Baby’s language skills are growing every day, but they’re still limited enough that there’s a good chance there are a whole lot more thoughts going through your little one’s head than they are able to express to you quite yet. If you think that’s frustrating for you (all those important thoughts you might never hear out loud!) just imagine what it’s like for Baby, who can hear everyone around them chattering away, but can’t always manage to make themself understood. They may rely more on nonverbal communication and body language to get their point across as they hone their speaking skills, so keep your eyes on them when they're trying to get your attention!
Pointing may not be very polite, but it’s an important tool that Baby uses to learn about the world. They may have been pointing to things for a while now, but that doesn’t mean it’s gotten any less impressive – pointing is proof that your little one is mastering the developmental skill of shared attention. When they see something they're interested in, they want to share it with you, and they know how to signal this to you. The other side of the coin for shared attention is that, when you point to something, they know that you’re trying to focus their attention on the object you’re pointing to, not the hand that’s pointing (whether they actually want to look where you’re directing them is another question).
Pointing is also an important tool that Baby uses to learn about the world – pointing, and watching your reaction when they point. This might mean that they point to a bridge, and you then tell them what it’s called and what it’s used for. On the other hand, though, it can also mean that they point to a fellow-shopper at the grocery store who looks different from them, and begins to learn about the diversity of the world from how you respond to them.
It’s easy to get embarrassed if your toddler starts pointing to the people around them, especially if they start asking questions or making comments, but how you respond to them helps to set the stage for how they respond to other people as they grow. It can be embarrassing or uncomfortable when your toddler uses their pointing skills to try to find out about the people around them, but showing them that you’re uncomfortable or embarrassed can make Baby uncomfortable, too, and they might not be able to tell why you’re upset. Instead, try staying calm and teaching them that it’s nicer to wave hello to people they think look interesting, instead of pointing at them.
- Pointing to objects you name: Baby can use their pointing skills for more than just nonverbally asking you for more information. By the time they are two, they will probably be able to point to objects, or their body parts, when you name them or ask them to.
- Be understood by adults: Even the most practiced speakers sometimes stumble or mumble over their words, but Baby should be growing easier and easier to understand every day. By the time they turn 2, adults should be able to understand what they are saying about half the time. For now, though, the most important thing isn’t how often people understand them, but just that more people can all the time.
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