by Colleen BrunettiBy Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed.

Sometimes it can be quite a challenge to teach our littlest clients. In fact, I often have people ask me, “How do you manage to teach babies and toddlers classes? Do they even pay attention?”

Well… yes and no! Right now I have a class of all one year olds. I don’t get 45 minutes of eye contact and interaction from them… not by a long shot! What I do get, however, is a chance to model for the parents and caregivers ways to invite their babies to explore the world, while integrating all the signs we learn. When young children are exploring the world, they are also exploring body awareness and how they as individuals relate to the world around them. And they are probably picking up on more than we realize.

What follows is an ages-and-stages list of ways you can tackle helping families learn about body awareness in your classes.

Early Infancy
Rub lotion on baby’s arms and legs and talk to them about each body part. While it is wonderful to ooh and ahh over the cute button nose and sweet pinchable cheeks, also encourage your clients to use language that is positive and empowering, such as, “Here are your strong arms!”, “Let’s make bicycles with your long legs!”

You could integrate this with the family class from BST Volume 1 and use words like, “Mommy loves your nose and Daddy loves your toes!”

AlexYoung Toddler
At this age, children can begin to learn simple one step directions. Perhaps you have some toys that represent vocabulary words you are teaching. Spread them around the room and sign WHERE and the item (“WHERE DOGGY?”) The class then moves together around the room to find the objects. Have children and caregivers move in different ways, such as on tiptoe, marching, etc. Encourage students to use bonus signs like “MY TURN” and “WAIT PLEASE” as they learn to interact with other children around them and take turns retrieving the object for you.

Older Toddler
Older toddlers may enjoy a game of dress-up during the clothing theme in Baby Signing Time Volume Two. Talk about not only the clothes, but what part of the body the clothes are going on. Make it silly! See if little pants will fit on Mommy’s big leg, etc.

All Students
Signing Time has some great songs that encourage movement and body awareness:

Proud to Be Me (ST Series 1, Vol. 3)
Move and Groove
(ST Series 2, Vol. 3)
My Body is Amazing (Potty Time)

Consider using one of these songs each time you teach a class. Children thrive on repetition and routine and will begin to look forward to celebrating their amazing little selves with you at each session.