13 - 15 Months

Pointing: a simple gesture with big meaning

Pointing is one of those things toddlers do that may not seem particularly important, but experts agree that it’s a sign of some major developmental changes. Your toddler points to direct your attention to something they want or are curious about. This indicates that they’re developing “theory of mind”—the understanding that other people have internal thoughts, feelings, and knowledge that differ from their own.

Once a toddler starts pointing, they usually do it a lot. That’s because pointing is so effective—they can both give and request information, all with a simple gesture. Pointing is often your toddler’s way of asking, “What is that interesting thing?” And when you answer them by naming whatever they’re pointing at, they learn new words. In fact, a large body of research shows a close link between pointing and language development.

When will your toddler start to point?

Most children begin pointing with their index finger between 10 and 15 months. Because pointing involves so many aspects of development, it isn’t surprising that some point earlier than others. Different children focus on different skills first—some may master walking before pointing and others may point before they crawl.

3 ways to build on this new social-communication skill

  • Model pointing. Point to pictures in your toddler’s favorite books and describe what you see. Then, encourage them to point at the images, too. You can also model this skill by pointing to and naming objects when you’re outdoors, playing games, or just walking around the house.
  • Connect pointing to words. When you name an object for your toddler, like a pineapple, try pointing to it and saying, “This is a pineapple.” This draws your toddler’s attention toward the whole object and shows them how pointing shares information.  
  • Follow your toddler’s points. Look where your toddler points and name what you see. For example, if your toddler points to a squirrel, you can say, “You see a squirrel! That squirrel is running up a tree.” Your toddler will love sharing the moment with you and learning the words for the things they’re interested in. 

Learn more about the research

Taumoepeau, M., & Ruffman, T. (2008). Stepping stones to others’ minds: Maternal talk relates to child mental state language and emotion understanding at 15, 24, and 33 months. Child Development, 79(2), 284-302.

Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., & Liszkowski, U. (2007). A new look at infant pointing. Child Development, 78(3), 705-722.


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, Language & Communication, Language, Communication, Cognitive Development, Lovevery App, Child Development

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