Six Tips to Encourage Pointing

Six Tips to Encourage Pointing

pointing - 6 tips

Tips to Encourage Pointing – Pointing is the first communicative gesture in typically developing children. It is also considered as an indicator of a child’s later language learning ability and skill. If a child is not using pointing, it is best to stimulate and encourage the skill. Here are six ways:


1. Model pointing: Use pointing in front of the child.

It is best to model ‘how’ and ‘when’ to point. This must be done in front of the child, as often as possible within meaningful situations. For instance, when you want to request something from the child, point (towards what is wanted). When you are showing a child a toy to play with, point to it. When you are talking about a person the child to go to, point to them. And so on.

The child should see the gesture being used repeatedly. This is important. Many children learn well by seeing and imitating a skill.


2. Shaping pointing.

When a child is pointing by using his / her whole body, whole hand or by looking, then index finger pointing should be shaped. An adult will assist the child to raise the arm and point with the index finger towards what is needed, wanted or requested.

Once again, this must be done often. It is best to begin this for the purpose of ‘request’ by the child. Such as, if the child wants a biscuit- assist him to point at it (shaped by the adult).


3. Encourage index finger pointing through games.

Simple, yet fun games can be played with the child to encourage the use of the index finger. This can later be used for the skill of pointing. Few games are

  • Pointing to named body parts
  • Popping bubbles blown around the child
  • Finger painting using the index finger
  • Using games for touch screens (on phones, laptops, tablets). The use of the finger can be encouraged. Game suggestions – iOS and Android game called ‘Dexteria -Fine motor skill development’ or an Online game called ‘Curious George – Bubble pop’).
  • Using cause-effect toys (such as pressing – piano keys, buttons of pop up toys etc.)


4. Allow the child to make choices.

This is a great way to get a child to proactively practice pointing. Let the child choose from two items. Use this as an opportunity to let the child reach out to what s/he wants. Show the child how to point (model pointing) and then get the child to point (shape an index-finger pointing).

Whenever the child requests for items, use them as opportunities for the child to make choices from two items.


5. Reinforcing the right behavior quickly

A child requires reinforcements to use the skill well. It is helpful if the adult gets excited every time the child attempts pointing. Small successes require to be reinforced. It is also essential to reinforce the child on time. This means that when a child points or attempts to point – the child should be reinforced with his request, quickly. Too much time between the two may lead to having the child not understand that he is being reinforced for the gesture.  


6. Diverting emotional responses to meaningful gestures.

A child’s emotional response should be diverted to meaningful communication which would also include pointing. Pointing is one of the quicker ways to get a child to communicate for a request or desire. When there is a communication breakdown and therefore an emotional response such as crying or shouting – assist the child to point to what the child is requesting for. This is a means to get communication started. Thereafter the adult can respond to the ‘communication’ meaningfully.



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Tips to Encourage Pointing

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Tanushree Chandhok
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