reflections of motherhood…

pregI was desperate to get pregnant. I used to visit friends with tiny babies and feel an ache inside like I was missing a loved one I’d never met.

When I first saw that positive pregnancy test my excitement knew no bounds. I was so so happy!

And then…..I HATED IT.

I hated almost every moment! I was sick for 18 weeks straight, had a brief reprieve, then launched in to extremely debilitating pelvis pain. And that’s not to mention the mental battles of a lack of control over your body and emotions. Suddenly, my ‘wedding dress ready’ body that used to hold itself up all on on its own was enormous and looked like I’d gone a few rounds in a ring with a big cat! And I wont mention the general public! OK I will…total strangers touching me and talking about my weight. “Oh it must be twins” “how are you coping in this heat at that size” – Errr I’m growing a human inside me, leave me alone.

But, I’ve done it THREE times! Because in the end, it is a wonderful thing, and I know loads of you have had it worse.

In truth there are three things I loved…

1) The general public. I know, I know I just said I hated them, but I also loved them. Pregnancy brings smiles and happiness wherever you go. People hold doors for you and are polite. And a staff member once let me use the toilet in a busy fast food restaurant in New York, standing outside pointing & shouting ‘Only this pregnant lady can use this toilet’!! (true story)

2) Eating ‘Wispa Gold’ chocolate bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not giving a hootenanny!

3) I really loved feeling the baby moving inside. It can be annoying of course, keeping you up at night and making you need to pee! But I loved that short time when the baby will start to wriggle and kick when you drink a glass of cold water or when they stretch out now that you are lying down and still. All those little nudges felt like our special secret, a connection and the beginning of our partnership. And it was.

Depositphotos_20208257_original.jpgOnce my first born came into the world with all the calm civility of a police battering ram I was lucky enough to fall for my secret love in the real world.

We worked through all the post birth trauma together and started to settle into maternity leave as it should be – loads of chocolate and box sets and setting the goal of achieving but one thing a day.

We learned about reflux and needing several changes of clothes a day, about ‘poohnarmi’s’ and mid morning bath times.

But, as it turned out I was so taken up with my romantic notion of pregnancy, I hadn’t given much thought to how I was going to actually look after a baby. I knew everything there was to know about pregnancy and labour but was completely at sea when it came to knowing what was going on with my little person. Shock, horror! I couldn’t believe this stuff hadn’t come naturally to me! As if by the process of birth I would suddenly know how to feed, bath and dress them.

I did so many things the hard way because when its the first time doing anything, how do you know any different? At 4pm, when your partner isn’t due home til six and you’re bouncing round on 3 hours sleep and 12 coffees it seems perfectly reasonable to repeat the box step move from aerobics classes of old, clutching the baby to your chest and singing out ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ because its the longest song you know, totally convinced by the end of it they’ll be asleep. Sleep oh please sleep!

Then we made a small change that had a big impact. When she was about 6 months old we started to learn sign together, and it blew our tiny minds!

I could signing bedask her if she wanted more food or to go to bed. She could tell me she was hungry or felt pain. We could enter into conversations.

Her: ‘milk’ ‘bed’

Me: ‘wait’ until we are ‘home’.

Her: ‘HOME’ and so on.

It wasn’t a magic fix, she couldn’t produce the right sign at the right time in every situation because she’s a person and affected, like the rest of us, by fatigue, noise and complex emotions all interfering, often at once. I later became a teacher for the company and saw so many mums come to classes going through the exact same thing. It was such a joy to see them find signing to be useful and get that little win when their baby signed ‘milk’ for the first time.

Getting out to the Little Signers Club classes, gave us a goal and meant we learned together a way of making our lives easier. It allowed a deeper connection that others weren’t a part of at the beginning, we understood each other. It felt like another layer of the secret understanding that started way back when we were one.

Bethan blogBethan writes with grace and humour about the highs and lows of mothering (not one but three small people), her love of signing and her experiences as a former Little Signers Club Leader in the South West.  

