This Is What Your Child’s Body Language Actually Means

By Nick Hadji 11 months ago

1. The W Sit

W sit positionimage source: joyin.idMany children opt to sit in this curious W formation when they're young - generally between the ages of 3 and 6. Compared to sitting cross-legged or in other formations, the W sit requires less muscle activation, so to put it simply, it just feels easier! Continuous W sitting could also suggest that your child has a hip abnormality, with a preference for hip internal rotation rather than external rotation.Original content sourced from

2. Flapping Their Arms

flapping armsimage source: certifiedautismcenter.comArm flapping has become a key identifier of whether your child has autism. However, there could be other reasons for your child choosing to shake his arms, so it's not always necessary to make a doctor's appointment straight away. For example, they may be literally shaking with excitement or with other intense emotions like anger, sadness, or happiness. If you're worried about it, make notes on when your child flaps their arms and look for connections with environments or emotions.

3. Tugging On Your Arm

child pulling armimage source: pagesix.comEven Princess Kate herself gets frustrated with this habit! It can be a nightmare when your kid won't stop pulling your arm - but they're doing it for a reason. Your kid might be pulling your arm to literally get your attention as they feel uncomfortable in a particular situation.

4. Burying Their Face in Your Legs

Kid grabbing legimage source: grahamhurdlaw.comChildren between 4 and 6 will generally have developed some language to express their emotions and thoughts. However, when they're scared or anxious, they may not be able to express this accurately to you. As a result, they may grab your leg (or both of them!) and bury their face in it. This is a sign that they're not feeling too good, so try not to dismiss them - they're looking for reassurance.

5. Arching Their Back

baby arching backimage source: community.babycenter.comIt's very common for babies to arch their back, either in sleep or while awake. However, if this is the first time you're seeing this kind of body language, it can be worrying. In most cases, though, arching their back just means that your baby is restless, tired, or overstimulated. They may also just be passing wind!

6. Reaching For You

separation anxietyimage source: reddit.comReaching for you is just one way that babies are expressing some of their wants and desires. In this case, they may just want to be carried at that moment. Or, if they're feeling anxious or fearful, they'll likely turn to someone they know and love to give them comfort and reassurance.

7. Avoiding Eye Contact

baby watching tvimage source: vmcdna.caAvoiding eye contact is generally seen as a stereotypical sign of lying in adults, but it's unlikely that your baby or toddler is this adept yet! If you notice your child avoiding eye contact often - for example, every time you call their name or hold them close - it may actually be a sign of autism. If this comes with other autism symptoms (not responding to their name or repetitive movements), it might be best to get it checked out.

8. Sucking Their Fingers

baby sucking fingersimage source: wikimedia.orgEveryone knows that children suck their fingers, particularly their thumbs. In fact, sometimes babies can suck them so much that they develop blisters! This common piece of body language doesn't disguise anything too complex - your baby is probably just tired and trying to soothe themselves to get to sleep.

9. Making Sucking Noises

baby making noisesimage source: mumsnet.comBabies can make all sorts of strange noises, and not all of them will have any conscious meaning behind them. However, if your baby is making sucking noises throughout the day, it's a surefire sign that they're just hungry. They might make this even clearer by turning to your breast at the same time!

10. Hands Reaching Out To You

baby reachingimage source: facebook.comBabies are always exploring the world around them - reaching out, reacting to sounds, and taking everything in. If your baby reaches out to you specifically, it's probably a sign that they just want to hang out. Grab their favorite toy and get ready for some play mat time!

11. Closing Their Eyes Tightly

baby shutting eyesimage source: reddit.comBabies have very few ways of expressing the myriad of emotions they're probably feeling day-to-day. One piece of body language that you should keep a careful eye out for is tightly clenched shut eyes. This could mean that your baby is in pain and may appear alongside furrowed brows or clenched fists.

