Joint Attention

Why is Joint Attention so important for Speech Language and Communication Development?

Joint Attention is a very important first step in learning to interact and communicate with other people. A baby’s/toddler’s s interest in an adult and object or toy at the same time does (at least) two important things. First, it provides the baby/toddler an opportunity to share his or her interests with others. It also provides adults the opportunity o describe and talk about what the baby/toddler is doing.



What does Joint Attention look like?

From approximately 8 months onwards you will start to see your baby/toddler:

  • Looking out the window at something interesting at the same time as you or another person.

  • Looking at a picture book (reading)/ and pictures in books at the same time as you.

  • Looking at an object you are pointing to and sharing your interest in it.

  • Pointing at an object and recruiting your attention to look at the object too.

  • Showing a toy to someone else.

  • Seeking out your attention even in non-verbal ways to interact over a shared object of interest.


For Example:

Your baby/toddler is sitting in their bouncy seat, buggy or pram with their favourite toy or rattle. Your baby shakes the toy and makes a funny sound with it. He/She looks up at you to see what you “think about all of this”. You respond by saying “You made that noise…. You clever clogs… Make the noise again..” Your baby gets very excited and throws the toy to the floor. You pick it up and say “Do you want to do it again”..?  You play the game over and over again……

“How to Help” Build Joint Attention Skills.

So joint attention is a type of back and forth play that involves your toddler/baby following another person’s actions or trying to influence another person’s actions or focus of attention. So when you think about it, this is a very sophisticated away of effecting change and influence on the immediate environment. This is a lovely opportunity for babies/toddlers to understand that their actions and words have meaning. We can build on this for them by engaging with them in the back and forth and playfulness of their actions.

Step 1.

Look for instances when your child is looking at you when you are playing together.

Respond to these looks with smiles and verbal encouragement “hello .. I see you…, you are having a great time…., I love your (name the toy/ object they are holding)

Look for instances when your child is holding out a toy/object with the intention of showing it to you.

Respond with great excitement and expression “Is that for me….? You’re so kind… can I have a look”?

Take the toy/object and do something fun with it , e,g, hide it for a second, produce it again with great excitement.

If your child does something with it or copies what you did, show great excitement and encouragement “fantastic…. You made it fly…..”

Do this over and over again to create as many opportunities to show your child that their actions and vocalisations have meaning and effect, this will help to ensure they continue to interact and create new ways to attract your attention.


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