Pointing is a way for your baby to show you something or for him to call your attention to something. Even before he has very many words, your baby wants you to pay attention to the same things he is interested in. This social gesturing is an important precursor to language, and it is a sign that your baby wants your attention and wants to tell you something. Most babies start pointing at 9 to 12 months of age, although some babies take a bit longer to learn this skill. Babies often start with an open-handed point around 12 months that develops into an index finger point when they are closer to 14 months old.
Walking, Pointing and Babbling
Pointing is a social skill that develops around the same time children become more mobile. Once babies are able to crawl and walk, they become more interested in the world, and more interested in sharing it with you. She might point to show you something interesting, tell you she wants her cup from the table or answer when you ask her where the dog is. You will start to notice that she also understands more language at this age. If you tell her, "no," she will look at you or start to cry. She will be interested in playing social games like peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake and will continue the game with you. Your baby will also become more talkative around this age, and you will hear lots of babbling and possibly some first words or word approximations.
Practicing the Point
Most babies learn to point and use other gestures just from watching adults talk and gesture. Try to talk without using your hands, and you'll see how many gestures adults use naturally. If you want to help your baby out with learning to use gestures, model them for him. Point out the birds, an airplane, a picture in a book or animals at the zoo, and watch for your baby to look where you are pointing. Add an enthusiastic, "Look!" and a one-word label for the object to get him even more interested. Wave goodbye every time you or someone else leaves and help your baby to wave too.
When to Seek Help
Gesturing is a key skill that babies learn before they are ready to use words to communicate. Other common gestures include your baby putting her arms out to be picked up, waving and nodding yes or shaking her head no. These gestures and eye contact tell you she is interested in you and in learning to use social signals to communicate nonverbally. If your baby is not consistently using at least 10 to 15 different gestures by the time she is 18 months old talk with your pediatrician about your concerns.