Your Baby Pointing Means More Than You Think

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It’s no secret that your child is trying to communicate with you long before they can actually say anything. Whether it’s from a cry, looking at something they want, reaching towards something they want, or maybe even playing a charades game of sort.

Believe it or not, but your baby’s pointing means a whole lot more than you might think.

baby pointing with his finger

If you’re a fan of the baby signs, and you’ve been studying up on communication before words, then you might have an idea of how to get your baby to point. But if you’re like the majority of parents, you’re probably just wondering, what the heck am I missing on this pointing business?

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 12 months is the best predictor of later vocabulary size.

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

Here’s a little background

Babies and young toddlers learn to use gestures as a way to communicate. Research has proven that children who use more gestures actually have more robust language skills than their peers who did not. They’re learning all about commenting, making requests, and even compensating a bit when they aren’t understood.

And pointing… well, that’s the first gesture you might see. And it can really tell us a lot. It can tell us what a child might want or which way they want to go in their stroller. It can tell us who they want to be held by, or what they want to show us, as in “Mom! Do you see that dog!?” Those pointer fingers become quite busy as a child begins to learn that we get what they want a bit clearer.

There are two types of pointing: Proto-imperative pointing represents desire for an object (for example, pointing to a cookie as a request), and Proto-declarative 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?!

So 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 the nose of the bear), or use bubbles during play or bath-time and point to just ONE bubble amongst the group, and see if your child can follow your pointer finger.

~Erika, The Speechies

Erika Cardamone is a speech-language pathologist, Mom and founder of Baby School, a course that teaches parents how to play with their babies. In her free time, she’s searching for umami in her local eateries, building forts and having dance parties with her toddler and husband in their small city apartment. If you want to know what she’s thinking, she’ll tell you at her blog over at  


  1. Kassie Johnson

    This was a great read my baby just turned one and he has been pointing for a couple months now for both things !

  2. Celeste king

    My son is 2 and he loves to point to our pantry that contain his favorite snacks !

  3. Pingback: Baby signing: Communication through gestures | Kinedu Blog

  4. Pingback: How To Handle Your 18 Month Old Not Talking

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