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From Baby to Big Kid: Month 11

By Claire Lerner and Rebecca Parlakian
dad smiles at baby boy pushing toy

Seeing your child standing up “like a real person” is a big milestone for your baby and for you. Browse the information and links below to see what your little one is experiencing and learning this month.

What It’s Like for You

Kara, mother of Garvin, age 16 months, remembers the first time she saw her son standing up at 11 months:

I heard him crying. He was up from his nap, so I walked into his bedroom to get him and there he was—standing up in his crib, holding onto the rails for dear life. I was kind of freaked out. He looked so big, like a little man. It was almost as if he had gone to sleep a baby and woke up a kid.

Seeing your child standing up “like a real person” is a big milestone for your baby and for you. Once children begin to progress toward walking—standing, balancing, taking a few steps—our view of them changes. They are no longer “babies.” All of a sudden, they are wobbling down the road toward becoming independent, mobile toddlers. This milestone can bring about strong feelings for parents. You might see it is an exciting change. Or, you may feel a sense of loss associated with the end of babyhood. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Just as your baby is growing and changing, so are you.

What It’s Like for Baby

I love playing in the bathtub. Daddy gives me little cups and I fill them up with water and then I dump them out. I like when they make a big splash. Daddy says, That cup looks full! What are you going to do now? And then I pour it out and he says, That cup looks empty. What are you going to do now? One time I poured my cup of water outside the tub. Daddy’s face did not look happy—where did his smile go? He said in a deep, strong voice—not the one I like—No water outside the tub. I poured another cup of water out of the tub. I wanted to see if that’s what he meant. He looked surprised and not happy at all! He said loudly: No water outside the tub! Then he took out a pail and showed me how to pour the water from my cup into the pail—and then dump out the water back into the tub. It was so much fun—I did it over and over. And the best part is, daddy started to smile again!

What Your Baby Is Learning

Social-Emotional Skills:

  • Relationship-building as he joyfully connects with his Dad during bathtime.
  • Curiosity as he experiments with filling and dumping, and his Dad shares in the excitement of his discoveries.
  • Self-control as his Dad sets limits on behavior he finds unacceptable and helps him find other ways to explore.

Language and Thinking Skills:

  • That he can communicate using his gestures.
  • The meaning of words as his father talks with him as they play.
  • Important concepts like empty and full and cause and effect when he discovers that when a cup gets very full, the only way to make it empty again is to dump it.

Physical Skills:

  • How to hold and fill a cup with water.
  • How to pour water from a cup (good practice for pouring milk into a cereal bowl when he is a little bigger!).

What to Expect From Your Baby’s Development

As you review the chart, keep in mind that development is not a race and that every child grows at her own pace and in her own way. Your child may develop skills faster or slower than indicated below and still be on track. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s health care provider or other trusted professional.

Your Toddler’s Development From 9 to 12 Months

What Your Baby Can Do What You Can Do to Connect With Your Baby

I can understand more words than I can say.

  • I am starting to understand what you say to me. I can even follow simple directions like, Go get the ball.
  • I tell you what I want with my sounds and my gestures.
  • I am starting to use my first words.
  • I might not be able to say, I want milk yet. But I may say something like Muh to let you know I want some milk. These sounds are my first words.
    • Tell your baby what is happening and what you will do next: After your milk, it’s time for a nap. This helps her learn language. Routines also let her know what to expect.
    • Put your baby’s sounds and actions into words. You are pushing your food away. I think you are telling me you are all done.
    • Name things your baby looks at or points to: That’s the moon. The moon comes out at night.
  • Help your child show you what he wants. Offer him two different books to look at and ask which he wants as you hold out one then the other. Encourage him to respond by pointing or reaching. If he looks at one more than the other, give him that one and say, You want this one!

I may become more choosy about the foods I’ll eat.

  • I know what I like and don’t like. I show you how I feel with my sounds and actions.
  • Offer your baby choices. Yesterday’s favorite food may be rejected tomorrow. Be patient and offer 3-4 foods at each mealtime to see what she likes.
  • Let your baby practice using a spoon and sippy cup, if you want her to learn to feed herself. Of course she will still need your help for many months.

I can creep and crawl.

  • I have found my own way of crawling —on my hands or knees, on my stomach, “crab crawling” by moving backwards and sideways, or even scooting on my bottom!
  • I walk while holding onto furniture or your hand. I may even start walking on my own.
  • Give your baby lots of time and a safe place to practice new skills like crawling and walking.
  • Make a “trail of toys” in a child-safe place in your house. Line up several interesting objects (a wooden spoon, a plastic bowl a brightly colored dishcloth) that your child can crawl to and explore.
  • Avoid walkers. They can be dangerous and can interfere with muscle and joint development.

