The Importance of Pointing


Why is Pointing so Important?

1. It Makes Us Look What They’re Pointing At

When a toddler points at something it is your first reaction to look at what they are pointing at. This is called initiation of joint attention. Joint attention is an early-developing social-communicative skill in which two people (usually a young child and an adult) use gestures and gaze to share attention with respect to interesting objects or events. This skill plays a critical role in social and language development (Sage Journals). The more a child points the greater the intention to engage in communication.

2. It Helps Increase Their Vocabulary

When a child points at something, most of the time it is our natural instinct to label the item for the child. For instance, if your child points to a cookie… you may say, “Look at the yummy cookie.” This is one of the many ways children learn names of common everyday items. It is very beneficial in order to increase their vocabulary.

3. It Makes Us Describe the Item They are Pointing To

Another way to increase your child’s vocabulary is to describe the item that your child is pointing to. You can describe the item by saying (e.g. cookie) by saying “The cookie is in the jar. It is high up, brown, chocolate, and big.” This will allow your child to be exposed to many new words by describing the item that they were originally pointing to.

4. When should we expect a child to be pointing?

By 12 months a baby should be able to point to items they are interested in. The typical range is 9 to 15 months, with some research saying around 18 months. This range includes all forms and gestures, not only pointing. This includes gestures such as clapping, waving, and other gestural communication. If you child is 12 months and not pointing but he/she is using other gestural communication, the pointing should come soon. That said if your child were not pointing by 15 months, it would be a good idea to contact your pediatrician.

5. What can you do to teach your child to point?

The first thing to do is to model! It is very important to model the behavior that you want your child to engage in. Walking around at home and pointing and in stores is a good way to model pointing. Another good way is to incorporate pointing in games. Games such as point to specific body parts, colors, and foods is a good way to help begin to use this skill. When your child does point, reinforce the behavior and show excitement by cheering/clapping etc. It is important to note, that some children with more severe delays such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), may need more direct help such as hand over hand. A professional such a Speech-Language Pathologist should personalize this type of instruction and then parents can practice the specific skills outside of therapy.


The Importance of Pointing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from






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