Understanding the Milestone
When most people think of the milestones that make up a child’s early communication development, the focus tends to be on spoken language i.e. first sounds, first words, and first sentences. However, gestures play a big part in both predicting language and promoting it.
Although, it may seem like children’s intentional communication starts with their first word, communication actually starts long before this. As their speaking abilities are still immature, children often use their Gesture Language skills along with babbling to get their point across. You will notice your child using simple gestures, such as shaking his head to say ‘no’ or waving ‘bye-bye’ when someone is leaving the room.
Think of a nine month old child reaching toward something he wants, while looking back at his mom. This child is clearly communicating without saying a word. In fact, when we look at how children first communicate, we find that they use some very consistent forms of gestures along the way. For example, children may make grabbing motion toward objects they want, hold up their arms asking to be picked up or use a combination of pointing and vocalizing to let you know what he wants.
When to Expect the Milestone?
By 8 to 10 months, babies attempt to communicate with others using gestures and pre-verbal sounds. Somewhere around 9 months, he’ll reward you with a wave.
By the end of the first year, your baby will follow simple requests from you like waving bye-bye, shaking their head ‘no’ which will demonstrate their ability to communicate, understand and respond to language. Most babies are also able to point to things that they’re interested in, by this time.
Activities & Stimulation
Help your baby build his supply of gestures by teaching him simple sign language. Also, studies looking at the use of sign language by infants have shown overwhelmingly positive results. By teaching your baby simple gestures for common words, you will help him communicate better, cut down on frustrations and develop self-confidence.
So, here are some simple tips using which you can enhance Gesture language skills to support your baby’s development:
Introduce simple sign language and gestures for common words: While your baby will be too young to learn complicated signs, he’s capable of many simple ones. Focus on every day words, such as, ‘hungry’, ‘nap’, ‘milk’ and some more. Learning useful gestures will help him let you know his needs and reduce frustrations and tears.
Use hand gestures and facial expressions when you speak: By using gestures together with words on a regular basis, you can help boost your baby’s language skills.
Sing finger play songs together: Songs that use body movement or hand motions are often favorite for many young children. And, by listening to the words, babies learn to recognize and repeat them. Not only does it add interest to the song, but the motions help your baby develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Pointing skills: Motivate his pointing skills by pointing at objects you both see and recognize. Once he sees you pointing at something he remembers and recognizes, he’ll want to point that way too. When he points at something, you’ll instinctively name it for him, which adds word after word to his vocabulary.
What Not To Worry about?
By 9 months, most babies are able to clap and wave. Though, if your baby hasn’t mastered these simple gestures yet, there’s no cause for alarm. Just keep the communication flowing and practice all of those important finger games and he should get there on his own developmental timeline.
When to Talk to a Professional?
By the end of 12 months, babies usually respond to ‘no’, follow simple commands, use simple gestures like pointing, waving or shaking their heads.
When it comes to language development, there is a wide range of normal. If you have concerns about your baby’s language skills, talk to your doctor.