I know that things still exist even though I can’t see them—especially you!

  • I may cry when you leave because I know you are still out there somewhere and I want you to come back!
  • Play hide-and-seek games with toys and interesting objects. This helps your baby learn that things that disappear also reappear.
  • Talk to your child when you move out of his sight. This helps him learn you are still there even though he can’t see you. It can also help him learn to wait as he is calmed by hearing your voice and knows you will come soon.
  • Be sure to say a real good-bye to your baby. Avoid sneaking out. This builds his trust in you.

I love to do things over and over again.

  • This is how I practice and figure out how things work.
  • Repetition also helps build my memory.
  • Watch as your child explores, then help her take the next step. If she is banging two blocks together, see if she’d like to try stacking them.
  • Offer your child a ball to toss, a rattle to shake, or a scarf to swing. These activities help children learn how things work. They also build the muscles in their hands that will help them eventually learn to write.

Did You Know…

That 11-month-olds are learning to predict cause and effect? In one research study,11-month-olds watched a plastic bug on wheels get bumped by a large cylinder rolling down a track. Then the toy bug got bumped again by a small cylinder. Researchers watched how babies responded to these “collisions.” What they discovered was that babies understood the idea of cause and effect. Babies expected the toy bug to roll farther when bumped by the large cylinder, and not as far when bumped by the smaller one.

Reference: Kotovsky, L., & Baillargeon, R. (1994, February). Calibration-based reasoning about collision events in 11-month-old infants. Cognition, 51(2), 107-129.

What the Research Means for You

Your baby is very interested in figuring out how things work. She is learning by watching you and the world around her, and through her own play and exploration. Your baby is also beginning to make predictions about what is likely to happen based on what she has seen before. For example, if she sees you packing her diaper bag, she might point at the door or say, Out? She knows that the diaper bag means the two of you are going out. You help your baby learn about cause and effect when you play games that involve her making something happen. For example, let her roll toy balls down the hill at the park and then along a flat sidewalk. Watch and talk about which balls go farther. Or, give her a toy piano or empty shoe box to bang on, or a bell or maraca to shake. These are fun ways to practice the concept of cause and effect and have some fun together making music.

Spotlight on: Listening Skills

Your baby may not be using words yet (also known as expressive language). But her receptive language—her ability to understand what she hears—is developing more quickly. So when she hears you say, Look, Grandma is here!, she smiles and starts for the back door, since she has learned that the word Grandma means a certain special person who loves her (and usually brings cookies). Receptive language skills are important because they help children understand what others are communicating.

Listening and understanding what she hears is also very important for your child’s ability to learn and speak words. By listening, babies are soaking up grammar rules as well as lots of new vocabulary. This is why it is so crucial to talk with babies from birth. Receptive language skills start growing from the moment you welcome your newborn into the world.

Spoken language skills also start developing at birth. Just think of your baby’s cries—they communicate a range of feelings from hunger to discomfort to boredom. While babies use their voices from day one, most don’t say their first words until about 12 months (though it is very normal for babies to start talking earlier or later). It can take many months, even years, before a child’s speaking skills are developed as well as his listening skills. So for a long while, children understand far more than they can say.

It’s also important to remember that even though children may understand your words, they don’t always have the self-control to follow your instructions. For example, if you say, Don’t touch the remote control, your baby will probably grab for it anyway. Self-control is a complex skill that your child has not yet mastered. (You’ll have to wait a few years for that.)

Listed below are the different types of information your child is likely to understand from 9 months to 1 year.

  • 9 months: May be able to follow simple directions (Give me your teddy bear), especially if you also use gestures, like pointing to her bear.
  • 10 months: Recognizes the names of familiar people and objects, like Mama, Dada, bottle, etc.
  • 11 months: May show understanding of simple questions: Do you want milk?
  • 12 months: Your baby is able to understand new words each day. He may be able to point to pictures in books when prompted by you: Where is the bunny rabbit?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s listening, understanding, or speaking skills, talk to your child’s health care provider or request a developmental assessment from your school district’s Part C program.

