Using and understanding hand gestures is one way babies start to flex their communication muscles before they can speak.
New evidence suggests that the better a baby is at grasping the meanings of these hand gestures, the better his or her vocabulary will be by preschool age - which is itself a known predictor of future academic success.
The new study out of the University of Chicago, which appears today in the journal Science, also found that children from higher socio-economic backgrounds have a distinct advantage over those from lower-income backgrounds. They gesture more as babies and have larger vocabularies at age 4½.
Study co-author and developmental psychologist Meredith Rowe said more research is needed to determine whether it's possible to manipulate how frequently parents and babies are inclined to gesture, but the potential implications are intriguing.
"Can you get parents and young children to gesture more when they're communicating? And if you can, will it lead to an increase in children's vocabulary?" said Dr. Rowe, a postdoctoral scholar at the university.The abstract of the article is here.