When Do Babies Point?

Pointing is an important physical milestone for babies. Find out when your little one will develop this fine motor skill.

Toddler Pointing Skills
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Pointing is your baby's early way of sharing and interacting. For example, they may point at something, get your attention, and then clap when you notice the object and talk about it with them. And when you do the pointing, your child quickly figures out that you're trying to tell them something. Pointing may seem simple, but complex thought goes into that quick gesture.

Research has found that pointing and vocabulary are linked, indicating that language and gesture are intertwined in early communication and symbolic thinking. Experts, therefore, suggest that pointing is the road to language. So, it's probably no coincidence that pointing and talking tend to emerge together around 12 months of age (although some may start pointing as late as 18 months).

Read on to learn how you can encourage this critical milestone.

Encourage Interaction

Whenever your child attempts to point, enthusiastically acknowledge it. By responding to their gestures, you reinforce their understanding and empower them to engage you in the process.

Reading and singing to your baby are good ways to spark interest in their surroundings. These activities can spark a desire to want to:

  • Point at pictures in a book
  • Imitate the way you play with a toy
  • Move their hands to music

Try songs and rhymes with hand movements, which teach your little one that using their fingers is fun. You can also give them rattles and toys that they have to pull, move, or shake to get a response, which helps them strengthen their hand muscles.

Build Toward Language

Being able to point has some definite perks for your child. First, they finally have a visual way to communicate what they want, so they'll be less likely to dissolve into tears while you're trying to guess.

Plus, it's a stepping-stone toward language development. So, when your child points to an object, tell them what it is and what it does.

The Bottom Line

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, they may be more inclined to use words than gestures.

However, if your 18-month-old isn't pointing with an index finger or trying to direct your attention much, this could indicate a developmental delay (though not always!). So, talk to a health care provider, especially if they also don't engage with you during play.

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