Your Child at 1: Milestones

Your baby just had their first birthday! What milestones should you expect around this age?

Movement Skills (Gross Motor Skills)

Your child should be able to:

  • Get to a sitting position without help
  • Pull themselves up to stand (may hold on to furniture)
  • Walk while holding on to furniture (this is called cruising)
  • Possibly stand alone
  • Possibly take a few steps without holding on

While your child is cruising, not all the objects they hold on to are going to be stable. Keep things like heavy books, breakables, or folding tables out of their way. Although most babies start to walk around age 1, it's perfectly normal for them to start before or after this age.

Hand and Finger Development (Fine Motor Skills)

Your child should be able to:

  • Use a pincer grasp (pick things up using their thumb and second or third fingers)
  • Put objects in a box as well as take them out
  • Poke at things with their index finger
  • Try to imitate scribbling
  • Finger-feed themselves

At this age, your child may like the box the toy came in as much as the toy. Give them boxes they can put things in and take things out of, as well as toys with levers and pulleys and musical instruments they can shake. Blocks are another fun toy. Be sure any toys they have are too big for them to swallow.

Language Skills

Your child should be able to:

  • Respond to simple spoken requests
  • Make sounds that mimic speech (changes in tone)
  • Say "mama" and "dada" and exclamations like "uh-oh!"
  • Try to say words that you say
  • Respond to the word "no"
  • Use simple gestures, like shaking their head for "no"

The best way to improve your child's language skills is to talk to them constantly. Tell them the correct names for objects they often touch. Don't use cutesy names for things -- even though it's tempting! You may find you don't need to talk to them in baby talk any more to get their attention. And by all means read to them at night. This is a great way to improve language and cognitive skills, as well as being a nice way to end the day and give them some time to wind down before bedtime.


Social/Emotional Skills

Your child may:

  • Be shy or nervous around strangers
  • Cry when you leave them
  • Show a preference for some things or people
  • Be fearful in some situations
  • Hand you a book when they want to hear a story
  • Enjoy games like "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake"
  • Repeat certain sounds or actions to get your attention
  • Put out their arm or leg when you're dressing them
  • Test your responses to their behavior
  • Enjoy imitating others when playing

It's common for children to go back and forth between showing independence and clinging to their mom. This is a normal part of development, so give them reassurance rather than telling them to "act like a big boy." They may also start to cry when you leave them. Give them a kiss and a promise to return (rather than trying to sneak away). When you return greet them enthusiastically. This should lessen their separation anxiety. Playing "peek-a-boo" will also teach them that people can "disappear" and "reappear."

Learning, Thinking Skills

Your child should be able to:

  • Find hidden objects easily
  • Explore objects by shaking, banging, or throwing them
  • Copy gestures
  • Look at the right thing or picture when you name it
  • Start to use things correctly, such as drinking from a cup
  • Follow simple directions like "pick up that toy"

Imitation is big part of play at this age. You may see your child imitating you or pretending to read from a book. This is a great time to introduce them to songs with gestures and games. They'll also show extreme concentration while playing. That's because they are absorbing a lot of information about how the world works.

The toys they play with need to be age-appropriate -- if they're too advanced or too simple, they'll abandon them. Try a range of objects -- you can't be sure what will catch their attention. At this age, of course, your child lacks judgment, so keep a close watch on them. Just because they got their hand caught inside an object doesn't mean that they have learned a lesson about never doing that again.


Developmental Delays

Tell your doctor if your child can't do any of the following by age 1:

  • Crawl
  • Stand when you support them
  • Search for things they have seen you hide
  • Say simple words like "mama"
  • Learn any gestures, like waving
  • Point to things
  • Remember skills they used to have

If there is a problem, your doctor will refer you to an early intervention (EI) program, which is provided under a federal law. Some of the EI services will be provided free of charge.

Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children under the age of 18 months should not experience any "screen time" (watching TV or staring at a tablet or smartphone) apart from video chatting with relatives. Studies have shown that TV at this age can negatively affect a child's language development, reading skills, and even contribute to problems with sleep and attention.

Toddlers need to touch things and read the faces of their loved ones. A better use of time is reading to them and allowing them to play with their toys.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019



CDC: "Important Milestones: Your Child by One Year." (The American Academy of Pediatricians):  "Assessing Developmental Delays," "Cognitive Development: One-Year-Old," "Developmental Milestones: 12 Months," "Emotional Development: One-Year-Old," "Language Development: One-Year-Old."

American Academy of Pediatricians: "Where We Stand: Screen Time."
Hill, M.D., David L., "Why to Avoid TV for Infants and Toddlers."

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