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Gestures and Language Skills

Kristi Keele“Gestures are a significant step as a child begins to interact and communicate with others,” notes Kristi Keele, Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist at teli. “There is a strong link between a child’s early use of gestures and their ability to reach communication milestones.”

The use of gestures may begin to emerge between 9 to 12 months. “Opening and closing their hand repeatedly to receive, is their way of interacting and communicating that a child wants something,” notes Kristi. “A child may begin to clap their hands to show pride or excitement, raise their hand to wave bye bye”. By 18 months of age, a child can begin to combine gestures and words. “So the wave is accompanied by the words “bye bye” and a clap with an expressive “Yay!” notes Kristi.

Play, talk, gesture, sing, laugh and enjoy your child by incorporating the following gestures into your child’s every day activities:

  • Sing songs such as “The Wheels on the Bus” that involve hand motions or “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” that begin to help your child learn their body parts.
  • Model “arms up” as an alternative to screaming to be lifted.
  • Shake your head and pair with the word “No”.
  • Play peekaboo with your child, covering your eyes and helping them do the same.
  • Assist them with your hand over theirs to point to a book or toy.

“I like to share with parents that there is a great deal of research that suggest gestures can accelerate your child’s communication skills,” explains Kristi.

Some of the impacts seen include:

  • A child who uses more gestures tends to develop a larger vocabulary long term.
  • A child who points to or shows an object is more likely to learn the word more quickly than a child who does not use gestures.
  • A child will combine gestures with words before they combine words together.
  • A child who has uses gestures is likely to have better storytelling abilities in the future.

If you have concerns regarding child’s use of gestures, consult with your healthcare professional and check out the teli website at www.telipa.org.

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