When two people talk about an object, they depend on joint attention, a prerequisite for setting up common ground in a conversational exchange. In this study, we analyze this process for parent and child, with data from 40 dyads, to show how adults initiate joint attention in talking to young children (mean ages 1 ; 6 and 3 ; 0). Adults first get their children's attention with a summons (e.g. Ready?, See this?), but cease using such forms once children give evidence of attending. Children signal their attention by looking at the target object, evidence used by the adults. Only at that point do adults begin to talk about the object. From then on, they use language and gesture to offer information about and maintain attention on the target. The techniques adults rely on are interactive: they establish joint attention and maintain it throughout the exchange.