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Following the movement of an object and an adult’s gaze

20 September 2021

Why is this important?

It helps your child begin to focus on something of your choosing (e.g. if you point to a ‘cat’ in the garden). This is critical for the development of joint attention. Joint attention is essential if your child is going to learn new words and develop their language and communication skills. In this way, your child becomes aware of where you are looking and they look at the same thing too. Then you name, describe and explain. It enables your child and you to talk about things that are a distance away too.

What to do

  • Start by using objects that move and are eye-catching or make a noise (e.g. a brightly coloured ball or a car that goes ‘brrrmm’).
  • Roll the ball/car slowly across the floor.
  • If your child follows the movement, give lots of praise.
  • If tracking the object is difficult, help by prompting your child to turn towards the object.
  • When your child is following the movement, put something just out of reach. Get attention by calling his/her name – then look to the object. When your child looks, praise and reward by handing over the item.

Step up

  • Use less pointing.
  • Encourage your child to follow your gaze to things further away or less obvious.

Step down

  • Point to the object as you look at it.
  • Pointing could begin as touching the object and then moving your finger away a few centimetres.
  • Don’t put the object too far away from your child.
  • Move the object slightly to encourage looking, or make the toy make a noise.
  • Use brightly coloured objects or those with strong contrasts (e.g. black and white).