Talk with your hands – gestures predict vocabulary

Vocabulary knowledge when kids enter school predicts later academic performance. A study published in the current issue of Science investigated the link between parental gestures and the development of children’s vocabulary. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that parents who used more gestures when communicating had kids with a broader “gesture vocabulary” at 14 months. Word knowledge (verbal vocabulary?) at 54 months was predicted by the use of gestures at 14 months.

These findings are interesting, but perhaps unsurprizing. What was more shocking for me was this: nearly all of the differences in vocabulary between children from families with high socioeconomic status and those from low SES could be explained by differences in parental use of gestures! This is an important result, since kids from poor families tend to have smaller vocabularies at school entry, and this is linked to later academic performance.

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