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Characteristics of a 12-Month-Old

by Stacey Chaloux

The first year in your baby's life probably seemed to fly by, and you are now ready to celebrate his first birthday. But what should you expect to see with your new 1-year-old? While not every child develops in the same way, there are a few milestones that most children display around 12 months of age. They can guide you as you watch your baby's development and discuss his progress with your pediatrician.

Motor Development

One of the biggest changes that happens around 12 months is that many babies begin to take their first steps, truly earning the name "toddlers." She may be ready to let go briefly when cruising around the furniture or walk a few steps alone before losing her balance. Offer her help by letting her hold your finger as she walks, but also encourage her to try on her own by placing something she likes just out of reach. Besides walking, many 12-month-olds can throw a ball forward, though not with great aim yet. Encourage her to throw the ball to you and you roll it back, which will also help her begin to understand taking turns. When your baby has mastered some of these gross motor skills, she will also be ready to work on some fine motor skills of turning pages in a book, or stacking a few blocks. Give her opportunities to explore board books with heavy cardboard pages and show her how to build a small tower with large blocks.

Language Development

Though you may have heard a few words from your 12-month-old, it is likely that he understands many more than he can say. He may show you that as you read books together and ask him to point to familiar objects, like a ball or a dog. Now is also a good time to teach him about body parts and ask him to touch his eyes, nose or mouth. At first it may be easier to find your body parts because he can see them better, but let him look in a mirror to find his own. You may hear your toddler say some simple words like "mama" or "dada" or other commonly used names or words, but he will also communicate with you using gestures at this age. Watch for him to point or reach for items he wants, and then tell him the word as you hand it to him. He will usually wave "bye-bye" when asked to and recognize the sound of his own name by 12 months.

Social Development

Your 1-year-old will enjoy playing social games like "Pat-a-Cake" or "Peek-a-Boo" with you and may even gesture for you to start when she wants to play. She will also begin showing you that she likes to do things her own way, as those first signs of independence begin to emerge. While you may not hear the word "no" yet, she may begin to shake her head to indicate "no" or push things away that she doesn't want. She may also begin to show some frustration when things don't work the way she wants them to or you don't understand what she wants. Try teaching her a few words in sign language, like "more" or "help" so she can more easily communicate with you.

Cognitive Development

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also how your baby will learn about his world. At 12 months, you might see him picking up a telephone and holding it to his ear or pushing the buttons on the remote control because he has seen you do the same. He is now understanding that objects have names and purposes and he is practicing how to use them. The Mayo Clinic website suggests a lot of repetition to help your baby build the new connections he is making in his brain. For example, read a story again if he brings you the same book, or build the tower again after he has knocked it down several times.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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