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Using Gestures

Important tips to remember when using gestures with your child

Simplify what you say so that your message is clear to your child.

Instead of “Get a wriggle on and hop to the door!” Try:

  1. Put your shoes on (point to child’s shoes).
  2. Great! Now go to the door (point to the door).

ALWAYS speak at the same time as using gesture (your goal is not to replace language but make it easier for your child to understand what you have said).

The more a child sees gesture, the more they’ll use gesture.

Encouraging Your Child to Use Gestures

If your child doesn’t use many gestures, you can help communication by encouraging him/her to use gestures. For example, when people, pets or toys are in the room, wave hello and goodbye to them. Say “Hello daddy” or “Hello teddy” as you wave. Wait to see if your child imitates you. If not, wave his/her hand and say “Hello teddy” again.

Kid drinking water

Examples of common gestures

POINTING at objects

  • When talking about new/favourite objects/people, e.g. Look at teddy
  • When asking for objects, e.g. give me the keys.


  • Wave your arm away from you to indicate ‘go’ and bring it towards you to say, ‘come here’.


  • Nodding or shaking your head.


  • Shrug your shoulders and hold your arms out to the side.


  • Point to your mouth when you talk about eating. Pretend to drink from a cup to say “drink”.


  • Such as duck - keep your fingers straight and open and close them like a duck.

Let's watch...

What visual helpers did you observe the parent using with the child?

The bubble wand is an object that indicates what they are playing. The father also made a blowing gesture and waited for his son to respond.

How did the use of visual helpers’ support communication?

Making it visual made it more concrete and meaningful. It also gave non-verbal clues for the child to understand what is happening and how to respond.

Let's watch...

Caregiver Self Reflection

At home:

  • What visual helpers do you use at home with your child?
  • When you use a visual helper with your child how did you know that they understood the word or sign?
  • What gestures or signs have you observed your child using?
  • Does your child show you objects or pictures when they are communicating with you?

Last updated 13 Jul 2023