Learning British Sign Language

Last night I started on a thirty week course to learn British Sign Language or BSL for short.

As regular followers of this blog will know both Keighley and Leo have a hearing loss and although Keighley lip reads Leo is still young enough to need the extra assistance to communicate with other people. Following a point around last Christmas where Leo wanted something and couldn’t communicate what it was which led to him having a melt down and our realisation that he needed another form of communication beyond speech.

After the melt down we decided that we were going to teach Leo some basic sign language signs that he would need and be able to use, things like Please, Thank You, Eat, Drink, Milk, More and a few more. Over the last few months we have added some signs to his vocabulary and his speech has come on a little as a result of us using the same signs on a daily basis.


While we have been learning basic signs with Leo it led Keighley and I to develop a bigger interest in learning more of this language form. This led to us attending a taster session back in May and then myself enrolling on the course that I started last night.



Last night we did all the introductions and stuff that people do on a first lesson and then we went on to learn the Alphabet through finger spelling and I can now spell a whole host of words via finger spelling, including my name, kids and wifes name and place where I live. I had a really enjoyable time and learnt a lot and I am looking forward to next weeks lesson.

Happy Families Review


Now everyone is familiar with the age old game of Happy Families, whether it be Mr Baker the Baker or Mrs White the Doctor, it was a favourite of mine growing up. So when Phoenix Trading got in contact with us and asked us to review their updated version we jumped at the chance and with the summer holidays coming up this is a great buy and a great game that won’t cost the earth at only £3.50.

This version of Happy Families follows the tradition of the previous incarnations of having forty cards split into families of four, the major difference this time is that the families are animal families. Within the pack you have The Barker Family (Dogs), The Polly Family (Parrots), The Quackers Family (Ducks), The Nutty Family (Squirrels), The Mews Family (Cats), The Redbrush Family (Foxes), The Hoppity Family (Rabbits), The Furry Family (Koalas), The Hoot Family (Owls) and last but not least The Squeak Family (Mice).

When we first opened the box Oliver seemed confused as to what exactly they were and what he was supposed to do with the cards. However once I had explained the game he actually really enjoyed it. In an age of computers and constant entertainment it was great to see him enjoying a classic game from down the years.


Oliver has since asked for the game to be played a few times since and has also asked that Nanny and Grandad (on both sides) play in the future with him.

I would, and I dare say Oliver as well, thoroughly recommend this version of Happy Families from Phoenix Trading. They can be purchased here for only £3.50


An Experience of Baby Sign Language 

Written by Hollie of Thrifty Mum

What’s baby sign language?
I was first introduced to baby signing when bumping into an old school friend. She had been taking her 1 year old daughter from being a couple of months old to a local baby signing class. We made time to go for a coffee and that’s when I witness how amazing baby signing is. 
Baby signing is a form of pre-verbal communication. Babies understand so much before they can talk! The proof to me was when my friend’s daughter started signing asking for what she wanted to eat. She was also pointing out things around her including a girl she had seen wearing a Minnie Mouse hat. It was amazing to see!

What are the benefits to baby sign language?
As soon as my son James was a few months old I started the classes too. No longer did I have to ‘guess’ the cry. Was he tired? Hungry? Wanting a cuddle? In fact, we had a very warm few days just as we had started to introduce water to his diet and he was able to tell me when he was too hot and that he needed a drink of water rather than milk! It made me think that these classes could actually be a life saver. When teething began he told me when he was in pain. This meant I knew when to give Calpol and when I didn’t really need to.
One of James’ earlier sign to learn was the one for “all gone”. This is one we did after each meal or snack so he knew he had finished his meal. Funnily he adopted this sign very quickly but also for when he needed to tell me he was full. I found this really useful as learning about portion sizes as a new mum is one of the hardest things to judge.

Why carry on baby sign language when they’re learning to talk?
Learning to sign won’t impede a baby’s language development. If anything it will assist aide their communication. As a parent you will be able to correct them if their speech doesn’t match the sign they’re wanting to do. Signs are always said at the same time. This has meant the signs learnt in baby sign class have been James’ first words, so milk, all gone, bed, shoes and lots of animal noises!
Being able to communicate with James from very early on really helped with bonding. My parents in particular made a huge effort to also learn the signs so they could reinforce what I was teaching on the days they looked after him.
I also love that if James makes any little friends who are deaf or have a hearing impairment then he won’t have the same barriers as other children to communicate with them. I’m hopeful that this encourages his respect for diversity as he grows up.
“Being able to communicate is a fundamentally important part of human development. Baby signing builds upon the natural use of gesture and other nonverbal signals by preverbal infants, greatly enhancing their communication repertoire. Without spoken or sign language, children’s communication is pretty much restricted to the immediate here and now, for example being able to point at what they want. Once they can speak or sign they are able to tell us about their past experiences, future desires, thoughts and feelings.”

– Dr. Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon,

Senior Lecturer, University of Stirling

If you’re interested in joining a Baby or Toddler signing group, you can find your nearest classes here: Baby Signing Classes

Product Review: Alphablocks Reading Programme


I have written before about how we feel it is very important that we read to both Oliver and Leo. It would also stand to reason then that we would also feel that it is important for Oliver to read himself, which we do, so you can imagine our delight when the people behind the Alphablocks Reading Programme wanted me to review the programme.


For those that aren’t in the know as it what Alphablocks are here’s a summary. Alphablocks started life as a five minute TV show on CBeebies and has been running now for a few years teaching kids in a fun way the alphabet and also how to spell various words from Tree to Beekeeper. The Alphablock characters are the letters of the alphabet each with their own personality and obviously the sound of that letter. Alphablocks also feature on the CBeebies Playtime app.


When the programme arrived the size of the box surprised me it was a lot bigger then I expected and when we opened it up we were greeted by 15 magazines and a whole host of accessories and helpful bits and pieces to make the most use of the magazines and to help Oliver learn to read.


When we showed Oliver he squealed with excitement as he loves the Alphablocks characters from the CBeebies app and TV series and recognised them immediately and as once he realised that there were parts of the programme to play with as well he wanted them all opened up.

The Programme

The programme is split into three sections which are beginners, follow on and finally reading themselves and due to Olivers age I will be focusing on the first section and the parts included.


We started on the evening the parcel turned up going through the first few pages of the first magazine and the first letter in the whole programme is S which I feel is perfect, it’s probably one of the easiest sounds a child can say, if you are familiar with the ling6 sounds you will know it is also one of the most common sounds we make when we speak as well, it is also one of the easiest shapes to recognise and eventually write for a young child.


In the first magazine each page is a letter and as I previously said this began with S. Each page is split in too a few different areas most starting with getting the parent to pronounce the sound and then encouraging the child to repeat it back to them and then encouraging the child to try again and again until they grasp the letter. Also on the page is somewhere where the child can practice writing the letter similar to how they do in school, or did in my day. This is fantastic as Oliver can now write a rough S shape on a piece of paper and recognise it enough to say the it back to us. We’ve also noticed that he has also picked up the letter O from his name and is now signing pieces of art work with O.


The programme is priced at £30 (at time of writing this blog) which in my mind is a fantastic price for what you get and also for the fact that we’ve proved it works with Olivers development with his reading in the last two weeks since we’ve had the programme.

The only gripe we have with the programme is that there is nothing to store the magazines in once you dispose of the packaging it is delivered in so a binder or other similar would be a nice addition to what is a fantastic thing.

For more info on the Alphablocks Reading Programme or to purchase it click here