Try the ideas below to help your child develop strong language skills:

  • Make language part of your daily routines. The more you talk about what you are doing—whether it be taking a walk or a bath, visiting Grandma, or playing with bubbles—the more words your baby will learn. Tell your child what he is about to do and repeat these words during the activity. For example: It’s time for lunch. We are having pasta for lunch. Let’s get you in your high chair to have our pasta for lunch. Children learn new words and ideas through repetition.
  • Sing together. Songs like Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Eensy Weensy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy and You Know It all help children learn new words and new ideas. Many of these songs also have hand motions or body movements that go with them. As babies are able to move their hands and bodies along with the song, they are also developing muscle strength and coordination.
  • Talk to your baby about his experiences. Use language to describe what your baby is doing, what he wants, or what he is discovering: You just pulled up on the table—look at all you can see from there! This helps you baby understand how words give meaning to his experiences.
  • Expand on your baby’s sounds. If your baby says ba-uh when she sees a bird at the bird feeder, you can build on her attempt to say the word bird by responding: Yes, that’s a bird. The bird is eating some food. The bird must be hungry. This helps your child learn new words. It also shows her that you think what she has to say is important.
  • Ask and watch. Take out a plastic bowl and some small blocks or foam balls. Let your baby explore these objects and talk with him about what you see him doing. Then ask, Can you put the block in the bowl? See how he responds. He may be able to follow your instructions, or he may reach out for the block but not put it in the bowl, or he may look at the block and bowl but not make a move to pick them up. Try asking him again while putting a block in the bowl yourself. If you play games like this regularly, eventually your child will learn to connect your words with the actions.
  • Which hand? Show your child a small toy she is familiar with. Pass it between both hands, then close one hand over it. Show your child your two closed hands and ask your baby, Which hand is [the toy] in? If your baby guesses right, give her the toy. If not, give her chances until she finds it: It’s not there. Where is it? After she finds it, give your baby the toy. Does she try to hold it in her hand to give you a turn to play the game?

Let’s Play: Activities That Nurture Bonding and Learning

Shovel It

Give your child a toy shovel and supervise him carefully as you let him dig in the sandbox. Or, let him “shovel” water while in the tub. Watch how he scoops and slaps as he learns what a shovel does and how it can be used.

Get Up, Stand Up

You’re probably finding that your baby is beginning to pull up on furniture. Give him a reason to get up to the standing position. Hang an interesting picture, child-safe mirror, or a piece of fun, textured fabric on the wall at his eye-level. Hold his hands so that he can balance, stand, and look at it.

What’s on Your Mind

1. My baby just loves to splash in the tub. She laughs like crazy while she’s getting me soaked. I laugh too—at her having so much fun. But what’s going on, why is this so funny for her?

Experiences like splashing in the tub give your baby a chance to test and explore. When she is splashing, she is also learning: What happens when I splash? What happens when I splash in a different way? Now this way? She is learning about cause and effect and which qualities of water change and which stay the same when she splashes each time. This helps her understand the features, characteristics, and qualities of water. In other words, what makes water water? Repeated, careful, organized experiments (also known as play) are required to develop the understanding that something remains the same no matter what is done to it or how it might be changed. For example, your baby understands that the milk in her bottle or your breast is “milk.” She also learns that: the milk on her hand and fingers is “milk”; the milk pouring from the half-gallon container is “milk”; the puddle of milk on the high-chair tray is “milk”; and the puddle of milk on the floor is “milk.” Learning about these relationships is a constant source of wonder and delight to your baby.

This answer was developed based on input from Robert Weigand, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University.

2. My 11-month-old absolutely hates being in his car seat. He screams and cries as I’m buckling him in and fusses most of the time we’re driving together. Any suggestions for getting him to relax?

Car seat protests are totally normal and expected. Kids who are beginning to develop exciting new physical skills, such as standing and walking, don’t like being strapped in. While we can be flexible about some parenting issues, using car seats is not one of them. What to do?

First, let your child know you hear him. Tell him in a calm voice that you understand how he hates to have to get into the car seat, but that it’s a rule because it keeps him safe. While he may not fully understand your words right now, he will pick up on your calm and loving tone. Next, put together a bag of special toys and books just for car rides. Or save a small, healthy snack for your son to eat in the car. This helps children develop a positive association with the car seat.

Some children dislike the car seat because they feel a loss of control when they are strapped in. So look for other ways to give your child a sense of control. For example, ask your son if he’d like to hold his teddy bear or his stuffed hippo while you strap him in. Or whether he’d like to have his jacket on or off while he is in his seat.

Avoid negotiating or bribing him. (If you sit down, you can have ice cream when we get home.) Doing this rewards him for his protest and teaches him he can negotiate limits with you. It also may lead to his demanding a reward for everything—putting away toys, brushing teeth, etc.

