Pointing for children 5-18 months

An important social and language/communication milestone

Pointing is a fine motor skill that is used for early social and communication interactions.

Over the past weeks I have been discussing the importance of the combination of developmental milestones. Pointing is one such example. It is a fine motor skill that is used for early social and communication interactions.

Pointing is important because:

  • It allows your baby to show you things of interest – declarative pointing.
  • Your baby can point to things they want you to give them – imperative pointing.
  • They can share moments with you (i.e. joint attention).
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Pointing is important as it is a way your child can communicate with you.

Why do children point?

Children point to communicate their interests/desires and to share information about their world.

Some examples are:

  • Draw an adults attention to something (e.g. “oh no” - when something is broken).
  • Share an experience – “Look at this.”
  • Tell you what they need – (e.g. “Give me …”).
  • Express themselves/label objects – (e.g. “This is a dog.”).
  • Indicate that something is no longer there, which may mean – “Find…” or “Where is…?”
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If your child is having difficulty pointing they may:

  • Use a whole hand to point.
  • Use their eyes to show you things of interest.
  • Need to physically take you to objects.
  • Not use it to communicate, only uses for what they want.
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Ways to develop pointing:

  • Use gestures when communicating with your baby from a young age.
  • Encourage fine motor development during play (e.g. offer small objects to pick up, point finger into objects, turn on/off lights with index finger).
  • Model pointing when playing with your baby.
    • Reading books and pointing at the pictures.
    • Point and label familiar objects.
  • Bubble blowing is a great way to develop pointing.
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When you should be concerned about the development and use of pointing:

Each baby's development varies, however, you will typically see pointing develop between 10 and 15 months of age. If your baby is not able to do the following by 18 months, seek out professional help.

  • Look at objects you are pointing at – nearby initially and far away by 18 months.
  • Whole hand pointing (10-12 months).
  • Point at objects of interest – declarative pointing.
  • Pointing with index finger (12-18 months) at an item of desire – imperative pointing.
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  • Looks at objects that are named first and then points at them.
  • Makes a choice of 2 objects.
  • Gives you an object when asked.

Pointing may emerge differently in children with developmental delay due to:

  • Delayed development of motor skills (e.g. sitting, eye/hand coordination, delayed hand skills).
  • Difficulty imitating gestures.
  • Poor vision.
  • Delays in joint attention – sharing attention with others.

Keep safe, happy, and well,

Deb

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20 Comments

  1. Maryann McDougall on March 8, 2022 at 5:12 pm

    My 18 month old doesn’t point to show. But he points at pics, uses pointer finger & pincer grip. He isn’t talking but understands. When should I be concerned he isn’t pointing for showing us?

    • Marketing on March 14, 2022 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Maryann, thank you for your message! We appreciate you getting in touch. Our team of experts will contact you directly with the email address you have provided. We look forward to speaking with you soon!

  2. Jody Dinkel on March 27, 2022 at 12:44 am

    My 19 month old doesn’t point or talk. He is social, happy, but lately screams when he doesn’t get what he wants. We have an appointment with a speech pathologist, and realize there is a real delay. The word “autism” scares me to death. We have done everything right for him. Singing, reading, etc. Can it still just be a speech delay? He was a late walker as well. I’m losing lots if sleep over him. 😥

    • Marketing on March 28, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Jody, thank you for your message, we appreciate you getting in touch. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly to discuss further. Alternatively please feel free to contact our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

    • Sami on April 27, 2022 at 10:18 pm

      Hi,
      My son is 17 months. He doesn’t point. He uses his finger to pop bubbles at times, to point at pictures in the book, to press buttons. However, he doesn’t point to indicate he wants something. When he requires something he whinges and looks over at me, by this point I know what he wants. Is lack of pointing always related to autism or could it be a speech/language delay?

      • Marketing on April 28, 2022 at 5:37 pm

        Hi Sami, thank you for your message, we appreciate you getting in touch. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly to discuss further. Alternatively please feel free to contact our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

      • Simmi on June 5, 2022 at 12:50 am

        Hello Sami, my daughter does the same. She is 17months old. How is your kiddo doing now?

        • Marketing on June 6, 2022 at 11:09 am

          Hi Simmi, our team of experts are more than happy to assist with your query. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly. Alternatively please feel free to discuss with our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

  3. Alyssa on May 8, 2022 at 6:59 am

    My son is 22 months old and he won’t “point per say “ but he will point to his belly button and push buttons with his pointer finger . He also only says 4 words :/

    • Marketing on May 9, 2022 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Alyssa, thank you for your message, we appreciate you getting in touch. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly to discuss further. Alternatively please feel free to contact our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

  4. Mina on May 11, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    Hei

    Hi,
    My son is 23 months. He doesn’t point. He uses his finger to pop bubbles at times, to press buttons. However, he doesn’t point to indicate he wants something. When he requires something he whinges and pulling my hand to the things that he wants , by this point I know what he wants. Is lack of pointing always related to autism or could it be a speech/language delay because he is hearing 4 different languages ? He is very sosial and he still doesn’t talk but he understands,

    • Marketing on May 13, 2022 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Mina, our team of experts are more than happy to assist with your query. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly. Alternatively please feel free to discuss with our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

  5. Queen on May 12, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    My 18 month old doesn’t point for his needs or wants, But he points at pics, uses pointer finger & pincer grip. He isn’t talking but understands. He doesn’t talk apart from papa. He brings to us toys or books that we ask for with the specific title. He high fives, waves (if he want to) and smiles back if we smile to him. I am really comcerned.

    • Marketing on May 13, 2022 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Queen, thank you for your message. We appreciate you getting in touch. Our team of experts will contact you directly with the email address you have provided. Alternatively please feel free to contact our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

  6. Angel humans on May 12, 2022 at 2:11 pm

    Hello my son is 21 months old he points to show what he wants and holds me by hand to show me wat he wants but he wouldn’t talk he is able to say mama,dada,tata(water),auncee for auntie,pampa(pampers), Baba,he mentions some words fluently but struggles to mention some words.

    • Marketing on May 13, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Angel, thank you for your message, we appreciate you getting in touch. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly to discuss further. Alternatively please feel free to contact our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

  7. Ganesh on May 21, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    Hello my daughter is 15 months old. She gives response to her name, she gives nice smile and eye to eye contact.She speaks baba,mama,papa, tata, dada but randomly. She cries but doesn’t point out if she need something also not able to speak apart from above words. She dnt do tata-bye bye,we trying to teach her but she don’t copy it.
    From 9th month she used to wach mobail phone(you tube). And we have stop screening 15 days back.
    Please direct me how to treat her ,we are in deep stress.

    • Marketing on May 25, 2022 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Ganesh, our team of experts are more than happy to assist with your query. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly. Alternatively please feel free to discuss with our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

  8. Hira on May 27, 2022 at 11:19 pm

    Hi, My Son Is 18 Months Old, and he does not point to anything he wants, but he does looks at it, and will cry if the thing is out of his reach. When he wants to eat biscuits and the pack is close he will bring it to me to open it for him . He started walking before 1 but he doesn’t talk yet, the doctors here say it might be Autistic and I am really concern . He is great in other activities, he plays all day long and barely rests . he sometimes even follow what I do .

    • Marketing on June 1, 2022 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Hira, our team of experts are more than happy to assist with your query. A member from Therapies For Kids will email you directly. Alternatively please feel free to discuss with our friendly team over the phone (02) 9519 0966

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