Most parents can generally guess by a baby's gurgle, laugh or tone of cry whether their nappy needs changing or whether they are thirsty.

But Sasha Felix from Brighton has taken this a step further by organising a series of special classes which combine action songs and nursery rhymes with gestures derived from sign language.

The classes are full of music and fun and have led to babies as young as seven months old managing to get their message across.

The idea is known as baby signing and the course is called Sing And Sign.

The course was first launched last year and has been a major success with classes packed with parents learning how to boost their babies' language learning.

Plans are now under way to expand the classes across the country.

Signing with hearing babies has been shown to enhance their communication, lessen frustration and expand their vocabulary.

Signing babies don't need to cry for what they want.

Whether it is a drink, their blanket or their teddy, they can ask for what they want using a simple sign.

Research is showing that baby signing actively encourages the development of a baby's speech and musical activities are recognised as bringing great developmental benefit.

The classes offer expert advice from the teacher and support and feedback from other parents.

Sarah Williams, mother of 16-month-old Joshua, from Brighton, said: "The course is wonderful.

"I have been singing the songs to Joshua since he was eight months old. Joshua learned the signs for eat and drink through enjoying the songs at mealtimes and we sing the Change Your Nappy song when he is on the changing mat.

"Looking back, he will probably be embarrassed the first sign he ever made was for a nappy change but the sheer delight on his face when he made it and saw I understood him was something I will remember always.

"Friends and family have been amazed at Joshua's levels of communication and comprehension."

"Sure Start in Brighton and Hove, which is backed by the Government to promote aspects of development in babies and young children, also supports the course.

Speech and language therapist Susan Duffy said:

"Sing And Sign is a brilliant programme.

"We suggest all our mums and babies use signs, as gesture is a natural first form of communication.

"The gestures shown can help babies understand more of what is said to them and enables babies to express themselves earlier.

"Using signs can make life for parents far less stressful."

The original songs and unique method of teaching are based on Sasha's own experience of signing with her baby daughter three years ago.

She says it isn't necessary for parents to learn a whole dictionary of sign language.

"The key to successful baby signing is to use signs for the things a baby is most interested in," she says.

"This is why Sing And Sign songs are all about a baby's familiar daily routines like bathtime, bedtime and mealtime or about fun things such as animals and vehicles.

"Whether parents learn five signs or 55, signing is the most wonderful way to enrich their relationship with their baby."

Marilyn Daniels is a researcher into the developmental benefits of using signs with hearing children.

She said: "Sing And Sign consistently emphasises important educational concepts without losing focus on the pleasure of communicating with sign.

"What I like is that it shows parents how to teach the babies signs in a gentle, loving way."

Sing And Sign classes are expected to be launched shortly in Eastbourne, Bristol and London.

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