Children who use gestures perform better than their peers in cognitive tasks, shows a new study.
The task itself is relatively simple-sorting cards printed with coloured shapes first by colour, and then by shape.
But the switch from colour to shape can be tricky for children younger than 5, Professor of Psychology Patricia Miller said.
In a new study, Miller and SF State graduate student Gina O'Neill found that young children who gesture are more likely to make the mental switch and group the shapes accurately.
In fact, gesturing seemed to trump age when it came to the sorting performance of the children, who ranged from 2 and a half years old to 5 years old.
In the colour versus shape task, as well as one that asked children to sort pictures based on size and spatial orientation, younger children who gestured often were more accurate in their choices than older children who gestured less.
The children's gestures included rotating their hands to show the orientation of a card or using their hands to illustrate the image on the card, for example gesturing the shape of rabbits' ears for a card depicting a rabbit.
"The findings are a reminder of how strong individual differences are among children of a particular age," she said.
The study is set to be published in the journal Developmental Psychology.