S.T.E.A.M. Day

How does non-verbal communication impact infant development?

Non-verbal communication is important because it can indirectly influence your baby’s social, emotional, and language development. Many parents unknowingly use baby signing when they try to communicate with their baby. Baby signing* is a form of verbal communication supported by symbolic gestures, facial expressions, and movements. 

*Not be confused with baby sign language


How to baby sign effectively

  1. Pay attention to your baby and respond accordingly
  2. Use gestures and pantomime to make it easy to understand
  3. Think about iconicity- using a form that resembles the actions meaning (doing a drinking motion to represent drinking)
  4. Use emotional expression to support your baby signing 


Impact on social-emotional development 

Research suggests that the mother’s role in teaching/using baby signing is more significant than their baby’s knowledge of baby signs. Mothers who promote baby signing usually pay extra attention to their baby to scrutinize non-verbal cues. As a result, they are usually more attuned to their baby’s thoughts, and more responsive to their baby’s needs- this can help promote a secure attachment. Moreover, these mothers were also more open to letting their baby independently explore. 


Impact on language development 

1. Language development 

Non-verbal communication can help babies identify and learn language faster. Parents often use actions, gestures, and facial expressions to convey what they are trying to say to their baby-but some are innately better at this than others. This ability is called referential transparency. Parents who have high referential transparency can get their meaning across almost 40% of the time whereas other parents can only attain 5% referential transparency. 

2. Vocabulary

When your child is 9 to 12 months old they take big leaps in language development. Parents can use gestures, like pointing, to support this process. Infants absorb the most information when they are attentive and curious. Gesturing, pointing, and labelling different objects your baby is interested in can help expand their vocabulary.