#284 11 Skills Toddlers Must Use Before Words Emerge – #6 Understanding Gestures


In this podcast I’m discussing the importance of helping a child learn to understand gestures and nonverbal communication, the next skill toddlers achieve before first words emerge.

A child who understands gestures others use is connected socially – meaning he watches and listens to other people as they talk to him. It also means that he’s moving along cognitively (how he learns and thinks) and is beginning to assign meaning to what other people say and do. It’s an important marker for language development.


The best way to help a child learn to understand gestures is for adults to use gestures a lot! In the show I provided examples for LOTS of ways parents can incorporate gestures naturally as they go about their everyday lives with their children. Another important thing we can do is to make our facial expressions match our words.

Listen here or by clicking the play arrow:

Before we can expect a child to understand and use SIGN LANGUAGE, he should be understanding and using the kinds of gestures we talked about on today’s show. So… this means that if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to teach a child some signs and he’s not getting it, take a step back and look at how he uses and understands these kinds of gestures FIRST.

I also referenced a couple of charts from my book Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual if you’d like to take a look at those and get detailed instructions for helping a child not only understand gestures, but begin to use gestures himself.

Ready for the next show? Click here!

If you’ve missed the other shows in this series, listen here from the beginning:

#275 Introduction Show – Why These Skills are Important

#276 Overview of Skills 1 – 5

#277 Overview of Skills 6 – 11

#278 Responds to Things in the Environment

#279 Responds to People

#280 Building an Attention Span

#281 Developing Joint Attention

#282 –  Developing Early Play Skills (part one)

#283 – Early Play  Skills (part two)

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