Talk To Your Kids – With Your Hands

When a toddle holds out an empty cup or bottle, what does it mean? Most people would agree that that toddler is asking for a drink. But what does it mean when the toddler’s parent holds out an empty cup or bottle? It means that the parent is asking the toddler if he or she is thirsty.


This may seem simplistic, but a recent article in Science Magazine has linked parental gestures with children’s vocabulary at a later age. A larger gesture vocabulary at 14 months correlated to a larger oral vocabulary at 54 months. Those at higher social economic status had larger gesture vocabularies as well as later larger vocal vocabularies.


The study was conducted in the Chicago area. Parents and their 14 month olds were video taped for 90 minutes. Video taping occurred in the toddlers’ homes. Online sources are unclear about how later vocabulary was assessed.


What’s the lesson here? Parents from any socioeconomic group can help their child’s vocabulary and give a boost to future school work. Large vocabularies correlate with good grades in school.


Gestures come naturally to most people. Even if gestures don’t come naturally, they are easy to learn, free and harmless.


So, first of all, interact with your children! You are more important to them than the TV or DVD – really. And talk to them. Even the very young ones are constantly learning. Use your hands. And hug them often. They are your future.




Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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