12-Month-Old’s Developmental Milestones: A Complete Guide

Image: Shutterstock

Your baby has reached one of the most memorable milestones of infancy – 12 months. They understand basic instructions, some can walk,, and point at familiar people. The age also marks the beginning of toddlerhood – a phase full of learning and lots of surprises! Wondering what your 12-month-old should be doing? MomJunction paints a complete picture for you!

12-Month-Old’s Milestones Chart

Achieved developmental milestonesEmerging developmental milestones
Pulls to standGets into standing position without support
May take a few steps aloneWalks for longer distances alone
Speaks simple, single wordsCan speak simple phrases
Imitates actions and gesturesRemembers gestures and performs on his own
Responds to simple requestsCan understand complex requests and instructions
Mimics soundsRemembers sounds and its source
Remembers last-known location of an objectWill place objects at their correct storage spot
Uses hands to grip objectsCan grasp and lift objects
Uses index finger to poke and pointWill show greater dexterity and control of all fingers
Develops good hand-eye coordinationDevelops good hand-eye-feet coordination

Back to top

12-Month-Old Baby Developmental Milestones

There are three fundamental areas of development – cognitive, physical, and social and emotional. And, your 12-month-old will display milestones across each of these categories.

Back to top

Cognitive Developmental Milestones:

These milestones pertain to your 12-month-old’s cognitive functions, thinking prowess, and overall brain development.

  • Uncovers hidden objects easily: The baby is no longer confused when you slip a rattle underneath the blanket. He knows that hidden items can be obtained by moving away the object that hides them. He just tugs the blankets and gets the rattle by himself.
  • Looks for objects at known places: If you store the baby’s toy at the same spot always, the baby will look for it at that place every day (1). This indicates an improvement of visual memory and recall.
  • Strong object-noun association: Say the name of a fruit, and the baby picks that exact fruit from the basket. Babies now remember the names of several everyday objects with ease (2).
  • Uses objects correctly: The baby will pick a comb to brush his hair and hold the correct end of a phone’s receiver by his ear. Months of observing the parents help the baby understand the precise usage of several objects.
  • Imitates actions and gestures: Show how to wave a hand, and he repeats it. The infant can watch and mimic a variety of actions indicating a significant jump in brain development.
  • Tries repeating sounds: It is not just actions that a baby would imitate, but also sounds around him. For instance, the baby will try mimicking the sound of a car horn or funny sound effects you made. The little one will not get it right, but at least he remembers the sounds.

Back to top

Physical Development Milestones:

These achievements are all about the baby’s physical growth and muscular dexterity.

  • Gets into sitting position: The baby can get into sitting position without any assistance and support of an object.
  • Pulls to stand: The baby can grab a support and pull himself up into standing position. Muscles and joints of the legs are strong enough to bear the body weight.
  • Walks holding furniture (cruising): Not just standing! Your baby will walk while while holding onto furniture – called cruising (3).
  • Walks a few steps without support: The 12-month-old will let go of the support and take the first steps marking the beginning of toddlerhood.
  • Uses a wide variety of grips: The baby uses pincer grasp (index finger and thumb), raker grasp (fingers and thumb), and the entire palm to hold objects. It makes the baby adept at the skill of placing and removing objects from a container.
  • Pokes and points with index finger: The baby can use the index finger in isolation for pointing and poking at objects (4).
  • Has three pairs of teeth: By 12 months, an average one-year-old would have three pairs of teeth – lower central incisors, upper central incisors, and lower lateral incisors (5).
  • Improved vision: The child’s hand-eye coordination improves, and he is now better at judging distances. The baby can throw objects with precision in games such as passing the ball (6).

Back to top

Social And Emotional Developmental Milestones:

These are landmarks in a baby’s social skills, behavioral temperament, and ability to effectively communicate emotions.

