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Why Babies Like to Point

Pointing, a skill your baby will likely develop between 9 and 12 months, is a key building block for speech. "It's a nonverbal way of communicating that everyone understands," says Penny Glass, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and director of the Child Development Program at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. "It evolves from the shared eye gaze that babies begin practicing with caregivers around six months. For example, if she's hungry, she may look at her bottle on the table, and then look at you. Then she'll look back at the bottle, all in a way to tell you what she wants."

Pointing also helps teach your child about the back-and-forth of conversation. She may point to a dog, prompting you to say, "That's a big dog." Each time you name what she's pointed to, she learns that there's an association between words and objects, which is what speech is all about.

"Encourage her to point by lending a hand," says Susan Schwartz, clinical director of the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the NYU Child Study Center. Gently take her arm and gesture while you say: "Look at the airplane in the sky." Make sure you also point toward these objects, since babies learn through imitation.

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