blonde boy pointing

How to Teach Baby to Point (Tips from an OT)

Pointing is an important early communication skill. Babies direct our attention by pointing to things. They usually begin pointing between 9-12 months of age. While the primary goal of pointing is for communication, it is also largely a fine motor skill.

If baby is over 9 months of age and not yet pointing, you can work on this skill to help them.

Poking Skills

Poking is essentially the same motor skill as pointing. You can work on poking to build the same skills needed for pointing.

Push Buttons on Toys

Pushing buttons on toys is a great way to work on poking skills. Getting the effect of a sound or music when pushing a button can increase baby’s motivation for poking.

The smaller the button, the more it will encourage use of one finger, rather than the entire hand. This learning cube is great for pushing buttons and baby can also spin the movable pieces with one finger.

VTech Busy Learners Activity Cube, Purple

Pop Bubbles

Babies and kids tend to love bubbles and they are great for working on so many skills! Fubbles are my hands down favorite bubbles to use. They are high quality and don’t pop too easily (sorry dollar store bubbles, but some of you are terrible…). They also have a no-spill option which is amazing for young kids! Don’t ask me how, but they really are no-spill!

Fubbles Bubbles No-Spill Bubble Tumbler for Babies Toddlers and Kids | Includes 6oz Bubble Solution and Bubble Wand (Tumbler Colors May Vary)(Pack of 3)

With a little practice you can learn to catch a bubble on the wand to let your baby pop it. Show them how to do this with only their pointer finger extended.

For information on more ways to use bubbles check out our Bubble Activities article!

Button Sound Books

Button sound books have been around for a long time and are a great tool for working on poking. They are also great books to start with if baby shows less interest in standard books. The sounds and music can help with the entertainment factor.

Smaller books with 10 buttons or less may be best for young babies so they don’t get overwhelmed. This farm animal option on Amazon can also help with teaching animal sounds!

Discovery: Moo on the Farm! (10-Button Sound Books)

Pop It Toys

Pop it fidget toys have become incredibly popular over the last several years. You can find them everywhere these days and in many shapes, sizes, and colors. This four pack on Amazon is a good deal and they are bright and colorful to help draw baby’s attention.

5 Pack Silicone Bubble Sensory Pop Fidget Toy, Stress Reliever, Office Toys, Anxiety Relief Squeeze Sensory , Autism, ADHD and Special Needs Stress Reliever, 5 Colors Including Rainbow by Treycer

Poke-a-Dot Books

Melissa and Doug have these amazing line of books called Poke-a-Dot that help encourage pointing. They’re similar to playing with a pop-it, but more engaging because there are pictures and words and you can read to your child while encouraging poking.

I love the smaller books (like the ones is this bundle on Amazon) for young babies. They are small enough for baby to hold and the pages are less busy, which can help baby to focus.

Melissa & Doug 41533 Poke-a-Dot Construction Vehicles | Activity Books | 3+ | Gift for Boy or Girl

They do have larger books that are great for older babies and toddlers. They offer both sizes in so many different themes and topics. They make great gifts and you can find one for many major holidays. The Night Before Christmas would make a great Christmas gift!

Melissa & Doug Children's Book - Poke-a-Dot: Goodnight, Animals (Board Book with Buttons to Pop) - FSC Certified

Poking Finger into Holes

Toys and objects that have small holes just a tad larger than baby’s finger width are great for encouraging poking. Babies tend to naturally love sticking their fingers in things (hence the invention of outlet protectors!).

Toys such as pegboards can encourage babies to poke their fingers inside but can also be used later for babies to put the pegs in.

Learning Resources Fine Motor Peacock Pals - 5 Pieces, Ages 18+ months Toddler Learning Toys, Fine Motor and Sensory Toys

Pointing Skills

You should also model and practice pointing with your baby throughout the day.

Pointing to Objects in the Environment

mom pointing with baby

Point to objects around the house when talking about them. Point to trees, the sky, birds, and other people when outdoors and label them.

Pointing to Pictures in Books

Reading books with babies has so many benefits. Not only are books great for cognitive development, but they are great for developing early communication skills. Reading to babies exposes them to so many new words and concepts.

You can point to the pictures in the book when telling your baby about what you see on the page. Try asking your baby things like, “where is the dog?”, wait a few seconds and then point to the dog yourself. You may be surprised one day when your baby points to the picture all on their own! Giving them the opportunity to do this early on sets up this routine.

Board books (like this one) that are bright and colorful are ideal. They are harder for baby to rip than books with paper pages and are also easier for baby to learn to turn the page.

First 100 Words: A Padded Board Book

Sing Songs with Gestures

Singing songs with gestures that include pointing is another great way to practice this concept with your baby. It will probably take them awhile to reciprocate, so don’t worry if they don’t do it right away. They may just stare at you as you do it the first 50 times and then suddenly one day attempt to finally copy you!

Here are some great examples from YouTube:

Pointing is an essential communication skill that is pretty easy to work on. A little practice and your baby will pick it up!

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