12. Constantly Kicking

baby kicking feetimage source: pathways.orgBaby kicks are something else. Though small, they're especially mighty and can be so annoying when you're trying to clothe or change them! But baby kicks can also carry meaning. If your little one seems pretty happy, it's probably a sign that they want to play. If they're being fussy and sniffly, they're probably annoyed by something - so give them a check to see what's up.

13. Head Banging

baby head bangingimage source: sunnydays.comIt can be so upsetting to see your kid's head banging. However, there's probably a good reason they're doing this to themselves. It could be a way of self-soothing without needing their parent or a way to release frustration with something that they're doing. Your baby might head bang to distract themselves from the pain from an ear infection or teething.

14. Grabbing Their Ears

baby pulling earimage source:, so generally, babies won't grab a complete stranger's ear - but they might grab their own. This is often seen as a sign of an ear infection - especially when coupled with other symptoms like trouble sleeping. If your baby seems happy and healthy, though, grabbing their ear might just be a sign that they've discovered they have ears and are excited by that!

15. Clenched Fists

baby clenching fistsimage source: reddit.comMost newborns will hold their hands in fists almost all the time. Open hands require different muscles and brain development that they're just not ready for yet. However, sometimes those clenched fists could be hiding another problem. If your baby is tense all over, including hard, clenched fists, they might be hungry.

16. Scrunched-Up Knees

baby cryingimage source: reddit.comIf you've ever done yoga, you'll know that those clenched-up knees are very similar to relief positions like child's pose, down-dog, or happy baby. Basically, when your baby scrunches up their knees, they're probably trying to find relief from abdominal discomfort - just like those adult yoga moves can provide.

17. Arm Jerks

baby arm jerksimage source: reddit.comLike kicking their legs, your baby's arm jerks can really come out of nowhere (to the utmost frustration, usually when they've got a spoonful of food in their hand or when you're trying to get them to bed.) These reflexes usually happen when your baby is startled by something - a bright light, noise, or something else in their environment.

18. Hiding From You

baby hidingimage source: buzzfeed.comIt can be pretty cute to see your kid hiding from you in the most ridiculous hiding places - but this weird piece of body language can mean your child is hiding a little secret. Usually, when your child gets the urge to hide, it's because they've done something they feel guilty or ashamed about. So, try to act calm and reassure them - it'll help them open up and talk.

19. Crossed Arms

baby crossed armsimage source: can be quite common for your toddler to cross their arms, and it could mean nothing more than they feel reassured holding their arms to their body like that. But it can also mean that your child is feeling uneasy about something. Are they in a new situation that maybe they're not sure about? Have they recently got a new toy that maybe they don't like? Try to figure out what is making them uneasy.

20. Pulls Shirt Over Head

baby pulling tshirtimage source: pinterest.comA lot of toddlers love to play with clothing - either their own or yours. But this action is often seen in a situation where they're meeting someone new for the first time. They'll begin to pull their own shirt over their head, in effect hiding. This is a really natural reaction to seeing a stranger for the first time - especially if that new person is acting like they know your child already!

21. Runs Away From You

kid running awayimage source: pinterest.comGod help us once a toddler learns to run. Suddenly, they're off like a rocket at every opportunity! But if your toddler specifically runs away from you when you approach them, it probably just means that they want to play on their own for a little while. As your child becomes more independent, it's important to give them this time on their own.

22. Eye Rubbing

baby rubbing eyesimage source: momjunction.comIt's really overwhelming to be a baby. Every experience in the universe is entirely new to you, and all that can make you really tired. if you see your baby rubbing their eyes, chances are it just means that they're signalling to you that they're tired of the world and need a nap.

23. Breathing Quickly

baby breathingimage source: tinyhearts.comRespiratory issues can affect any kid, so it's natural that, as a parent, you're always on the lookout for them. If your child is breathing very erratically or quickly, your first thought is probably going to be something bad, but look closer. Are they content, making eye contact, and smiling? Then they're probably just really excited to play with you!

