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Mini Sing & Sign - an SSE Time for Rhyme Group

Are you a parent or caregiver seeking an interactive and enriching activity for your little one? Look no further than Mini Sing & Sign! Our program offers a unique blend of music, rhyme, and Sign Supported English (BSL) to enhance your child's communication skills from an early age.


At Mini Sing & Sign, we understand the importance of early communication in a child's development. That's why we've designed our sessions to be not only educational but also incredibly fun and engaging for babies and toddlers alike.


Through the power of music and rhyme, your child will learn essential signs that correspond to everyday words and phrases. By incorporating Sign Supported English (BSL) into our program, we provide children with a valuable tool for expressing themselves long before they can speak.


Our experienced instructors create a warm and welcoming environment where you and your little one can bond with others while learning and practicing new signs together. Whether it's singing classic nursery rhymes or participating in interactive activities, every session is designed to stimulate your child's language development in a playful and enjoyable way.


What is Mini Sing & Sign?


We are a baby and toddler group where we teach babies, toddlers and their parents/guardians British Sign Language Skills at New Springs City Church (130 Fulwell Rd, Roker, Sunderland SR6 9QR).


The aim of Mini Sing & Sign is to teach British Sign Language Skills through Sign Supported English songs to help develop their brains, expand their communication skills and to create a more inclusive group for children with hearing and speech disabilities.


Each Mini Sing & Sign will be themed, with the themes announced online when bookings open on our website. The themes will align with specific topics to help teach specific vocabulary to parents so they can continue singing and signing with their babies and children at home.


This is a pilot programme that we hope to continue in the future!


What is the difference between British Sign Language, Sign Supported English and Makaton?


Sign languages, like British Sign Language, are produced with hand movements, head movements, body movements and facial expressions rather than sounds. It has all the same structural characteristics that spoken language has - like complex vocabulary, including regional variations and slang, as well as grammatical rules where things like speed, direction and position of a sign can change its meaning. Deaf people have a rich linguistic culture and community of sign language users with just as much vibrance and variety as spoken languages. Globally, there are more than 150 sign languages in current use that are distinct from each other and the spoken languages in the same places.


Sign Supported English uses British Sign Language with spoken English word order. It is a literal word-for-word translation, rather than a complete translation into British Sign Language. This is an ideal version for translating songs in a way that helps children identify the sign with the word being sung.


Makaton was founded by the speech therapist Margaret Walker MBE over 40 years ago. It is used all across the UK by children and adults with severe communication and learning disabilities. It has also been adapted for use in 40 other countries to support their disabled communities. Makaton uses only the British Sign Language signs for key words in speech (otherwise known as a core vocabulary) and some modified signs for people with limited fine motor ability. Makaton is also often used alongside a Picture Exchange Communication System for people with more profound physical disabilities. Makaton contains approximately 400 core concepts as signs, and over 7,500 concepts in the Makaton Resource vocabulary (for specific purposes and contexts). Like Sign Supported English, Makaton follows the grammar and structure of spoken English language. This structure, combined with the simplified signs, has also made Makaton a desirable language system for parents to teach their babies.


Why have we chosen Sign Supported English?


In Sunderland there are currently multiple opportunities in person and online to learn and be supported in the Makaton language system, including a Makaton programme offered through the Family Hubs.


We have also been unable to identify any Sign Supported English or British Sign Language time for rhyme groups in the local area.


Additionally, most of the ‘Sign and Rhyme’ style groups are typically found further south and at a cost.


To align with the identified needs of the community, our group will deliver a vital missing service to local children at no cost to the parents (unless they voluntarily choose to make a donation).


How does this group benefit children?


The most important time to expose someone to language (to develop fluency, for the brain to develop and for language to be mapped to the language mapping centre of the brain) is between the ages of 0-5. Learning to sign between 0-5, whether alone or alongside spoken language has some major cognitive benefits. Studies show that bilingual children, including sign language as a second language, will grow up with cognitive advantages with memory and attention. However, unlike a second spoken language, because sign language uses additional areas of the brain, children who speak and sign get a boost in visual and spatial processes too - like giving directions or remembering faces. Studies also show that learning sign language and spoken language will also allow for further development of abstract thinking and pattern recognition is enhanced. The parts of the brain that get activated by a second spoken language or sign language remain active for the rest of their lives.


The more people who join the signing community, the more we can experience broader and more complex ways of thinking, and more inclusive ways of communicating with each other.


Learning Sign language with your child can also improve the parent/guardian’s ability to understand their children’s non-verbal communication better. In a randomised study completed by Dr. Elizabeth Kirk and her team in 2013 found that mothers who were allocated to the baby signing group were more responsive to their baby’s non-verbal cues. This additional sensitivity to non-verbal cues can help reduce a child’s frustration before they lose the ability to regulate their emotions.


Who is Mini Sing & Sign for?


Our baby group is for children 0 - walking and our toddler group is for children walking - 5. Unlike our other programmes, this group is open to all children because every child can benefit from learning British Sign Language skills. It also benefits the community because if more children learn British Sign Language then it can reduce barriers for children with disabilities and long-term health conditions who rely on sign language to communicate and connect with others.


This group will be particularly useful and accessible for parents of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, children who are in receipt of or on the waiting list for speech and language support, children who have limited verbal skills, and children who know or rely on Makaton (whose signs are either the same as or are simplified versions of British Sign Language signs).


There will be a maximum of 20 children in each session. Best of all, attendance is completely free!


Should you feel inclined, you have the option to contribute to our group through donations, either in person with cash or conveniently online via our website. Every contribution, no matter the size, helps support our mission and ensures the continuation of our activities. We sincerely appreciate your generosity and support in helping us make a positive impact in our community.



This service will be for children with SEN disabilities, physical disabilities, children with complex disabilities and disabled children who are at high risk of exclusion from school. The group also welcomes children who are at the pre-diagnosis stage.


What kinds of themes will there be?


Each session will have a ‘Theme’ which will include a song that teaches the signs specific to the theme and a theme will run 3 weeks in a row to help people learn.


The themes include:

  • Food

  • Plants

  • Vehicles

  • Wild Animals

  • Space


The aim of the themes is to teach specific vocabulary related to the theme.


 Mini Sing & Sign's Protective Measures


The sessions will be delivered by qualified Advance DBS staff, volunteers and trainers with a variety of certifications including Safeguarding Children, Safeguarding in a Learning Environment, Autism Awareness and ADHD Awareness.


Parents or guardians must remain in attendance for the duration.


Carers are welcome, but their information will need to be registered prior to attendance for them to be admitted (they will not be able to turn up on the day).


What happens at  Mini Sing & Sign?


The sessions are split into two halves with the first half focusing on foundational Sign language skills and the second half focusing on the theme.


Total session time 60 minutes and all children receive a sticker upon completion.


The key difference between the baby and toddler groups are that in the first group we encourage the parents and guardians to use sign language, and the second encourages the children to sign.


Accessibility Features



The site has ramped access, level floors, wide doors and an accessible toilet.



We will also have a sensory tent available in a quite space for children to use as they require throughout the session. The sensory tent is used at all our groups, programmes and events for children with additional needs.


Book your place!


Dates will be announced on our social media - keep an eye out for our next available day!


Join us at Mini Sing & Sign and embark on a journey of language discovery and fun with your little one. Sign up today and give your child the gift of communication!


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