The use of gestures is an essential aspect of human communication that begins developing in infancy toward the end of the first year of life. Even after children learn a language, gestures continue to be used throughout the lifespan. This entry reviews the variety, development, and continued use of gestures in human communication.

Early Gestures

Before language develops, infants are already communicating effectively with gestures. Gestures acquired by infants include pointing and waving, as well as nodding and shaking their heads. Gestures can serve many different social functions, including making requests of various types, directing attention, as well as responding to questions. For example, the gesture of a 9-month-old infant reaching toward a caregiver can function as a request to be picked up. At 13 months an ...

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