What is makaton?

Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. Makaton supports and promotes the development of essential communication skills, for example, attention and listening, comprehension, social skills, interactions, listening and attention, speech and language, memory, recall and organisation of language and expression.

Being able to communicate is one of the most important skills we need in life. Almost everything we do involves communication, especially our everyday tasks.

Signs are used, with speech, in spoken word order. This helps provide extra clues about what someone is saying. Using signs can help people who have no speech or whose speech is unclear. So using makaton with our children can help aid their understanding and development of communication alongside spoken word.

Makaton is particularly useful when children clearly understand but cannot speak. At Choochoos our children and practitioners use makaton daily to help aid communication. Our practitioners are provided with makaton training to enable them to use it consistently with our children. We share makaton signs each month in our newsletter for parents/carers and makaton leaflets in our lobby area. Makaton is fun and our children enjoy using it in their everyday routines and activities.

Why do we use makaton?

  • Signing helps the development of spoken language.
  • Signing makes us emphasise keys words in a phrase.
  • It slows us down giving the child more time to process.
  • Makes the message last longer than the words alone.
  • Gives us clear visual ideas of what we are talking about.
  • Helps the child pay attention to us.
  • Signing grows naturally from a child’s desire to copy us.
  • It’s often easier for the child than formulating words.
  • It provides a stepping stone to language which is fun.


Makaton basic rules

  • Try to gain some sort of attention first.
  • Speak when you sign.
  • Allow time for a response.
  • Use appropriate expression and body language, remember direction.
  • Keep it short and simple, remember we only sign key words.
  • Reward any attempts to communicate, however basic.
  • Consistency of use.
  • Appropriate to the age, stage and development of the child.


For more information refer to our Choochoos makaton sign leaflet.