Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Parent Panel Review - Signing Hands; Baby Signing Basics by Lizzie Betts

Product: Signing Hands; Baby Signing Basics by Lizzie Betts

Price: £10.99

Available from:  Little Learners

Suitable from: 6 months up

Initial Reaction: I’d tried baby signing with my first son but we didn’t get very far. I tried to introduce the sign for ‘milk’, but if my baby wanted milk he had his own ‘signs’, like crying, trying to squash his face into my boobs and, um, drinking milk when offered. Perhaps I was too impatient and didn’t persevere long enough. But my second baby is now at just the right stage to get started with signing: he’s recently started clapping and waving, as well as some of the other indications described in the book.

The tone of this book is warm and encouraging, with lots of testimonials from parents who’ve signed successfully with their children. It advises starting with just a few signs appropriate to your family. I’m starting with nappy change (currently a source of stress for us as baby just wants to crawl away – perhaps communicating what’s going to happen will help prevent this?), bath (his favourite thing) and home. I’ll take it slowly, adding more signs in a couple of weeks once I’ve got into the habit of signing.


  • The diagrams for signs are combined with descriptions, making them easy to understand. The introductory pages are quite brief, but very informative and encouraging. As well as advice on how to tell your baby is ready, there are tips on how to get the best out of signing.
  • There are song ideas at the end of each section, pairing the signs with traditional tunes that every parent of young children should know, which helps to reinforce the signs.

  • One of the things I really love about Baby Signing Basics is the illustration. The pictures accompanying each of the 35+ signs are crafted from textured paper, fabric and other materials (think Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame), but remain clear and bold enough to appeal to babies and toddlers. They really are beautiful and a big part of the appeal of this book.


  • There are signs for ‘eat’ and ‘drink’, but I’d have liked to see some more specific signs for different types of food. A couple more toys (there is ‘teddy bear’ but nothing else) and activities such as book, blocks, or even the dreaded television would be helpful. However, the book does give details of other reading or websites that you can refer to for more signs.

  • I know from sitting on the board of my local SureStart centre that there is conflicting research on baby signing, with some academics and practitioners arguing that it delays speech, whereas others have evidence that it hastens speech. There is agreement that it’s crucial to say the word at the same time you sign it – which is mentioned in the book, but I felt that it could have been repeated and emphasised more.
Value for money? I think that £10.99 is quite expensive for this short book, especially paperback. However, it is produced independently by people who are really passionate about the subject, and generally I’m happy to pay a bit more to support new, smaller ventures like this.

Overall Reaction: I’m still a little sceptical about baby signing. I think that babies and parents naturally discover the ways to make themselves understood to each other, and I’m not sure whether signing is an ‘artificial layer’ that gets in the way of what comes naturally. But this beautiful and enthusiastic book has inspired me to give it another go. I’ll report back with our progress. 

By Kirsty 

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