 1) he was able to tell me that he was angry. He’d identified that feeling and could sign it to me in a moment of distress. And, 2) I was able to respond properly.  I didn’t have to spend ages trying to discover if he had hit his head, or was hungry.  He was ANGRY.  No doubt about that.

If I really mean it, I sign it.  The examples of this with a 2 & 3 year old in the house are focused mainly on safety or persuasion!  ‘Danger’, ‘don’t touch…hot’ , ‘please & thank you’ ‘again’ ‘sorry’ ‘play’ ‘bed’ and so on.

When Noah was younger he made a move to touch the oven while I was cooking.  Lyla shouted “No Noah!” I whip round to see her say and sign “Don’t touch that, it’s ‘HOT’!” Fantastic! He was old enough to understand her meaning had she simply said the words but she knew to add the sign for emphasis and he knew that it was worth taking notice.

So, aside from showing her hand as a big sister bossy boots, she showed that in our house, if we sign it, we mean it.

Signing has given them both a way of making themselves understood and to be taken seriously, two enviable qualities in any person, even a little one!

Dandelion Clocks (or, When Babies Sign Autonomously)

Today my baby and I took our daily walk.  There is nothing unusual in this, but today is definitely not an ordinary day.  Today, my 14 month old baby made up his own sign for ‘Dandelion Clock’.

dandelion 2

He has been fascinated with the dandelion clocks since they started appearing a few days ago.

Add in his two big sisters blowing the seeds high into the sky over the weekend, watching them floating loose in the wind, and this fascination went to a whole new level.  The excitement when he was given one for himself was tangible – and a memory I shall carry for a long time.

But today, my baby signed for himself; a new sign, that he figured out for himself.  Holding his hand in front of him as if grasping the stem of the dandelion clock, he then blew, repeatedly and said ‘more?’ afterwards.

There was no mistaking what it was that he wanted and that he had found a way to let me know too.

This shows me that my baby knows, without question, that he can communicate with me even if I have not shown him a sign already (and no, I have absolutely no idea what the correct sign for dandelion clock is but we will be using this one now!)  His use of gesture and sound, together, make me very aware of what is on his mind, even though he does not yet have the ability to say ‘dandelion’ and probably won’t for some time to come.

The outdoors is a rich opportunity for you to explore nature and to use signing with your child.  In our interaction today, not only did baby J make up his own sign, but we had a whole dialogue going on between us which strengthens bonding, his communication development and a sense of adventure too!  Signs and words that frequently came up on our walk were ‘where’, ‘look’, ‘bird’, ‘snail’, ‘flowers’, ‘tree’, ‘over here’, ‘careful’, ‘danger’, ‘ow!’ (nettles) – so you can see quite quickly how easily it is for new signs and expressive language to be acquired.

Today also gave me an incredible insight into my baby’s world, which is an experience unique to us and not one that I would have missed for the world.

For those working in Early Years, this level of interaction and interest ticks many boxes for the EYFS – in just an hour.

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
    • self confidence and awareness
    • making relationships
  • Physical Development
    • Moving and handling
    • Health and self care
  • Communication and Language
    • Listening and attention
    • Understanding
    • Speaking
    • Turn taking
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design
  • Exploring different textures and materials

To join a class, become a teacher or learn more about our Early Years training, please contact us!



To sign or not to sign?

To sign or not to sign…. that is the question!

We hear a lot about baby signing in the news; on the one hand there are those who say it enhances IQ and there are others including the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists who say it shouldn’t be used with children without a speech therapy need – or Karen Pine’s team from the University of Hertfordshire, who say it could be linked with increased parental stress.

DSCF1077 resize

So what are parent’s supposed to believe?

How are parent’s supposed to react?

Speech and language expert Libby Hill, from Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy & Smart Talkers Pre-School groups looks at the pros and cons to help you make up your own mind.



The benefits of signing:

  • It empowers babies to communicate earlier.

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.

  • Increases self-esteem

Helping a child’s self esteem isn’t just telling them how well they’re doing. Being seen as having something worth saying and that someone will listen and respond, is a huge component in the development of self esteem in both children and adults. If you can’t get your message across, self esteem will always be affected. If the baby signs and is rewarded, he knows he has something worth saying even before he had the spoken vocabulary e.g. that he wants milk, that he’s hungry, in pain

  • Reduces frustration

If someone can express themselves they will be less frustrated. Sign can also be used as part of the explanation about why something can’t happen or has finished. A case study done recently by Small Talk showed fewer toddler temper tantrums when sign was used. Kim Nash mum to Oliver felt it really made a difference, When you’re too upset to ‘hear’ explanations, a visual prompt may get through’.

