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Makaton – Not Just a Buzzword

By Bright Horizons

Our expert explains what it is and shares her top tips for learning.

What is Makaton? It’s a word we hear a lot in early years and use in many of our nurseries, but what is it actually all about?

Makaton is a type of signing language that’s based on the original British Sign Language but is used in conjunction with speech using signs (gestures) and symbols (pictures) to help people communicate. Over 100,000 children and adults currently use Makaton, either as their main method of communication or as a way to support speech.

How do I Learn Makaton?

Makaton is recommended for children, parents, family members, teachers and carers alike. In short, the more people who know Makaton, the more it’s possible to help those with communication difficulties.

There are a variety of virtual courses available from the Makaton charity, however they also provide a range of free learning resources, covering many of the core tools that children will need, including:

  • • Basic vocabulary for health, animals, food, places, events, special days, religion and festivals and wordlists
  • • Activities and games on topics including special days, people and characters, life skills, food, transport and nature
  • • Songs and stories

Top Tips for Learning Makaton

If you are keen to learn Makaton, take a look at our top tips below:

  1. Keep it simple - start with the core signs that will get used often to help embed basic knowledge and then build from there.
  2. Make it fun for your little one – learn fun words as well as practical ones with the Makaton charity’s sign of the week, and Cbeebies ‘Something Special’ with Mr Tumble.
  3. Look out for Sing and Sign classes to go to with your little ones.
  4. There are lots of songs available with Makaton signs, which helps with repetition and learning. Singing Hands have resources that use signing with music, songs, games and activities to help develop communication.
  5. Make sure you use your body language and facial expression to help with the signs and the understanding for the users.
  6. Use it or lose it - like anything, if you don't practice and use signs and symbols everyday then you will forget them and how to use them.

Useful Resources

*Please note that this list is general signposting and is not a specific endorsement or recommendation by Bright Horizons. Should you utilise or download any of these resources, any exchange of data is solely between you and that provider – please note that these resources may be subject to their own terms and conditions and / or privacy notice. (As Bright Horizons has no control of the contents of the external resources, it can assume no responsibility or liability for these resources or the provider’s use of any data you share with them.)

Authors Note:

This article was kindly provided by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, the UK’s leading childcare provider. With a portfolio of over 300 nurseries and a 30 year history, they have been trusted by many families to provide children with naturally inspiring, exceptional care and education for the early years.