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Baby Milestones 9-12 Months: The Power of Pointing

A picture is worth a thousand words, the saying goes, but it could be argued that, at least for babies, an index finger is worth close to that. When you point to, say, holiday packages on the table, you communicate a wealth of information to your baby (excitement, curiosity) without having to utter a sound. Soon enough, he'll point to "talk" to you. Here's how to keep the conversation going:

Gesture as you chat. "In one study, we found that one-year-olds seldom follow their parents' gaze, but they will follow their hands," says Gedeon Deak, Ph.D., associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California in San Diego.

Be quiet. "Silently pointing is just as effective as pointing and telling babies to look," says Deak. Try it when you want to keep your child entertained in a quiet place, such as the doctor's office, church, or temple.

Get excited when your baby points. If he's gesturing toward his sippy cup, say, "Lukey wants his sippy cup? Here!" Responding positively is the best way to encourage more of this pretalking skill, says Deak.