“Pointed gaze” is when you and your baby will look at an object at the same time, like a CAT, and then at each other. It is also referred to more broadly as “shared” or “joint attention” and a part of the process of “labeling” where your baby is looking to learn the word or sign of the object that is being seen. Shared attention is a complex process for your baby, and a significant one, because it shows that your baby is becoming much more aware of their environment, and the communication process. Shared attention includes 1) Looking at an item of interest 2) Thinking about wanting to show it to someone 3) Remember or recalling who that person is 4) Shifting attention to that person 5) Getting that person’s attention usually by eye gaze alone 6) Shifting attention back to the item, and finally 7) Looking back at the person and communicate with them about the item, usually by making a sound or gesture.
Shared attention or pointed gaze, just like pointing with a finger or reach for objects is a great time to teach a sign. You’ll understand pointed gaze when you see it, it’s that “look in their eyes” as if to say “Mom, what is that?” Being prepared is important to capitalize on pointed gaze, so when you know something is going to be interesting to your baby, you should have the sign ready. You can be prepared for signing by looking up signs before going to planned events when you know for certain that you will come across new things that will be interesting to your baby. For example, looking up animals before going to the zoo is a must! Don’t feel that you have to learn all the zoo animals though as your baby won’t be able to learn more than a couple of signs each outing anyway. If you have spare time while baby naps (yeah right!) or while feeding your baby a bottle, spend some time perusing the baby sign language dictionary. Best yet is if you read the entire dictionary, even if you don’t actively commit anything to memory. The more times you read it, or skim it through, the more you’ll recall. You’ll be surprised how many you can remember when the time comes, and the ones you’ve forget can be quickly refreshed when they are needed.
Above: Signing AIRPLANE in a bunch of different contexts.