Fourteen-month-old children from high-income, well-educated families used gesture to convey an average of 24 different meanings during the 90-minute session.
Meanwhile, children from lower-income families conveyed only 13.
Once in school, students from higher-income families had a comprehension vocabulary of 117 (as measured by a standardised test), compared to 93 for children from lower-income families.
Part of the reasoning behind that was that babies who gesture live in an environment where grown-ups communicated with them. They try to talk to the grown-ups, so the grown-ups talk back, so they talk to the grown-ups.
That makes sense to me. I'm always verbally guessing what Rachel means with all her little gestures. Always in a quest to further science, I thought I'd make a list of her gestures here and maybe when she starts school I'll see if I can get her to take that standardized test. I'm just kidding. It's really so that we can tease her about them later. I also thought it would be a good reference for our babysitters.
- She signs "more" for "I'm hungry."
- She signs "more" for "Let's do that again."
- She signs "please" and will occasionally do "thank you," but only occasionally so it doesn't really count.
- She signs "potty." (Often involves verbal cue of "pa-pa." I don't know why since she used to say "Potty" just fine. Everything is two repeated syllables nowadays.)
- She snaps when she wants a "snack." Get it? Snap, snack. What's the difference?
- She has pointed at whatever she wants us to look at since before she was mobile.
- Sometimes when she's desperately hungry (read: grumpy) she'll open her mouth and point inside.
- She signs "spider" when she sees a spider.
- She signs "spider"when she wants us to sing.
- She jumps whenever we mention frogs, bunnies, or kangaroos.
- She "dances" when she wants to watch her "Little People" DVD.
- She sits in front of the TV and points to it when she wants to watch her "Little People" DVD. (Occassionally uses verbal cue of "moo-moo" or "show.")
- She dances when she wants to put on music.
- She waves "goodbye."
- She waves "hello."
- Horses, camels, trains, cars, strollers, planes, and anything else that can be ridden has a special sign. Rachel holds her hand in the air like she's holding a whip and then she shakes it. She picked that up in Luxor. (Verbal cue of animal/machine noise so you know what she's "riding" at the time. The arm of the couch doubles as both horse and camel.)
- Birds, planes, sky, sun, moon, stars, airplanes, and anything else that is "up high," including "up high," also has a special sign. It involves a full body arch so you're looking straight up. And then you point up.
- She nods for "yes."
- She shakes for "no."
- She claps her hands to mean "good girl" or "yay!"
- She makes a pillow with her hands and tucks it between her cheek and shoulder for "sleep" and "goodnight" and "bed" and "tired" and "baby."
- Whenever we mention any body part or article of clothing, Rachel will point to or grab it.
- She blows kisses when she's really happy with you (she'll either blow it from her hand or just kisses the air and hope it makes it somehow).
- She shrugs her shoulders and puts her hands in front of her for "Where is ______?" and "All done" and "I don't know." (I don't know involves the verbal cue of "know" while doing the same sign).
- She puts her hands in front of her (minus shoulder shrug) to mean "stuck." (Sometimes involves verbal cue "tuck.")
- Waving both hands in front of her means "Hot" or "Don't touch."
- Shrugging shoulders means "Cold" (often with verbal cue "Brrrrrr.")
- She folds her arms for prayer and/or when she's hungry and/or when she hears the "call to prayer" and/or when we sing in church and/or when we read the scriptures.
- She also will sometimes "conduct" music while she is singing.
- She pulls on you to let you know she wants you to come with her. She will even go so far as to pull one leg and then the other until you're right where she wants you. She will continue to poke/push/prod until she has you in the exact position she needs you in to do whatever it is she's planning.
- She will often bring books to me and shove them in my face/lap. That one is a fairly obvious gesture. It used to be accompanied by the verbal cue "Read me, ma me," but now I'm lucky if I even get a "BOOK!" out of her.
- My favorite gesture of all is when she is so overcome with emotion that all she can do is wrap herself around my neck in a great big hug, only loosening her grip to give me a big, wet kiss. I am never going to teach her how to sign "I love you" because I'd much rather get the big hug and kiss. It happens in the middle of story time, whenever we go to Sam's house, right when she wakes up, etc., etc., etc. It's the best sign ever.
Child gesture could play an indirect role in word learning by eliciting timely speech from parents; for example, in response to her child's point at the doll, mother might say, 'Yes, that's a doll,' thus providing a word for the object that is the focus of the child's attention..."I say that is perfectly correct. My daily life is a collision of MadGab and Charades. Except I'm not like the mother in that quote. When Rachel points at things I say, "1st word, 2nd syllable, sounds like..."
We have fun together.