‘Baby Signs’ Favor Kids’ Intellectual Growth in School

Children who as babies learned to communicate through the use of simple gestures for such words as hat or flower — known as “Baby Signs” — appear to have intellectual advantages even as they grow older, shows a preliminary study. The children who learned the gestures as infants and who were later tested as 7- and 8-year-olds, were shown to perform significantly better on standard IQ tests than those who hadn't learned the gesturing, say Linda Acredolo, UC Davis psychology professor, and her collaborator, Susan Goodwyn, a California State University, Stanislaus, professor.

The results from the follow-up study showed that the baby signing had far more long-lasting effects than the researchers anticipated. “Not only do the gestures promote language and intellectual skills, and family relationships in infancy and toddlerhood, they also can serve children's intellectual growth into elementary school,” Acredolo says.

One possible explanation for the finding is that early brain stimulation builds intellectual and neurological foundations that carry through in children when they reach school age, Goodwyn says.

The researchers did the follow-up study to earlier work on baby gesturing to evaluate the effect of the gestures on language and cognitive development. Their earlier work resulted in the 1996 book “Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk” (Contemporary Books). The researchers have presented their findings periodically at child development meetings around the country.

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Susanne Rockwell, Web and new media editor, (530) 752-2542, sgrockwell@ucdavis.edu