Your Child at 1: Milestones

Your baby just had his 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 himself 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 he holds on to are going to be stable. Keep things like heavy books, breakables, or folding tables out of his 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 his thumb and second or third fingers)
  • Put objects in a box as well as take them out
  • Poke at things with his index finger
  • Try to imitate scribbling
  • Finger-feed himself

At this age, your child may like the box the toy came in as much as the toy. Give him boxes he can put things in and take things out of, as well as toys with levers and pulleys and musical instruments he can shake. Blocks are another fun toy. Be sure any toys he has are too big for him 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 his head for "no"

The best way to improve your child's language skills is to talk to him constantly. Tell him the correct names for objects he often touches.. Don't use cutesy names for things -- even though it's tempting! You may find you don't need to talk to him in baby talk any more to get his attention. And by all means read to him 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 him some time to wind down before bedtime.

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Social/Emotional Skills

Your child may:

  • Be shy or nervous around strangers
  • Cry when you leave him
  • Show a preference for some things or people
  • Be fearful in some situations
  • Hand you a book when he wants 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 his arm or leg when you're dressing him
  • Test your responses to his 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 him reassurance rather than telling him to "act like a big boy." He may also start to cry when you leave him. Give him a kiss and a promise to return (rather than trying to sneak away). When you return greet him enthusiastically. This should lessen his separation anxiety. Playing "peek-a-boo" will also teach him 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 him to songs with gestures and games. He'll also show extreme concentration while playing. That's because he's absorbing a lot of information about how the world works.

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

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Developmental Delays

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

  • Crawl
  • Stand when you support him
  • Search for things he's seen you hide
  • Say simple words like "mama"
  • Learn any gestures, like waving
  • Point to things
  • Remember skills he 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 him and allowing him to play with his toys.

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

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Important Milestones: Your Child by One Year."

HealthyChild.org (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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