this was worth sharing from 2006. It's from the BBC news website http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5106294.stm
Infants who can blow bubbles and lick their lips are more likely to pick
up language quickly, research suggests.
A Lancaster University study of 120 toddlers found the ability to perform
complex mouth movements was strongly linked with language development.
They also found children who were good at 'pretending' an object was
something else had better language skills.
The findings could help experts identify children who may struggle with language skills at an early stage. At 21 months - the age of the toddlers in the study - children are learning new words at a faster rate than any other time
in their lives.
Children pick up language skills at different speeds - some children will be late
to start talking - but this doesn't mean they will always have poorer language
skills than other children.
In a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Dr Katie Alcock, lecturer in psychology at Lancaster University, carried out a series of tests to identify skills that might predict a child's ability to develop language. She looked at the infants' ability to perform hand gestures and mouth movements and to carry out tasks involving puzzles and pretend play.
The children's language ability was also assessed through a parental
questionnaire, word games with simple images, and monitoring during normal play.
As well as oral motor skills, she found that hand gestures such as waving
or making shapes were associated with better language development but
other movements such as walking and running were not.
The researchers said they expected to find that children who had better cognitive development, such as being able to do a puzzle or match pictures and colours, would have better language skills. But in fact, only the ability to pretend that one object was another object - such as pretending a wooden block is a car or hairbrush - was associated with better language skills. Dr Alcock said: "Until children are about two they are very poor at licking things off their lips or giving someone a proper kiss. "If they don't have those skills it's going to be a big stumbling block in learning to form sounds. "Children who have speech and language problems before they go to school do tend to have problems with learning to read and write. "It's important we give children who need it extra help as early as we can."
Dr Alcock added that children learn to speak at different times and most children who start late will catch up. "The best thing parents can do to help is talk to their kids," she added.
The team are planning to follow the children at three, four and five years to see how the skills that were found to be linked to language impact on later development.