24. Screaming

baby screamingimage source: knowyourmeme.comScreaming generally appears with crying, but not always. If your kid is squealing, but there's no sign of tears, then it probably just means they're trying to express glee and happiness with you. With no words available to them, screaming or squealing is the easiest way to communicate!

25. Gazing At You

baby stareimage source: buzzfeed.comWe've already spoken about breaking eye contact, but what if your child is lovingly gazing at you? This probably just means that they want your attention. If they're smiling at the same time, then they probably want to play, but maybe they just want a cuddle or for you to gaze back at them too.

26. Keeping Arms and Legs Close to Their Chest

baby keeping legs in airimage source: whattoexpect.comCurling their arms and legs into their chest is another classic baby maneuver, but this can also be a sign of something more serious. Even if your baby isn't crying, they may actually be in pain. Keeping their arms and legs close is a self-soothing mechanism, a way to distract from any pain.

27. Turning Their Head Away From You

image source:, your baby has been fine playing with you for a long while, but now they're frequently turning from you and squirming as you try to play with a toy. Simply put, they need a break! They're probably bored or disinterested in their current activity, so try doing something else. If they're giving you classic 'sleepy' body language, then put them down for a nap.

28. Hands Touching Their Face

baby touching faceimage source: wechope.orgBabies are really curious - they love exploring the world and discovering new things, and that includes their own faces. As they get used to themselves, they'll probably touch their eyes, nose, and ears, but touching their face could have a different meaning. In fact, they may be trying to get your attention and telling you they want to play!

29. Yawning Frequently

baby yawningimage source: twitter.comYawning isn't just a classic sign of tiredness. Sometimes, when your baby yawns, it could mean they're getting a little too overstimulated. Whether that means there are too many people, loud noises, or too many toys, try to calm them down by changing what you're doing and putting them in a new environment.

30. Frowning

baby frowningimage source: pinterest.comIt's really hard for your baby to communicate that they're not feeling too good without words. So, they might not even cry but use their face to try to get your attention. One of these body language cues is frowning, which probably means that they're distressed and need help with something.

31. They Have A Tell When They Lie

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Kids are going to lie, there's no doubt about that. No mommy, I didn't knock over that priceless vase. No, I didn't eat that thing I wasn't supposed to. A good way to catch on is to start paying attention to your child's body language when they do lie, so that you can catch on to any tells they might have - gestures or body movements.

32. They're Acting Restless

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When your child is fidgeting about and acting restless - which will probably be a lot of the time, let's be honest - it could be a sign that they're uncomfortable and they may also be trying to decide if they're going to tell you about it, or stay silent, if they're at an age with they can communicate verbally.

33. Pay Special Attention During The 7-9 Year Age Bracket!

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During this particular age bracket in a child's life, they can be more influenced by what's going on around them, and especially people they don't know that well, like strangers in the street. This is when they're more likely to pick up on negative body language or traits that they see in others, so look out for negative body language.

34. Uncrossed Arms

Image source: popsugar.comHaving arms uncrossed and their hands in an open position can be a positive body language sign for a child. Especially coupled with relaxed breathing where they're not breathing heavily, loudly or quickly, this can be a sign your child is content and relaxed in what they're doing, and not worked up.

35. They Have Intense Eye Contact

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As adults, we usually feel uncomfortable when someone is giving too much eye contact in a conversation. If you're getting a lot of eye contact from a child, it can be a good thing, though - it shows that they're very interested in you, or what you're saying. They might also glance away every now and again only to continue bringing their eyes back to you.

36. They're Nodding A Lot

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As we know, nodding is a good thing when it's a sign of agreement and understanding, so if your child's doing it - in the middle of conversations or activities - then it's a sign that they're very interested in what you're doing together and they are happy about it. They might also nod in general if they've seen other people do it.

