20 months

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 he is 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 him chattering away, but can’t always manage to make themselves understood. He may rely more on nonverbal communication and body language to get his point across as he hones his speaking skills, so keep your eyes on him when he’s 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. He 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 he sees something he’s interested in, he wants to share it with you, and he knows how to signal this to you. The other side of the coin for shared attention is that, when you point to something, he knows that you’re trying to focus his attention on the object you’re pointing to, not the hand that’s pointing (whether he actually wants to look where you’re directing him is another question).

Pointing is also an important tool that Baby uses to learn about the world – pointing, and watching your reaction when he points. This might mean that he points to a bridge, and you then tell him what it’s called and what it’s used for. On the other hand, though, it can also mean that he points to a fellow-shopper at the grocery store who looks different from him, and begins to learn about the diversity of the world from how you respond to him.

It’s easy to get embarrassed if your toddler starts pointing to the people around him, especially if he starts asking questions or making comments, but how you respond to him helps to set the stage for how he responds to other people as he grows. It can be embarrassing or uncomfortable when your toddler uses his pointing skills to try to find out about the people around him, but showing him that you’re uncomfortable or embarrassed can make Baby uncomfortable, too, and he might not be able to tell why you’re upset. Instead, try staying calm and teaching him that it’s nicer to wave hello to people he thinks look interesting, instead of pointing at them.

Milestones

  • Pointing to objects you name: Baby can use his pointing skills for more than just nonverbally asking you for more information. By the time he is two, he will probably be able to point to objects, or his body parts, when you name them or ask him 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 he turns 2, adults should be able to understand what he is saying about half the time. For now, though, the most important thing isn’t how often people understand him, but just that more people can all the time.

Sources
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