Your Child's Brain in Week 58
Even if your child can't actually say, "What's that?" yet, you know what her gestures mean. Around week 52, your child began to point at anything she wanted to learn more about: By now, she may be wondering specifically about objects' functions, safeness, and uniqueness. And when you answer these days, it's not just your toddler's info-seeking behaviors and language skills that are reinforced—your role as her social partner and intellectual steward are, as well. Here's how we know that.
What the Research Shows
Researchers videotaped 1- and 2-year-old children during play, bath, and dinner in their own homes with their mothers present. The study was longitudinal, lasting 12 months. On average, children pointed about once every two minutes for the younger children and once per minute for the older ones. The mothers in the study actively worked to identify the target of their child's pointing, naming and discussing it. As the children aged, researchers noticed incredible cognitive and language developments:
- When the 12-month-old children pointed at an object, they also vocalized by saying something like "ga."
- At about 18 months, when the toddlers pointed they were also able to name the object by saying doll or horse.
- From about 21 months onward, children used the words there, that, this, and here when pointing.
- Around 24 months the children would combine the object's name with the didactic word, saying, "That's a horse."
The researchers also noted that between 12 and 24 months, pointing helped children to identify a specific object. When looking in a fish tank, for instance, a child could point out one particular fish indicating to her mommy the exact one she was interested in. No longer was pointing just for general identification—it was the means to a greater, more nuanced understanding for these toddlers.
Week 58 Brain Booster
When pointing, children are taking responsibility for their own learning, asking another person to offer information about their object of interest. They realize that their pointing partner has thoughts inside her mind about the object, so the point of a finger is actually a way of saying, "I would like you to tell me the name of that thing over there and its function or purpose." Pointing demonstrates a social awareness that another person can shed light on an object of interest.
So, vexing as it may be after seemingly thousands of gestured questions, attend to your toddler when he points, and try to be thorough in your answers. That may mean doing a little research, yourself: If your child points at various pieces of machinery, for example, you might need to learn the names of and differences between a front-loader, backhoe, and excavator. Such shared learning experiences are invaluable in building your parent-child relationship.
Curious about how else your toddler might be developing right now? Learn more about her clever brain and her growing body here: