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Babies 'can gesture' before speaking

Babies develop communication skills like pointing earlier than thought.
A new study has found that babies are good at identifying problems and gesturing to indicate them before they learn to speak.

The study, conducted by researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute, found that infants of just 12 months are able to point to objects if they think that adults need help.

As part of the research, scientists dropped objects in front of 60 babies and either watched them fall or pretended that they had not seen.

They then pretended to look puzzled and asked the babies where the object had gone.

When the researchers had seen the object fall, there was little reaction from the babies, but when it seemed that they did not know where the missing object was, the babies tended to gesture to help them find it.

It is thought that the babies registered that the adults needed help and required pointing in the right direction.

These early communication skills were previously not thought to develop until the age of two or three.

However the study now shows that babies pick up an important understanding of social behaviour before they learn to speak.

Professor Ulf Liszkowskia, who led the research, said: "We had predicted that children don't learn language from scratch and that before language there must be a pre-linguistic element and this research provides that evidence."

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