37. They're Keeping Their Distance

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Children can be very clingy, whether they're in a happy mood and want a cuddle or they're having a tantrum and clinging/pulling on you. But if they're keeping their distance and refusing to venture any closer, it could be a sign they've lost interest in you or what you're doing, and something might have distracted them.

38. They're Leaning Very Close

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Alternatively, if your child is definitely not keeping their distance, and instead they're leaning very close when you're talking to them or doing an activity with them, it's a sign that they're highly interested in what you're doing or what's going on. There's a barrier that's been broken and they feel more comfortable leaning in.

39. They're Smiling

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This one doesn't need much explaining, but it's always nice to know that when your child smiles it means exactly what you think it does! If your child smiles, they're very accepting of whatever it is you're doing and they're happy with it. It's a warm gesture and it's definitely a positive one! Even without a laugh.

40. They're Leaning Away

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Do they instantly lean back when you reach out to them, or go to touch them? Do they not only lean their body back, but also tilt and twist their head back as though trying to escape from you? It's a sign they're not happy and may not even like the person that's reaching out to them. If they do it all the time to the same person, it's more likely they don't like that person.

41. They Keep Interrupting

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Children are still learning about the give and take of a conversation, but if they're constantly interrupting and talking over you, or even opening and closing their mouth when you're speaking as though they want to talk or are waiting to talk, it can be a sign they're irritable or they're not happy about you talking!

42. Their Body Is Tense

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You may only notice this when you hold them or pick them up, as it might not be obvious when you're only looking at them. If they tense their body when you touch them, like lock their limbs in place or stay film instead of moving a lot, it can be an indication they're not open to what's happening right now.

43. Leaning On Their Chin

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As adults, we know we're likely to do this on our desks when we're bored at work, but children can actually learn about it quite soon, too. If you child is leaning their elbow or hand on their chin, it could be a sign that they're feeling bored and restless, or not interested in what they're doing in that moment.

44. Narrowing Their Eyes

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This can be a big sign of a negative facial expression to watch out for. This doesn't mean when your child's eyes are half closed because they're dozing off to sleep - it's more when they narrow their eyes like a scowl if they're looking at you, or even if they're just staring across the room. It can be a sign they don't like something.

45. They're Constantly Distracted

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It doesn't take much to distract a child most of the time, but you'd hope there would be one activity which would keep them focused for a while, like watching their favorite show on television. But if they're always distracted no matter what you do, say or put in front of them, it can be a sign they're anxious, restless or fickle.

46. They Copy Your Gestures

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A lot of your child's body language may actually be things you do all the time, like gestures with your hands or certain expressions. This just means that they're paying a lot of attention to you, and copying what you do. It's a good thing - but also a reason you should always be wary of the gestures you're doing around a child!

47. They're Pointing

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For young children who haven't yet learned to talk properly, pointing is a key form of communication and development. Pointing means they're trying to tell you something, or ask for something, and also if they get the right response after they're pointed, they feel like they've accomplished something which can be positive reinforcement for them.

48. They're Grunting A Lot

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Similar to pointing, this can be a key form of communication for a child who can't talk properly yet. As adults, we mostly grunt when we're annoyed about something or can't be bothered speaking, but for a child, it's a key way of forming noises when they're trying to tell you something, or get a certain response.

49. Their Eyes Are Roving All Over Your Face

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Is there anything that can make a person more uncomfortable than another person's eyes moving all over your face? And you suddenly think you've got dirt on your cheek or something on your forehead. But when a child does it, it's a good thing. If they're moving their eyes all over your face, it's because they're taking in every expression and movement to learn from it - and it shows they're interested!

50. They Stomp Their Feet

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This one is pretty universal and you know when your child is having a tantrum if they stomp their feet! Though it's important to also pay attention to everything else going on, as your child might have positive expressions and gestures while they stomp which could mean they're just being excited or jumping about - stomping with negative expression is more in line with a tantrum!