Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Hart of Tiny Talk.
Tiny Talk is a baby signing and toddler talking group which offers classes from birth up to 3 years old. They teach BSL, which is the official sign language deaf people use in the UK. The sessions usually last an hour, and includes half an hour of learning, and half an hour of playtime/social development.
Baby signing helps ease frustration in babies, as it enables to them to communicate their wants and needs to their parents long before their speech develops. It aids speech development, and helps babies develop essential social skills.
Deborah has been working with Tiny Talk for over 7 years, and in that time has recruited 6 other teachers to cover most of Kent. They offer classes in Ashford, Canterbury, Faversham, Whitstable, Medway, Maidstone, Barham, Meopham and Thanet.
Q: How did you first discover Tiny Talk?
Deb: I first discovered baby signing when my son was about 5 months old. I was keen to do something different with him, and I loved the thought of getting my baby brain back into shape by learning a new skill! We made a 60 mile round trip each week to attend our nearest TinyTalk class, and before long Nico was starting to pick up the signs. He first signed back to me at about 9 months, and at his peak used over 70 signs regularly! I really believe it eased the frustrations of being a small toddler; we were able to communicate long before he could talk.
Q: How does signing help babies?
Deb: It follows on from babies being able to do simple gestures such as clapping and pointing, and just adds in additional gestures to help them express their needs and interests, such as ‘milk’, ‘food’ (once they’re on solid food), and ‘bath’. It helps ease frustration and confusion between babies and their parents. There’s a lot of guesswork in those early days, parents don’t know why their baby is crying, so the ability to sign is a real godsend.
Additionally, it helps babies express their interests. Babies love animals, and being able to tell Mummy “I saw a bird in the garden today” or “I hear a dog!” means they can have conversations with their parents before they’re even a year old!
It also helps with speech development. Every time we sign, we say the words as well, so the babies learn to associate the action with the word, and attempt to imitate the sound we’re making when we do the sign.
Q: What are the classes like?
Deb: We do a different theme each week, such as ‘In the garden’, where babies learn about different animals and the sounds they make.
The classes are around an hour long, we have half an hour of learning time, and half an hour of playtime, where babies learn important social skills, such as waiting their turn for a toy, and sharing with other babies.
Q: Why is Tiny Talk so important to new parents?
Deb: Tiny Talk isn’t just a learning space for baby signing, it’s also a community for new parents. Before having children, you’re generally very secure in who you are, what you do, and what your strengths are. Once you’ve had a baby, life is thrown upside down, and new parents can feel lost after having had a baby, and lose track of who they are.
Tiny Talk helps new parents find themselves again by giving them a new purpose, and helps keep post-natal depression at bay. I love seeing new friendships form, both between babies and the parents that bring them to the classes.
Q: What’s your proudest achievement so far?
Deb: I think my proudest moment is every time I see a baby sign, and seeing that it works! I mean, I know it works, I’ve seen it with my own children, I’ve taught thousands of families over the years, so I know it works; but seeing it each time with a new baby; seeing the wonder in the parents’ eyes that their baby is communicating with them; it helps me relive that moment over and over again.
I love seeing new the new friendships form within the class, and hearing mums plan their jobs around their Tiny Talk classes when they decide to go back to work.
I am so thankful I’m able to give back while earning a living, it’s one of the most rewarding things about this job.
Q: What was your most embarrassing moment?
Deb: Oh, I think it was the usual “calling someone by a different name” whoopsie!
Q: What are your goals for the future?
Deb: We’ve got some exciting stuff happening right now! We’ve just launched our Newborn classes, which are aimed at babies aged 0-3 months.
We’ve launched in Ashford, and will be spreading across the nation, so keep an eye out!
We also have some outdoor events coming up in the summer! We have a couple of dates in August for Whitstable and Barham, we’re really looking forward to those!
We are also looking to recruit more teachers to fill in the gaps around Kent, I still have mums travelling miles and miles to get to our classes!
If you would like to know more about Tiny Talk’s classes, visit Deb’s website here. You can also find her on Facebook!