 

You can start signing with your little one today! Sign up, FREE, for our first signs for babies and toddlers class – tips, first signs and practical how to’s from expert teachers at Little Signers Club. 

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Signing for Early Years Settings – New Training Announced!

We’re really pleased to announce our new Signing for Early Years Training that we are gearing up for around the country this year!

Signing for Early Years Professionals with Communication Development Training (birth to five years)

Confirmed Dates:

Cambridgeshire:   Sunday 23rd March at The Little Miracles Centre, Peterborough

Hertfordshire:      Saturday 26th April at Orchard Children’s Centre, Tring

London:                 Saturday 28th June venue TBC

Tyne and Wear:   Saturday 26th July venue TBC (Newcastle)

What can you expect?

Little Signers Club is offering you the opportunity to be a part of our developing Early Years Programme that will help change young children’s lives for the better.

Join us for a fun and informative half day training session with practical outcomes that can be implemented immediately!

• LEARN the benefits of signing

• SUPPORT speech development

• ENHANCE communication interactions

• INTRODUCE basic first signs at your workplace, setting, home or club

• REDUCE tantrums, frustration, stress ( we guarantee it )

• OFFER peace of mind

 Our Communication Development Training is delivered by a Lead Practitioner for the Early Language Development Programme – a D of E initiative with I CAN to raise awareness of the importance of Early Years Communication and Language.

Our Signing for Early Years Settings Training has been especially developed to support anyone working in early years to aid pre-verbal communication and how signing supports and enhances speech development. We also look at respectful, responsive care and how signing encourages both, leading to far less distress, upset and misunderstanding and ensuring that even a young child can have their basic needs met.

Speech, Language and Communications Skills throughout the UK are at a critical level (Berkow Review 2008).

Using signing, in conjunction with speech, is a simple but effective way to build language and communication skills inclusively. Help even very young children to develop confidence that their need to can be understood.

*Resources and printables included.

Who should attend?

• Children’s Centre Staff

• Health Visitors

• Nursery Nurses

• Family Support Workers

• Outreach Workers

• Pre-school Staff

• Nannies

• Childminders

• Teachers

• Parents

**ADVANCE BOOKING REQUIRED**

Who to Contact: hq@littlesignersclub.co.uk for more information and booking forms. 

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

Bethan Little Signers Club Teacher Bristol and Portishead
Bethan
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 bethan@littlesignersclub.co.uk or 07812 601676.

You can also keep up with Bethan via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/littlesignersclubbristol

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!

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

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.

Training

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 eldp@littlesignersclub.co.uk to be the first to know when courses will be released or if you would like to arrange training for your setting or conference.

Teacher Viewpoint: babysigning – it just works.

It is simply amazing that in the space of 15 days, and over 3 Baby Signing Basics ™ lessons, that a baby of 9 months old can start to communicate effectively by using baby signing.

Last week, one of the questions that came up was ‘Am I signing with my baby too much? I seem to be signing for everything!’  I understand the concern – you don’t want to overload your baby with too much – but how much exactly is too much?  As it happens, the consistency of repeating signs over and over again has paid dividends for Crawler L who is now not only clapping, but signing too.

For younger babies it is necessary to take things much more slowly and using signs that provide meaning to everyday activities, like meeting immediate needs ( the signs for milk, nappy change, bed, cuddle), are always the ones that we would recommend that you start with.

When babies arrive at my classes, I always engage with the baby, as well as their grown up.  On greeting Crawler L today, I asked him how his ‘Signing Hands’ had been this week and he immediately smiled at me then used his hands to copy the sign for ‘Signing’.

It is a truly magical moment when a baby grasps the concept of using their hands to communicate and upon talking with Mummy, it soon became very clear that despite ongoing physical development, Crawler L had grasped not just clapping but 5 other signs, in context, in the space of just 6 days and was also mimicing other signs for the duration of the class today.