  • Responds to simple requests: When asked to pass an object, the baby will oblige. When told to sit, he will do so. The baby understands simple requests and knows that performing them equates a response.
  • Tries to ‘speak’: There is no longer just baby talk. When you talk to the toddler, he attempts to give a proper response by trying to speak. It may still be gibberish, but you will notice a rise and drop of his voice tone as if he is trying to talk.
  • Displays fear: If the baby sees something that he finds scary, he will cling to the parent right away. He will also cry out in fear when it is dark, and he is unable to see his parents.
  • Gets shy or anxious around strangers: When around unfamiliar faces, the baby might panic and get nervous. He may also be shy and hesitant around the unknown person.
  • Tests responses of parents and caretakers: A 12-month-old will assess the way parents respond to his actions. For instance, parents’ reaction when he throws an object on the floor or when he deliberately refuses food.
  • Shows preference towards a person: The baby will prefer spending time with one parent more than the other or one sibling over another. It indicates that the infant is developing social bonds.
  • May have a favourite toy, also known as a “security blanket” or “transitional object” that helps him navigate from dependence to independence.

Each baby is different, and some babies may take more time than others to achieve their milestones. Nevertheless, stay alert to how your baby grows so that you notice anomalies early on.

Back to top

When To Be Concerned?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the following red flags indicate a delay in the development of a 12-month-old:

  • Does not stand even when held with support
  • Cannot get into sitting position
  • Does not sit without support when placed in sitting position
  • Cannot search and uncover objects hidden within the line of sight
  • Does not imitate even basic gestures such as waving and shaking hand
  • Does not speak single words including “mama” or “dada”
  • Never uses fingers to point at persons, objects, or people
  • Drags legs or belly while crawling

Take the baby to a pediatrician for a medical assessment and accurate diagnosis of developmental delay. Experts recommend regular screening of the baby for growth and developmental delays (7). Parents can always stimulate healthy growth of the little one right at home with some games and activities.

Back to top

Games And Activities For 12-Month-Old’s Development

Games and activities are a fun way to practice newly formed developmental skills. Here are five activities that will help your 12-month-old grow better:

1. Reach for the star

Image: Shutterstock

Skills developed: Pull to stand, standing alone, grasp abilities

You will need: Cardboard cutout of the star shape

How to: Tie a star-shaped cutout of cardboard to a string and hang the string above the ground at a height. Place a sturdy object below for the baby to pull to stand. Put the baby below the star and move the string to get his attention. Prompt the baby to stand and touch the star, and the baby will pull to stand using the support, and extend his hand to grab the star.

2. The phone call

Image: Shutterstock

Skills developed: Object-purpose association, correct usage of objects

You will need: A toy landline/fixed line phone

How to: Sit with the baby and place the toy phone in front of him. Tell him that it is a “telephone”. Pick up the receiver and say what it is and how to use it. The baby will imitate your actions of putting the receiver next to the ear. Repeat the activity every day and watch as the baby uses the toy phone correctly. You can have this activity with other everyday objects such as a hairbrush to help him comb.

3. Block transfer

Image: Shutterstock

Skills developed: Nimbleness of hands, dexterity of the fingers

You will need: Two small plastic buckets, multiple block set pieces

How to: Place the block pieces in one bucket, while the other remains empty. Move a few blocks to the empty bucket and ask the baby to do the same. The 12-month-old uses his grasp skills to carefully pick up single pieces of the block and transfer them to the empty bucket. Repeat the activity.

4. The junior drummer

Image: Shutterstock

Skills developed: Cause and effect, learning sounds

You will need: A toy drum for the baby

How to: Sit with the baby in your lap and put the drums in front of him. Give the baby the drumsticks, hold his hand, and beat the drums. Slowly take off your hands from the baby’s and let the little one play the drums all by himself. Since a 12-month-old loves testing things, he will beat the drum in different ways to hear distinct notes.

5. Orange and lemons

Image: Shutterstock

Skills developed: Object-noun association

You will need: Oranges and lemons (or any two kinds of fruits), a large bowl

How to: Pick an orange, say “It’s an orange” and place it in the bowl. Take a lemon, say “It’s a lemon”, and put it in the bowl. Alternate between putting an orange and lemon in the bowl. Now ask the baby to point towards a lemon in the bowl. The baby promptly points towards a lemon. Repeat the same with oranges. You can play this game with different objects.

Back to top

Encouraging growth through activities helps a 12-month-old stay right on track with his developmental milestones. Do not be pushy though! Give adequate time for the baby to comprehend the world around him. When in doubt about his growth, consult a doctor immediately. Early detection of any developmental delay can help address it. Love, care, and nourishment are all that the baby needs to grow the healthy way.

Tell us about the games and activities that you played with your 12-month-old, in the comments section below.