My daughter is big on talking with her hands. I've always found her grand sweeping gestures to be kind of humorous—every story she tells winds up looking like a wacky game of charades. But then along comes new research in Psychological Science that reveals encouraging those crazy hand motions can actually make kids more creative.
Previous research has already shown that greater gesturing equals greater creativity. But could prompting kids to gesture boost inventiveness as well? In order to find out, researchers showed children ages 8 to 11 images of ordinary household items and asked them to list as many novel uses for each one as they could think of. If they paused, the researchers then prompted them by asking "What else could you do with it?"
Their findings? Turns out, the encouragement worked: The children who gestured normally produced around 13 gestures, while those who were prompted to gesture produced about 53 gestures. They also listed a greater number of uses for the objects than the children who weren't given any special instruction.
"Our findings show that children naturally gesture when they think of novel ways to use everyday items, and the more they gesture the more ideas they come up with," explained study author Elizabeth Kirk. ""Our findings add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the facilitative role of gesture in thinking and have applications to the classroom. Asking children to move their hands while they think can help them tap into novel ideas. Children should be encouraged to think with their hands."
Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com.