Baby communication: Why you should be paying attention to your baby's first gestures

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Most parents are so preoccupied with looking forward to their baby's first words that they often overlook this important part of baby communication

Plenty of parents look forward to their baby’s first words, but according to new research, your baby is trying to communicate with you even before they start speaking, reports Medical Xpress. According to researchers from the University of Manchester, your baby’s first gestures are their first attempts at communication.

The first signs of communication: “Showing” and “giving”

Before this study, research has focused on how infants point with their index finger—something that usually happens around 12 months. But Lieven and her colleagues have focused on even earlier pre-linguistic behaviors, particularly “showing” and “giving” behaviors.

baby communication

Photo: Dreamstime

Though these behaviors are widespread, the researchers found that most parents usually don’t know why their babies are doing them. Even more experienced parents often overlook these behaviors. But recognizing these behaviors and responding to them can help your baby develop their language.

“We’ve found that talking to babies about the things they’re showing an interest in helps their language development,” said coauthor Professor Elena Lieven in a media release.

To encourage language building, parents and caregivers should engage with their babies when they display these behaviors. The more the parents responded to their babies’ “showing and giving” behaviors, the more they would demonstrate “pointing” behaviors later on.

Read more about this groundbreaking study on the next page.

To conduct the study, the researchers monitored how caregivers and 24 babies communicated using toys, following them from age 10 months to 12 months. They then analyzed the responses of the caregivers to their babies’ “showing” and “giving” behaviors.

“Understanding babies’ gestures could be just as important as understanding their early language”

“Our research demonstrates that babies may be doing more to communicate than many of us usually assume, and at an earlier age,” said Lieven.

baby communication

Photo: Shutterstock

“The ability to share and direct attention is an essential basis for typical language development, and others have found that it is often impaired in children on the autism spectrum.

“By understanding these early behaviors, parents have a great opportunity to help support their children’s later language development. Understanding babies’ gestures could be just as important as understanding their early language.”

READ: How to Boost Your Baby’s Language Development

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