I'd heard of Makaton but didn't really know anything about it until my friend's little girl started learning it as her primary communication (she is non-verbal due to development issues).
The main reason initially for Baby D and me to learn it was so that we could communicate effectively with her in the future, I didn't really think too much how it would benefit us until it started to happen.
If you're not already aware Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order. It's quite simple and great for children and adults alike.
We (baby D was only about 4 or 5 months old at the time so it was me really) learned a few signs at the local Sure Start Centre 'Baby and Me' group. They encouraged us to start using signs as much as possible and we might be surprised at the results.
I started off by doing the sign for milk - which mimes milking a cow - each time I offered breastmilk to her. I kept doing it every time until about 5 or 6 weeks later she started using the sign herself. It was great! She was able to tell me exactly what she wanted clearly and easily. This gave me the motivation to learn new signs.
I bought a pocket baby signs book from the Makaton charity website and later downloaded the app which includes short videos of how to do the signs.
She slowly but surely started picking up signs including dog, cat, food, drink, hello, goodbye, more, please, thank you, friend, funny and many others.
We also started watching Something Special on CBeebies which stars Mr Tumble and Justin who promote the use of Makaton. They teach signs on each episode and the show features children with special needs. I really like this as it shows Baby D from a very young age to empathise and embrace people with disabilities and shows that all children are special regardless of ability. And of course Baby D loves it and joins in with all the actions, it's very cute.
Baby D started talking at 11 months old. She said 'dog' and signed 'dog' too. She now uses the signs and the words at the same time which is really helpful because sometimes what she's saying isn't massively clear, as you'd expect with a little toddler.
It takes a lot of frustration away from Baby D. She can make herself understood nearly all of the time often using signs as an aid, I think that's pretty neat at less than 18 months old.
I thoroughly recommend learning a few basic signs along with your little ones, it really does make life easier!