From birth, your baby believes he is you and that if he is feeling something, you are perceiving this too. Then at around 8 months, he starts to realize he is separate from you – we call this object permanence. A few months later, as your little one realizes that you have a mind of your own, he starts to want to communicate what’s in his mind.
It is around this time that your baby will start to try and guess what you are thinking and communicating. The first sign that your baby is doing this is when he starts to look where you are pointing, or he may even point when he wants something. This is the critical step of sharing ideas with another person.
Occupational Therapist Cornelia Liebentritt, gives us 5 Babies R Us reasons why pointing is a critical milestone and how to encourage it:
- Pointing is one of the first forms of social communication and should be encouraged when it starts to emerge
- It is a critical language milestone and babies point to get your attention and to share experiences. It is also a powerful tool that they use to influence someone reactions to e.g. get what they want
- Studies show that a child's gestures and specifically pointing (at 12 months) is the best indicator of vocabulary size later and not pointing at 12 months can indicate a communication delay
- To encourage pointing and early communication, you need to share the moment - pay attention to what your baby is paying attention to and 'share the moment' with him. This creates feelings of joy and connectedness which makes your baby seek out other opportunities like this and this is then the start of social engagement and meaningful two-way communication
- Repetition- Repetition Your baby will love doing things again and again. Repeat joyful experiences and as your baby gets older wait for him to give you some indication that he wants to do it again. E.g. Say “Where’s the birdie?” and look where he looks or points. Keep repeating his activity to reinforce pointing and sharing of thoughts pre-verbally.
It’s amazing how the simplest of games and gestures are so meaningful and can indicate real brilliance and social acumen in your baby. For more information on preparing for your baby's development and social engagement, read the age band chapters in Baby Sense (Faure & Richardson)
Megan Faure (OTR) www.megfaure.com
Meg is an Occupational Therapist with a special interest in babies and toddlers - specifically irritable infants; sleep problems, emotional engagement difficulties and fussy feeding. Meg is the co-author of Baby Sense and the Sense-series books. Her clinical practise is in Cape Town and she consults and speaks internationally too.