Guide to Baby Gestures

Smiling baby boy waving hand while father holds him in armsEven if you didn’t choose to teach your baby sign language, you have probably passed along several gestures without even realizing it. Some babies even make up a few of their own as they go! 

Common baby gestures

Not all babies make all of these gestures, and certainly not by their first birthday, but your child has probably started using at least one of these by now:

  • Pointing
  • Waving
  • Reaching
  • Shaking head “no”
  • Clapping
  • Blowing kisses
  • Playing peek-a-boo
  • Showing an object

Benefits of gesturing

Research shows that the more parents use gestures when communicating with their baby, the more gestures the baby learns to use. More importantly, those babies who use more gestures have greater vocabulary skills later in childhood, giving them a head start in learning for a lifetime! Even in the short term, babies who use more gestures are able to communicate their wants and needs before they can say words, which makes life a lot less frustrating for babies and parents.

Helping baby learn to gesture

To help your baby learn how to make meaningful gestures, you can combine gesturing with words, phrases and other communication to show their meaning. For example:

  • Point to objects in a book and say their names.
  • Wave while saying “hello” and “goodbye” to your baby and others.
  • Point to food choices and ask, e.g. “Do you want broccoli?”
  • Make faces that go along with your gestures, like showing surprise when playing peek-a-boo.

Watch for baby originals

Sometimes little ones put together funny connections in their little brains, inventing gestures that make perfect sense to them, but may be baffling for you. Try to keep an eye out for gestures that your baby makes on a routine basis and see if you can figure out what he or she is trying to tell you.