Pointing may not be polite, but it’s important!
Pointing is one of the early ways that our children learn to communicate with intention. Crying or smiling is innate and reactive way to get our attention. Pointing is an intentional action your child develops to communicate his wants and needs. That extension of your little one’s finger is the most direct line of communication he has before he’s able to verbally communicate.
Children (and adults, too, for that matter!) use pointing to share their experiences, to communicate their desire for an object, and to focus attention on something special.
Children may begin to point when they are around eight to ten months old. You may notice your child pointing at a favorite toy or at you or maybe towards where you keep the snacks! By the time your child is around 12 months old, the majority of her gestures and communication is going to come in the form of pointing. Pointing typically develops alongside other gestures like clapping and waving, which makes this stage in development a lot of fun!
As Malinda Carpenter, a developmental psychologist at Max Planck, explains so well, “The basis of language is right there in gestures.”
Pointing in particular is so important because it helps to further your child’s ability to make connections and associations between words and objects. Teaching your child the context of words early on will help set the stage for him to communicate verbally. Here are a few ways to help:
- While in a new environment like a store or a family member’s home, point and touch an object while describing it. For example, point to an apple and say, “This is an apple. The apple is red…” and so on using the word apple 3-5 times.
- Play with bubbles! While blowing bubbles help your child point to and pop the bubbles. Be sure to say the words “pop” and “bubble” frequently.
- Similar to fostering your child’s development of joint attention, point to different objects and explain what they are while you are out for a walk or at the park.
- During reading time, take your child’s hand and point to the characters or objects illustrated in books as you name them.
- Find toys that have interactive features that respond to touch. For example, a toy that turns on/off when your child pushes a button or one that your child can push to remove puzzle pieces.
Get creative with your child while developing their ability to communicate with you and the world around them. See what fun games you can come up with!
MaryFrances Gonzalez is the director of TeachSpeech LLC and a certified speech language pathologist. Using a holistic approach through playful learning, she helps children build a strong foundation for learning one word at a time. If you have any questions about your child’s speech or language skills, contact us today to set up a free next steps call!
Clements, Caitlin and Katarzyna Chawarska. “Beyond Pointing: Development of the ‘Showing’ Gesture in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” (pp 46-63). The Yale Review of Undergraduate Research in Psychology.
Yule, William and Michael Rutter. “Language Development Disorders.” Clinics in Developmental Medicine. Cambridge University Press