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Read about your child’s 12-month milestones.

Happy birthday! It’s amazing to consider how your baby has grown into a unique little person capable of doing many things that seemed impossible when you first laid eyes on him. And he’s adding to that list of major milestones, possibly even walking and talking about now. Just keep in mind that development tracks vary greatly from child to child, so what may be 12-month milestones for some may come sooner or later for others. Do all you can to encourage your child—from fueling him with good nutrition to being there for him when he falls—and he’ll reach those targets when he’s ready.

Here are more highlights of your child’s possible 12-month milestones.

12-Month Milestones: Cognitive Development

Your baby’s ability to think and understand is maturing, and he may be able to respond to one-step commands (“Give me a kiss”) or questions (“Where’s doggie?”). He’s constantly trying to figure out how things work—punching the buttons of a remote control or swiping at a tablet screen, for example. He experiments by copying your actions and through his own trial and error. A little warning about these possible 12-month milestones: Part of the process of discovery includes banging, poking, mouthing, and sometimes throwing toys. Give him some safe room to explore. And don't be surprised when he starts finding hidden objects!1

12-Month Milestones: Motor Skills

One in four babies begins to walk well between 11 and 12 months. But even if your baby has not quite hit that 12-month milestone, he’s getting stronger and more coordinated, and he can probably stand well while holding onto you or a piece of furniture. He may cruise along furniture and even venture a few steps between pieces. Improved coordination in his fingers means he is learning how to feed himself and try new kinds of fine motor play, such as turning the pages of a book.

12-Month Milestones: Communication

Was that a first word? It’s considered an early word when your baby links particular sounds with specific people or objects. “Ma ma” and “Da da” are common first words for about half of all babies. Your baby might also call his bottle or blanket “ba ba.” This 12-month milestone is an important leap forward as your baby attaches sounds to objects and tries to say them the way you do. First words are almost always nouns.

Even if your baby isn’t saying words yet, he may be adding a little inflection to his babbling, imitating his parents and using exclamations that he's picked up, like "oh-oh!" He is probably also doing a good job of communicating through gestures, too, such as holding out his arms to be picked up. Beyond attempting to communicate himself, he's also becoming a better listener. Another one of these 12-month milestones (or thereabouts) is that he'll start paying more attention to speech, responding to simple verbal requests from you and to commands like "no."

12-Month Milestones: Social Interaction

Your 1-year-old has become a little copycat, but this development is more than play. He’s practicing how people act—for example, moving a hairbrush against his head, just like you do. His favourite subject to study may be other children. While he’s very affectionate with loved ones, unfamiliar people can still bring distress, also known as stranger anxiety. Just be patient for this phase to pass, and don’t push interaction.

Separation anxiety is also common at this age as your baby realizes his strong bond with you and begins to process the idea that things he can’t see (like you) are still out there somewhere (a concept called object permanence). A quick separation and a familiar signal (such as a good-bye wave) can help you communicate to your baby that this is just a temporary absence. Have the remaining caregiver transition him right into a new activity as well.

What might appear to be separation anxiety, however, could possibly just be another one of his 12-month milestones. Around this time, your baby may begin testing your responses to his actions. He might see what his parents do when, for example, he refuses a certain food or when he cries after you leave the room. While in practice this testing is something that might seem a little pesky, these actions are a sign of his fast developing social skills.

As stated above, each baby grows at their own pace and in their own way—so these 12-month milestones might come a little sooner or later for your child. Don't be worried if your baby doesn't show all of the characteristics outlined here. That said, there are some delayed developments that you will want to discuss with your pediatrician. These include not saying single words like "ma ma," not pointing to objects or pictures, not crawling or dragging one side of the body

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics: