Joint attention happens when children share a common focus on the same object, person, or event. It is a pivotal skill that emerges as early as the first year of life and is a must for communication, learning and relationship-building to occur.

Below are 5 tips to promote the development of joint attention:

Observe your child: Observe the way your child plays and explore what captures her attention. Avoid prompting or introducing your child how to play. The main aim is to identify what interests your child.

Follow your child: Follow your child’s lead by engaging in the toys or objects that your child pays attention to. Focus on the objects and ways of play that your child is already showing interests in will help create a shared play space and time between you and your child.

Copy your child: Try to imitate the sounds or words that your child makes, and the ways she plays with objects and toys. This helps your child notice you more and allows her to understand that her words and actions can have an impact on her communication partners.

Eye to eye: Encourage eye contact by looking at your child and adjusting your position. Place yourself at your child’s level and at a distance that your child can easily look at and communicate with you. For example, if your child is playing on the floor, crouching in front of her or lying on your side can make mutual eye contact easier to develop.

Make it natural: Joint attention occurs anytime and anywhere. There is no particular object, setting or skill required to practice joint attention. Make use of anything that your child likes and embed the above strategies across everyday activities. With consistent encouragement and practice of joint attention, your child may begin to anticipate a response from you, opening the door for more fun and learning!

Sussman, F. (2012). More Than Words®: A Parent’s Guide to Building Interaction and Language Skills for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Social Communication Difficulties (2nd ed.). The Hanen Centre.