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Hand gestures help build children’s vocabulary

Parents who point and move their hands and bodies when they talk are doing more than simply communicating with their kids. According to research by two University of Chicago psychologists, they’re also building their children’s vocabulary.

In a recent Chicago Tribune story, reporter Robert Mitchum focused on a study of 50 families. The research concluded that children who gesture more at 14 months – as a result of having parents who gesture – end up with larger vocabularies when they start school. Mitchum also interviewed speech pathologist Denise Boggs, who noted that gesturing enables kids to communicate long before they are able tospeak.

The article reminded me of our efforts to teach our children sign language when they were toddlers. We weren’t very consistent, but my kids learned the signs for simple words such as “more” and “all done.” It’s too soon for me to assess how much it has helped their vocabulary, but I do think it helped give them a “voice” by providing another method to express their feelings.

What do you think about this study? Based on your family’s experience, do you think there’s a correlation between gesturing and building a child’s vocabulary? Did you teach sign language to yourkids?

Share your thoughts on the topic at our parenting blog, “Are We There Yet?”, at

Posted by Virginia de Leon

Join the discussion at blogs/parents.

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