  • Enhances language skills.

Language is not just the words that are spoken. A huge part is the understanding of what is said to you.

"Our hands talk constantly, they communicate beyond words"
“Our hands talk constantly, they communicate beyond words”

Children learn in different ways and use different means e.g. auditory, kinaesthetic and visual. These days the visual channel is usually stronger than the auditory channel. To learn words/vocabulary is mainly auditory, when this is boosted by a sign it capitalises on this strength and so it helps the child to learn the words more quickly.

At Horn End nurseries in Staffordshire, where they use sign as part of a consolidated approach to encourage language development, they know that if they sign to accompany an instruction e.g. perhaps with a preposition, the children will follow more quickly. They have had training from Small Talk about enhancing all communication opportunities.

Deborah Falshaw, nursery owner and Early Years practitioner sees it as ‘another layer to encourage children’s understanding and expressive skills’. OFSTED have made particular reference to it in one of the nurseries who received outstanding across the board.

  • Enhances bonding and enriches parent-child interaction

The main benefit of baby signing is that it gives the parent a reason to interact very early on. The sign is the vehicle for the enhanced interaction. The more communication attempts are recognised and rewarded the more they will develop. The less a baby is interacted with, the slower the brain connections necessary for language and communication will develop. Studies have linked a lack of communication with babies with later difficulties including ADHD and a lack of social understanding especially empathy. Sue Gerhardt’s Book ‘Why Love Matters’ is an excellent reference for this area.

  •  Makes signing socially acceptable

One of the benefits of it being widely accepted is that parents of children with a clinical need to sign are more likely to agree to their child signing. Previously, when a speech and language therapist wanted to introduce sign to assist a child’s understanding or expressive language skills, parents frequently felt that it would single their child out even further. A greater use in all children prevents this and promotes better acceptance.

Later in the week we’ll be looking at whether there are any disadvantages to using signing with small children and allaying common parental concerns.

First published in November 2010 in response to Hands on mothering: Improving infant communication in low socio-economic families with gesture Karen Pine & Elizabeth Kirk University of Hertfordshire School of Psychology.

Creating a lasting legacy with the ELDP

“We have a national crisis where parents are not adequately interacting with babies and children which leads to social interaction difficulties, language and communication problems.

 At least 40,000 children will have started school this week without the necessary levels of spoken language ability to access the curriculum. And these are NOT children with speech, language or communication disorders”

Libby Hill, Speech and Language Therapist, Sept 2010

At the beginning of this week, Little Signers Club were priviledged to attend training given to Lead Practitioners for the Early Language Development Programme (or ELDP).


ELDP is a national project funded by The Department of Education and run by ICAN, the children’s communication charity.

ELDP aims to ensure that more young children develop the language skills that they need to improve their life chances and to be school ready.  The programme will particularly target 0-2 year olds and their families in England’s most disadvantaged areas.

ELDP will be cascaded by trained Lead Practitioners ( Louise and Shelley at Little Signers Club) to anyone working with children under the age of 5 years.

Key Facts:

  • By 22 months a child’s development can predict educational outcomes at age 26
  • By 2 years 75% of a child’s brain growth has occured
  • By 2 years the experiences of the child physically affect brain growth
  • By 4 years the difference in the number of words different groups of children hear is 19 million
  • By 5 years a child’s vocabulary will predict their educational success and outcomes by age 30

Evidence shows that children’s understanding and use of vocabulary at 2 years old  is very strongly associated with their performance on entering school. In some areas of the UK more than 50% of children start school without the communication skills they need.

How will it work?
ELDP will help childrens centres, nurseries, childminders and pre-schools build capacity and skills in communication and language – now one of the three prime areas of the revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum. The programme focuses of strategies to improve practitioners learning and skills in early identification and intervention whilst encouraging partnership working with other early years settings, childrens centres, speech and language therapists and health visitors.

ELDP aims to reach up to 16000 Early Years Practitioners and over 960,000 children – a lasting legacy of improved communication of which we are extremely proud to be a part.


Little Signers Club will be providing training in three areas of expertise over the next twelve months.

  1. Babies’ and Toddlers’ Speech, Language and Communication Development
  2. Working with Under 3s
  3. Working with Parents

cascadeTraining is practical and participants are encouraged to share their knowledge and experience.  By the end of any of the training courses, practitioners will have the motivation and confidence to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired with the practitioners, families and children with whom they engage.

Courses are completely FREE OF CHARGE and will be offered in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire initially.  

Please email us at to be the first to know when courses will be released or if you would like to arrange training for your setting or conference.