Pointing is your baby’s early way of sharing and interacting. He may point at something, get your attention, and then clap when you notice the object and talk about it with him. Pointing may seem simple to you, but complex thought goes into that quick gesture. Research shows the motion can mean that babies are aware of future and past events, as well as objects that are no longer there. And when you do the pointing, your child quickly figures out that you’re trying to tell him something.
Whenever your child attempts to point, enthusiastically acknowledge it. By responding to her gestures, you are reinforcing her understanding and empowering her to engage you in the process. Reading and singing to your baby are good ways to spark interest in her surroundings. She’ll want to point at pictures in a book, imitate the way you play with a toy, and move your hands to music. Try songs and rhymes with hand movements, which teach your little one that using her fingers is fun. You can also give her rattles and toys that she has to pull, move, or shake to get a response, which helps her strengthen her hand muscles.
Being able to point has some definite perks for your child. He finally has a visual way to communicate what he wants, so he’ll be less likely to dissolve into tears while you’re trying to guess. Plus, it’s a stepping-stone toward language development. When he points to an object, tell him what it is and what it does.
Some babies are frequent pointers, while others may just lead adults to a desired object instead. Once your child’s verbal skills are developing rapidly, she may be more inclined to use words than gestures. However, if she isn’t pointing or trying to direct your attention much at 18 months, talk to your pediatrician, especially if she also doesn’t engage with you during play.