Thanks to Sense Sign School, my toddler can sign more words than she can say

Alex lives with her partner and their children, Leo, three, and Arabella, 15 months, in south Norfolk. As a family, they’ve all been using Sense Sign School to learn some basic British Sign Language. 

Alex with her two small children, Arabella on the left and Leo on the right.

We’ve always wanted our children to learn sign language. When our first child, Leo, was very little, we started taking him to a baby sign language class. 

But the classes ended when he was four months old, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. During lockdown, we saw an ad for Sense Sign School, so we decided to try learning at home as a family.

We really got into it once our second child, Arabella, was born 15 months ago. Now, we sit down as a family to do Sense Sign School together every night after dinner. 

We want our children to be able to communicate with everyone

There were so many reasons that we thought it would be a good idea to learn sign language with our little ones. The main one is that it allows them to communicate with Deaf and hard of hearing people around them. 

“Arabella is picking it all up so quickly. She can use over 30 signs now. It only takes her a few days to learn them.”

My dad has hearing aids, and when he takes them off he is partially deaf. He hasn’t learnt sign language before, but now the kids are doing it, they’re teaching him a little.

I want my children to be able to speak to Deaf people as they grow up. It’s an opportunity for them to make extra friends. 

I’ve got a Deaf friend myself, and I always wanted to talk to her in BSL, but I never could. Now that I’m learning with Sense Sign School, I can understand her better. I can have a basic conversation with her in BSL. 

It only takes a few days for my toddler to learn new signs

Arabella signing “eat”.

Arabella is picking it all up so quickly. She can use over 30 signs now. It only takes her a few days to learn them. 

Last week, we started learning about signs for food, so she’s been using her favourites all week. At the minute, she signs more than she talks. 

She uses the signs for “apple” and “fruit” every day. She also loves to sign “pizza” every day, but she won’t get pizza every day, of course! She can have an apple every day.

As a family, we really enjoyed the Sense Sign School lesson about the queen’s jubilee. It inspired us to have a little jubilee party, just for the four of us. We really enjoyed learning topical words like “celebration” and “queen”!

I try to use signs with Arabella in day-to-day conversation as much as I can. I’m also trying to learn the signs to go along with some of her favourite nursery rhymes, “Five Little Monkeys” and “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. 

Learning signs has brought us closer to our community – and each other

The other day, we saw an example of what a difference it makes to know a bit of sign language, when Arabella greeted someone at our church.

When we arrived at church we were told that there was a new lady who had just joined, and that she’s Deaf. 

Arabella went straight up to the lady and signed, “Hello, how are you?” The lady’s eyes lit up! It was amazing to see this 15-month-old child chat to her, when most of the adults didn’t know how to. 

Leo doesn’t sign as much, but one way signing has helped him is with expressing his feelings when he’s having a tantrum. He can struggle with communicating verbally. 

He uses the signs for “happy” or “sad”. And he has some BSL books about emotions, which he will pull down off the shelf, to show us how he’s feeling. 

We’ll definitely carry on with the lessons. I’d love it if the kids could grow up to be fluent in sign language. It helps them, and it’s something that can help other people, too.