Communicating With Your Baby – Blog by Jo Emmerson
Most babies do at some point; planking in the buggy, planking when you are trying to get them dressed and, the hardest of all, when you are trying to get them in the car seat. Not only do you have a rigid baby who simply refuses to bend in the middle, but there is the car door and sideways funny angle to deal with too. If you’re really unlucky, there’s a supermarket car park full of shoppers giving you ‘the look’ too.
However, there is a reason little ones plank, and it’s not to be awkward or to test your physical/mental strength or stretch your parenting skills. Honest! All behaviour is communication. Planking, just like throwing themselves on the floor, is their way of saying ‘WHOAAA, hold on. What are you doing?’ or ‘I really really need a sleep/drink/nappy change/cuddle/food, why don’t you know what I’m telling you?’
Our tiny humans have needs and interests, just like we do – the difference is, we are usually able to communicate with the people around us to share those emotions and desires. But just imagine for a moment how you’d feel if you lost that ability – how frightening and frustrating it would be to desperately try to tell people what you need, but to be ignored or misunderstood.
It turns out that there’s a really easy solution to this problem. Baby signing is a brilliant way of giving little ones the tools to share their inner world with you, allowing you to communicate with them before and during speech development. Babies and toddlers have control over their hands much sooner than they can control their voices. Using a recognised set of signs from British Sign Language means that you have a system ready and waiting for you.
Once you start using sign, you will also begin to realise how long it takes for little ones to process information. Ever seen your little one start waving about 10 minutes after granny/friends/the nice person in the corner shop said goodbye? That’s because they need time to process – longer than you’d think. Try giving even just a (slow) count of 20 seconds between giving an instruction and expecting a response. Do nothing else while you wait – just give the information and wait – see what happens.
Still planking at the car door? Try signing with them a few minutes before you step outside – or even as you’re putting their shoes on. Show them the sign for the things you’re about to do. Remind them. Show those signs again, a minute or two later. As you get them ready, talk to them about getting in the car and show them the sign again.
Now, I’m not promising instant cooperation at the first attempt! Possibly not even the second or third attempt, but our little ones are SMART. Work with them, give them the tools, respect their processing time, use repetition and sign with them consistently and they WILL pick it up.
I was so impressed with how powerful Baby Signing is, I started teaching it. In my toddler classes I give the general guidance to allow 10-14 days to see a change (smaller babies will usually take longer, but at least they are a little less inclined to plank!). However, more and more parents are telling me it was a matter of a couple of days, not weeks, before their toddler was more comfortable about getting in their car seat, or putting their shoes or coat on, and there was less planking and floor beating happening in general. Mealtimes were less stressful, bedtime less shouty, playing became more fun as little ones start to realise they can really interact with their immportant grwo and their environment in a meaningful way.
So, if you are dreading getting your little one’s hat, coat and shoes on, if getting in the car is a battle and tantrums are a regular feature of your day, perhaps signing could help. Give your little one the tools to tell you – you’ll be surprised at how ‘chatty’ they are once they start!
Jo Emmerson is the leader for Little Signers Club; North London. Working with the award winning Little Signers Club company, Jo delivers baby signing classes in the Haringey area and to private organisations and networks across London. Little Signers Club uses British Sign Language to aid children from 3 months to 5 years with their communication skills. The classes help pre-verbal children find their ‘voice’, they help toddlers find calm and the help all little people with their speech, communication and literacy skills. Classes are open to all abilities and nationalities. Jo also works with nursery and day care facilities to provide enrichment to their EYFS provision, and works to deliver private sessions for confidence building and language development for individual families and small groups.