Thursday, 3 December 2009

Bamba's First Comforts - Baby Signing Kit



I have to admit, before this box arrived, I was extremely dubious about baby signing. I sometimes think babies are over-stimulated and pushed too far these days. Long gone are the days when they could just lie happily gurgling in their cot playing with their feet - now they have to do Little Swimmers, Baby Gym, Baby Massage, they can listen to Mozart in the womb with baby-friendly CDs, Baby Yoga ... There is even a whole range of Baby Einstein products, but they recently had to give back money to disgruntled parents who suddenly realised that despite watching the DVDs, their tots weren't turning into precocious geniuses ! Well, I say, for goodness sake, let them enjoy their baby days, they'll have enough pressure put on them when they start at school ! Baby signing sounded to me like just one more thing for pushy mums to introduce so they can show off their baby's new skill at mother & baby group !

Well ... I have to admit, I've changed my mind ! I'm sure some mums could manage to turn it into a competitive sport but it's actually a whole load of fun for baby but also mum, dad and older brothers and sisters.

So what is baby-signing ? I totally confused my mum and dad when I said I had a baby-signing kit for Pierre - they said "Umm, but ... he's not deaf ?!?". Well, for the uninitiated, baby signing is a way of letting babies communicate before they can speak or form coherent sentences. It draws on natural instincts - pretty much right from birth, Pierre used to "tell me" he wanted milk by opening and closing his mouth several times and moving his head towards my boobs ! Another common example is when babies hold their arms out to be picked up. They manage to get their message across without saying a word. Baby signing helps them to do this by showing them other gestures they can use to communicate things. If they can manage to get their message across to you, they will feel a lot less frustrated and you'll be able to respond to their needs quicker so that means less crying. Which means happy baby and happy mum !

On the Baby Sign Factory website, they explain : "Speech involves a complex co-ordination of impulses from the brain to allow for the fine muscle control of breathing out whilst moving the vocal cords, tongue, lips and palate. It's not until about 12 months that babies say their first spoken words, and even then they continue to use 'signs' to fill in the gaps in their spoken vocabulary. Signing can sometimes help with the Terrible Twos when toddlers have lots to say but not enough words to say it." It may sound ambitious but all of our kids have been brought up bilingual from birth. Friends and family are always amazed to see them switching easily from English to French and back again while they're still knee-high to a grasshopper, but they've always done it so it just seems normal to them. If you introduce a few simple signs for baby to assimilate at a young age, it should be a piece of cake.

Having said all that, at 4 months, Pierre is slightly too young to be properly introduced to baby signing. The website suggests starting at about 6 months. But as soon as the very cute Bamba's First Comforts Baby Signing Kit arrived in the house, there was no holding back Sophie and Juliette ! Straight into big sister mode, they set about teaching him all the signs straight away ! Did it work ? Well, Pierre didn't reproduce any of the signs but he certainly spent a good half an hour giggling and smiling away at them ! He loved all the attention he was getting and he loved grabbing hold of the super-soft toys for a cuddle too - especially the monkey and the blanket !

So what do you actually get ? You get a sturdy box a bit larger than a shoebox that is compartmentalised with a cute little soft toy in each section. In this 'First Comforts' box, you get Bamba the monkey, a spoon, a bottle, a blanket, a wash mitt and a mirror. These represent the words to be used in signing - sleep, eat, drink, etc - so baby will be able to tell you he's tired, hungry, thirsty, wants to play, wants a bath or wants some "ah - look at me" time ! As toys in themselves, Pierre loved them - they're ultrasoft, small enough for baby hands and they obviously make interesting shapes for him to suck and chew on. Juliette also liked using them to play with her dollies, so I'm sure they will be played with long after baby has mastered the art of talking.

When Pierre started getting tired or bored (not sure which, maybe I could teach him the signs for those words too !), I made it into a game with the girls. I showed them the signs in the little book and we mimed them together then they had to find which toy related to the sign. Then we swapped over and I showed them the toy and they did the signs. They were having great fun, giggling their heads off and picked up all six signs within minutes ! So as well as an educational/communicative tool, it also makes a great game for the whole family to enjoy.

So whether or not Pierre grasps the basics of signing and manages to communicate before he can speak, I've been won over by baby signing but in particular by the Bamba's First Comforts Baby Signing Kit. Just as a way of getting all three kids to spend some quality time playing together nicely, laughing their heads off and practising their skills (as well as learning the signs, they're practising their memory and word association skills), it's a great investment !

What's even better is that they will soon be bringing out other Bamba's Chatter Boxes for you to add to your collection. Now, what's the sign for "that's brilliant" ?!

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £29.99


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