If he still fights being buckled in (which is common), stay calm and firm. Avoid getting angry, as this will likely only get him more upset. Ignore his screaming and flailing as much as possible and calmly explain to him: I am going to hold you firmly now so I can get your car seat buckled and keep you safe. Then secure him in his seat as gently as you can. The more calmly you deal with this, the quicker your son will recover, and the less it becomes a power struggle between the two of you.

If your son acts up during the car ride, ignore his antics and divert him by talking about what you see as you drive. Giving yourself a pep talk—out loud—can also be calming to both of you: He’s going to be okay. He’s just really frustrated right now. But we’re almost there, only two more stoplights to go. He needs to be in his seat to be safe. It’s okay if he cries. I’ll be okay too. You can also try to put on some music your child enjoys, sing, or tell him stories. One mom I know pre-fills a bubble pipe before getting in the car and blows bubbles at stoplights. With some trial and error you’ll find what works for you.

3. I’m a stay at home mom and my husband works 60 hours a week. At night when he comes home to play with our 11-month-old, she rejects him. I can’t even go to the bathroom and leave her alone with him without her crying. It hurts my husband’s feelings so much. What can we do?

This situation is actually fairly common. It can happen when one parent is the primary caregiver, or the one doing most of the diapering, feeding, bathing, and comforting. Children tend to stick close to the parent whom they know best.

What can you do? First, as parents you need to agree to work as a team, and agree that it is important for your daughter to accept love and comfort from you both. Then, the preferred parent (you, in this case) should look for ways to actively, but sensitively, involve Dad in your child’s daily routines. Things may be bumpy at first. For example, your child may throw down the book that Daddy has picked to read at bedtime. Instead, you could start by reading the book yourself, but with all of you sitting close together. While you’re reading, invite Dad to participate by asking him to complete a sentence or comment on a picture. Next time, invite Dad to read the book while your child sits on your lap. If your child cries or resists, explain: I want Daddy here. Daddy would like to take a turn reading to you, too. He has so much fun when we are all together as a family. (Your child takes her cues from you so showing a desire for Dad to be involved is very important.)

Dad’s job is to not react to your daughter’s rejection by pulling away, as hard as that may be. It is crucial for him to stay connected and close to give your daughter the chance to feel more comfortable with and bonded to him. You can help by making sure Dad has some one-on-one time with your daughter each day. And on weekends, when Dad is more available, give them several hours alone. You may need to even leave the house. As long as you’re around, she may be preoccupied with and spend all her energy on seeking you out. Or, alternatively, Dad can take her out. While your child will probably protest and demand to have you, that will change over time. She simply needs more time with him.

It’s also very important that you let Dad do things his way, even if his parenting approach is different from yours. It might be hard to watch him dress your child in mismatched clothes or let her play with her food in the high chair more than you like. Resist correcting him. Instead, open a dialogue about your different styles. Share your ideas and concerns in the spirit of compromise and mutual respect. By being partners in parenting, and with a little time and a lot of patience, your child will develop close and nurturing relationships with both Mom and Dad.

4. It’s exciting to teach our 11-month-old new things. We just taught him how to clap hands and he loves doing it, but I realize that now he won’t wave bye-bye, which we taught him about a month ago—even if we demonstrate it first. Did he forget?

I wish I could tell you exactly why this happened, but understanding a child’s behavior is not an exact science. Not actually knowing your son, my best guess (assuming he is on-track developmentally and is continuing to learn new skills) is that he hasn’t forgotten how to wave bye-bye.

One possible explanation is that the waving didn’t have the meaning (“bye-bye”) for your baby that you might have thought it did. It may be that he saw how delighted you were when he waved that he did it again and again. But when waving started to get routine, your baby moved on to the latest and greatest gesture you taught him—clapping. Clapping gets all the attention and smiles that waving used to, so now he’s interested in repeating that movement. New tricks usually win out over the old ones. Don’t worry, though. As your baby grows, he’ll eventually figure out that waving is the way you communicate “bye-bye” and he will start to use it in this meaningful way.

And, while I have no research to support this, it’s my observation that the more you try to get children to perform, the less likely it is that they will. So take a break from asking your son to wave. If you do, I bet that in a few days or weeks, when you least expect it, he’ll be waving again.

Expert Reviewers

  • Terrie Rose, PhD, President and Founder, Baby’s Space
  • Ross Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis
  • Robert Weigand, MS, IMH-E, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University

This ZERO TO THREE newsletter series was made possible by generous funding from the MetLife Foundation.


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