Your baby at 12 months

one, year, old, developmentDon't use the fact that your baby is only one as an excuse to buy the minimum of birthday presents. Your baby loves toys and increasingly understands how they work. She may look as though she's more interested in the wrapping paper but that's just because it's colourful.

For inspiration, browse our toys and games reviews.

Cognitive development

  • Copying and remembering

Sometimes you'll catch her looking at you before she does something - like sticking her fingers in the CD player - to check it's OK. There's no point looking disapproving as she'll do it anyway and laugh because it's become a game.

She starts using objects the way they should be used, miraculously using a brush on her hair and even trying to brush yours (rather more relentlessly). She also discovers ways to makes things happen: she'll pull the tablecloth to get hold of her beaker, for example.

Her memory starts working and instead of the end of This Little Piggy being a constant surprise, she will remember how it ends and start giggling before you get to tickle her under the chin.

She's become a more complex character, capable of doing more than one thing at a time. She can remember where the cupboard is, where the crayons are kept, crawl or walk to it, open it and find the crayons. What else she does while she's there doesn't bear thinking about.

  • Separation anxiety

At 12 months, your baby wants to feel secure, so that she can investigate the world and assert her independence. She will be strongly attached to whoever cares for her most often and this gives her the confidence to make a bid for freedom.

Some children now are shyer than others and may not want to explore. This doesn't mean your inadequate mothering has made your infant a nervous wreck - it's a personality thing and isn't likely to persevere into later childhood.

To help foster a more adventurous spirit, it's worth taking your baby to the park, if you don't already. If she can walk, let her wander round in the playground (providing it's safe and there are no needles lying around) while you keep one step behind, like the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Please let her get dirty - it does wash off - though letting her eat mud is not necessary for her development.

If you are going out and leaving her, make sure you say goodbye to her. She realises that people come and go, although she'd rather you didn't, and she may feel more insecure if you disappear all the time without telling her.


She will be keen to kiss you but probably won't be very good at it. Most babies press their mouth to your cheek and dribble before they get to grips with puckering up.

She loves laughing and enjoys a good joke which, in baby terms, is you putting your hat on her and lifting her up to the mirror so she can see how funny she looks.

She may go to her highchair if she sees the table is being laid. She will not be nice to strangers because they scare her, but she loves social get-togethers and the bustle of shops. She may start clinging onto your leg if she feels anxious in unfamiliar settings. She enjoys meeting babies although she won't play with them because she doesn't know how. In fact, she may bump into them and send them flying. Please don't let bad vibes from the other babies' mothers make you feel obliged to scold your child. It wasn't intentional (or, if it was, no one can prove it).

Physical development

  • Crawling and walking

She may be an expert crawler, in which case she will probably be pulling herself up on furniture. She may crawl upstairs - and this happens very fast - hurl herself back down and/or do all sorts of dangerous acrobatics halfway up. Get a good gate and don't open it until she's two (not really).

Your baby can see virtually the same as you. He or she can follow rapidly moving objects and understands that objects can be two-dimensional.

She may be an early walker, in which case you will be hunched over from holding one of her hands as she staggers along. She'll walk with her feet wide apart, like a little drunk baby.

  • Hand and finger control

Her ability to pick things up is now masterful. She has a fine pincer grip, using her thumb and forefinger, that can manage 5p pieces - and anything else likely to lodge in her windpipe. Become obsessed with checking what's on the floor and what money has leaked onto the sofa from someone's pockets.

She will use her grip to pick up and throw her toys with one hand, often with some force, so get ready to duck or to weep. She may be able to draw a line with a crayon, which (of course) counts as her first drawing.

She can feed herself with her forefinger and thumb and likes using a spoon, although the food-to-mouth ratio may not be 100%. But she will rapidly get better at feeding herself and (shudder at the thought) you should let her try. If not, she will most certainly yank the spoon out of your hand, causing yoghurt to fly onto your eyebrows. She will still enjoy putting her bowl over her head and wiping food in her hair but that's a baby for you. She'll manage to eat a piece of her first birthday cake, unless it's one with concrete-hard royal icing.

She will start showing her molars, which are useful for chewing but can seem to take a lot of effort to push out.

Building towers of bricks is easier for her now and she may manage three, although she still prefers knocking them down. She's into stacking stuff and putting objects in and out of containers because she is now learning about the relationships between things. 


She may be able to say one or more words with meaning - in other words, she'll point to a dog and say "dog". By this, she means. "There's a dog", rather than just "dog". The difference is subtle but means she names objects that do things.

She will understand simple instructions, such as "Can you get your shoes?", although don't expect her to do so. She begins to understand why people talk all the time and, being sociable, wants to join in, so don't hurt her feelings by insisting she speak up clearly and distinctly or not at all.

Praise her for her babbling and the way she tries to add inflection onto her baby words. Remember, in old age, you may be the one who's not making much sense. 


She'll enjoy books, especially ones with babies in. She may well say "Baba" in a rather superior voice when she sees one. She likes physical games like being jogged on your knee while you pretend to drop her. Nursery rhymes and that old favourite Incey Wincey Spider are fun for her, too.

She will laugh at people, especially children doing "funny" things such as waving their arms about or hopping.

A word about our development calendar

Please remember, not all babies and children develop at the same time and in the same way, so our development calendar may not always match your child. Development milestones vary widely. It's not uncommon to have isolated pockets of late development, such as late walkers and talkers, and some babies are slower to develop because they were born prematurely or because they're twins (or triplets). But a minority of babies and children do have delays in development that may need specialist help. If you are at all concerned, go and see your GP. No health professional should ever trivialise a worry you have about your child. If your child has special needs, you can get advice from other parents in our special needs Talk forum. We've also got pages with advice about diagnosis, support and benefits, plus our Special needs webguide.

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Last updated: almost 2 years ago