There have been other developments too.  The babies now know the environment that they are in and as soon as they see me, smile big wide smiles and become impatient to get started.  The highlight of the class always seems to be bubbles which can entice even the shyest of little ones to engage.  Today our toddlers, H and I were demanding more and toddler H who turned 1 at the weekend was heard to clearly enunciate ‘bubble’ – the first time she has done so whilst toddler I, not to be outdone, was also forming ‘bub, bub, bub’ sounds.  Baby L is still getting used to the world but we had lovely smiles today when she recognised her name being sung – her mummy mentioned that she rarely smiles outside home at the moment so we were honoured.

Truly a class of ‘firsts’ today  – over an age range of 3 months to 1 year and very different physical ability.  Given the difference of age range, it can be quite hard to make sure that everyone is getting what they need from it, but this class is working brilliantly -parents of younger babies are able to see just how signing is working so effectively for the older babies and also how it supports, not replaces, emergent speech.

Try signing with your baby or toddler for yourself  –  it just works.

Teacher Viewpoint: baby signing ROCKS!

OK, I will admit I am a little biased…….but its true!

I stepped back into teaching this term after a break of around 18 months.  Its been a delight and such a priviledge to return to the world of teaching baby signing so I thought I would share my love of our classes and what we have been up to.

My class this term consists of babies ranging in age from 3 months to 1 year and I teach at our local Children’s Centre.  Despite the vast development differences between such an age range, the class is working wonderfully and it has been such a joy to get to know the babies (and their mummies too!).

Baby L, at 3 months, is rather young to be taking part but her mummy is getting to grips with everything that she will need for the future and, as advised, is taking things very slowly.  Toddlers H and I and Crawler L on the other hand have decided that baby signing classes are the perfect venue for their own brand of racing – seeing who can get to the wall first and shouting about it too!  Babies H and I are engrossed in everything that I do – partly, I suspect, because they are a little younger and not on the move just yet.

Already you can see preferences forming.  Baby I and Toddler I simply ADORE singing (with signs) whilst Toddler H loves stories (with signs) but is equally fixated upon emptying my bag….  All the babies can’t wait for bubbles and their big, round, awe filled eyes are such a sight to see.

I like having a wider age range in my classes as it can be encouraging for those parents who wonder if their baby will ever sign to them and when.  After just one class, Toddlers H and I are both signing and we were so thrilled to see them signing in class for More (singing and bubbles) and Monkey.  Toddler H is also acquiring language at a great rate of knots and its clear to see that she is not a child who will be needing to use signing for very long at all.

I cannot explain to you adequately enough the sheer love I have for teaching these classes and how uplifting they are.  Helping small children have the ability to inform you of their needs and preferences is an incredible feeling and one I know that is shared by parents who use baby signing everywhere.

Baby Signing for Early Years: Nursery Testimonial

 
The Aunties, having exceptionally high standards, are very particular when selecting external trainers. Little Signers Club came to train our staff in Baby Signing techniques, and surpassed all our expectations. From the outset, our trainer seized the audience’s attention, with her warm, erudite, and enthusiastic style of delivery.
 
It was clear that our trainer is a consummate communicator and her extensive knowledge, passion and sense of purpose regarding the proven benefits to children of baby signing were both thought-provoking and truly inspiring.  She was totally engaged with her audience throughout the session. We all (including those with decades of experience) learnt not only a profusion of signs, but also the reasons, supported by a raft of research evidence, as to their importance in augmenting young children’s communication skills.
 
All this was accomplished with a great sense of fun and a unique brand of grace and professional aplomb! The Aunties would wholeheartedly recommend Little Signers Club as providing a most knowledgeable, conscientious and capable trainer – and, indeed, we fully intend to continue employing her services, having already booked our next workshop!
 

The Old School Nursery, Oxfordshire

GOLD Investors In People / OFSTED Outstanding

Would you like to implement signing in your nursery or Early Years Workplace?

For more information about our Signing Training for Early Years Settings as well as our courses for nannies, childminders and parents, please contact us via info@littlesignersclub.co.uk