Not many parents know this, but pointing is much more than just another cute skill your baby has acquired. As a matter of fact, it marks an important milestone in your youngster’s development.
Pointing provides a window into what’s happening in your child’s mind. It can present clues about what your baby is thinking and it also creates an opportunity for communication before your child can speak actual words.
An important milestone
Baby pointing is a sophisticated action that shows your baby can understand what’s going on in other people’s minds. There is so much complexity in this gesture. Before even being able to speak words, your baby can say for him/herself, “I am interested in this,” and they know you’ll be interested in what they have to say.
As adults, we point at various things without or paying attention to it but when a baby points, we should view the entire action in a different way. This is an extremely complex act that, essentially, represents a large part of what makes us unique as human beings.
When pointing starts
This important milestone is often over-looked as the early days of verbal language development usually happens around this time period. Still, pointing is a huge milestone, so you should be proud when your little one can master this ability.
Though you may be wondering when your precious baby will start pointing, do know that every baby develops at their own pace. So, there can be some variation when it comes to the pointing milestone. However, babies start pointing at between 7 and 15 months of age.
First, your baby will point with his/her whole hand but after a while, they will start using their index finger to point.
Babies…point to share their experiences with other people. For instance, when your youngster points at a cute little puppy, they are trying to show you how excited they are. Your baby also wants you to join their excitement.
Why babies point
Babies point for many reasons. This social gesture is an essential precursor to verbal language. It’s a sign that your child wants to tell you something or that they want your attention.
You may be surprized at how often your baby tries to communicate through pointing. Babies like to express themselves and their desires. They also point to share their experiences with other people. For instance, when your youngster points at a cute little puppy, they are trying to show you how excited they are. Your baby also wants you to join their excitement.
Various studies show interesting facts about baby pointing. For instance, babies can point to things to refer to something that happened in the past or what they anticipate will happen in the near future.
Your baby might even point in the direction of things that are not there anymore. Your little one also knows that you are trying to communicate with him/her when you point.
Pointing is grouped into three categories: Declarative pointing, imperative pointing and shared attention.
1. Declarative pointing When your baby is trying to show you something that interests them and points at something they want you to notice, it is known as declarative pointing.
2. Imperative pointing Sometimes your baby will point at something that they expect you to bring to them like a cookie or a toy that they can’t reach. This is known as imperative pointing.
3. Shared attention Your little one has reached a major developmental milestone when they start pointing at things to draw your attention. Shared or joint attention is one of the earliest signs that your baby is trying to interact socially. Your tot wants you to pay attention to the things that they are interested in even before they know how to use word to express themselves.
The brilliance of baby pointing
When a baby starts pointing, it shows that he/she has developed specific communication as well as social skills. Experts say that pointing represents a key transition from non-linguistic communication to linguistic communication.
Your baby can now get your attention, convey a message and attempt to guide someone’s actions or their reaction to things or happenings. It’s wonderful that a tiny little finger can manage all these complicated concepts!
Pointing in babies is very interesting. Psychologists have discovered that pointing can express numerous complex meanings. Your baby might, for example, point to inform you of certain things. If you have perhaps dropped your keys, your baby can point it out to you.
Babies and toddlers are also clever enough to pick up on non-verbal clues, such as understanding that the adult who is pointing is in a hurry and not trying to communicate on a meaningful level.
Why is pointing important?
Children who point early on in their development tend to develop better language skills and learning skills later on in life. In fact, psychologists suggest that we can boost our children’s performance in school by teaching them to make non-verbal gestures from a young age.
Babies who point or use other types of hand signals generally have a head start in learning new language skills. Pointing helps them to connect words to the objects they come into contact with daily.
Children who point early on in their development tend to develop better language skills and learning skills later on in life…. We can boost our children’s performance in school by teaching them to make non-verbal gestures from a young age.
As a parent, pointing can help you to encourage your child’s language development. You can help your child to learn new words when you point out and label things in your child’s surroundings.
Humans are social beings who need social contact and pointing is an extremely important social skill that can help your child connect to other people. Interestingly, pointing is one of the things that make us unique as humans.
Primates don’t point declaratively ― they will only point to something if they get something out of it. Unlike humans, animals don’t have the need to share their opinions with others. For instance, an ape wouldn’t point at something to indicate how amazing it is.
Strategies to encourage pointing
If you want your baby to start pointing, you had better point at things yourself! Babies like copying their parents and by observing you, your baby will begin to understand what pointing’s all about.
Point to things that are close by first such as to your child’s favourite toy and naming it. You could also encourage them to point at a favourite snack that’s slightly out of their reach.
Later, you can move your youngster’s attention a little further away by pointing at things on the other side of the room. Be creative, and most of all, enjoy the experience!
Try these strategies to encourage pointing.
* Gesture as you talk When you read a book, point to the different pictures you’re reading about. When you take a walk outdoors with your mini-me, you can also point out objects to junior and label these.
* Let them choose Allow your child to make small choices for him/herself. You could, for instance, provide them with more options at mealtimes or you allow them to choose which shoes to put on in the morning. Do remember thought that you should pre-approve these options.
Dr Lisa Lim Su Li is the clinical director and senior speech language pathologist at The Speech Practice.
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