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 she 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 her chattering away, but can’t always manage to make herself understood. She may rely more on nonverbal communication and body language to get her point across as she hones her speaking skills, so keep your eyes on her when she’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. She 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 she sees something she’s interested in, she wants to share it with you, and she knows how to signal this to you. The other side of the coin for shared attention is that, when you point to something, she knows that you’re trying to focus her attention on the object you’re pointing to, not the hand that’s pointing (whether she actually wants to look where you’re directing her is another question).
Pointing is also an important tool that Baby uses to learn about the world – pointing, and watching your reaction when she points. This might mean that she points to a bridge, and you then tell her what it’s called and what it’s used for. On the other hand, though, it can also mean that she points to a fellow-shopper at the grocery store who looks different from her, and begins to learn about the diversity of the world from how you respond to her.
It’s easy to get embarrassed if your toddler starts pointing to the people around her, especially if she starts asking questions or making comments, but how you respond to her helps to set the stage for how she responds to other people as she grows. It can be embarrassing or uncomfortable when your toddler uses her pointing skills to try to find out about the people around her, but showing her that you’re uncomfortable or embarrassed can make Baby uncomfortable, too, and she might not be able to tell why you’re upset. Instead, try staying calm and teaching her that it’s nicer to wave hello to people she thinks look interesting, instead of pointing at them.
- Pointing to objects you name: Baby can use her pointing skills for more than just nonverbally asking you for more information. By the time she is two, she will probably be able to point to objects, or her body parts, when you name them or ask her 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 she turns 2, adults should be able to understand what she is saying about half the time. For now, though, the most important thing isn’t how often people understand her, but just that more people can all the time.
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