Pointing Leads to Better Speech in Toddlers





Article courtesy of The Huffington Post

Don’t just talk to your toddler—gesture, too. Pointing, waving bye-bye and other natural gestures seem to boost a budding vocabulary. Scientists found those tots who could convey more meaning with gestures at age 14 months went on to have a richer vocabulary as they prepared to start kindergarten. And intriguingly, whether a family is poor or middle class plays a role, the researchers report Friday.

Anyone who’s ever watched a tot perform the arms-raised “pick me up now” demand knows that youngsters figure out how to communicate well before they can talk. Gesturing also seems to be an important precursor to forming sentences, as children start combining one word plus a gesture for a second word.

University of Chicago researchers wondered if gesturing also played a role in a serious problem: Children from low-income families start school with smaller vocabularies than their better-off classmates. It’s a gap that tends to persist as the students age. In fact, kindergarten vocabulary is a predicter of how well youngsters ultimately fare in school.

One big key to a child’s vocabulary is how their parents talked to them from babyhood on. Previous research has shown that higher-income, better-educated parents tend to talk and read more to small children, and to use more varied vocabulary and complex syntax.