What’s the Point of Pointing?

Pointing is one of the most important pre-verbal gestures and a crucial communication milestone that emerges within that first year of life.

Studies show that a child’s use of gesture and pointing at 14 months is the best predictor of later vocabulary size.

That’s right... a larger vocabulary for children who use pointing to communicate.

How do you get your child to point? Model the behavior! Point to pictures in books, specific parts on toys (for example, the wheel of a car), or use bubbles during play or bath-time.

It is a human specific gesture (not even a chimpanzee, our animal counterpart,can point!), which allows sharing of information about a visual item with another person. It sets up a three-way relationship between a subject who points, a partner and an object. And that’s communication!

There are two types of pointing: Protoimperative pointing represents desire for an object (for example, pointing to a cookie as a request), and Protodeclarative pointing indicates the desire to share an experience with another person (for example, a child  pointing to a dog in the park to direct a parent). Both show a form of communicative intent that requires an exchange between two people. How advanced for your little one?!

This simple gesture is central to developing joint attention (or the ability to share experiences), one of the first goals of communication, and building cognition.

If by 12-15 months, your child has not begun pointing, consult with your pediatrician to address other issues related to language or communication delays.


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