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From Baby to Big Kid: Month 12

Wow, one big candle on the birthday cake…you’ve been a parent for a year! Browse the information and links below to see what your little one is experiencing and learning this month.
mother and child celebrate first birthday

What It’s Like for You

Your life before baby may seem like a very distant memory now. Stop for a minute and think about all you’ve learned this year about your child…and yourself. You’ve gotten to know who your baby is—her unique personality and what makes her tick. You’ve also had to make important decisions for your baby (about how and where she will sleep, what she will be fed, and who her caregivers will be). As your baby has grown and changed over this first year, you’ve had to adjust your parenting as she mastered new skills and had different needs. These changes require a lot of patience, flexibility, and ingenuity. You’ve probably handled everything from sleepless nights to spit-up, to the first sickness, the first toothless smile, and maybe even the first step. You’ve also discovered your own hot buttons when it comes to parenting. And, you’ve experienced the fierce and deep love that you share with your little one. Happy Birthday!

What It’s Like for Baby

I love that television remote control! It is so great…it has buttons I can press. I loooove touching buttons. And I can hold the remote just like Mommy and Daddy do. It’s so much fun to play with their toys. But…Mommy and Daddy don’t like it when I touch their remote control toy. They say, No touching the remote!, and then put it on a high shelf that I can’t reach. So I point at it and use a very loud voice and even cry to show them how much I want to hold it. I say Dat! Dat! to tell them what I want. But they still don’t let me have it. Instead they say, You are really angry that we put the remote away. But it is not for you to play with. They give me something else and say, How about we press the buttons on this toy instead? If you press the button, the door opens and a little animal pops up. Let’s see if we can make it work. Hmmm. That is a pretty cool toy, too. I think I’ll keep trying for the remote, but may play with this new toy if the remote is really out.

What Your Baby Is Learning

Social-Emotional Skills:

  • To cope with frustration and disappointment when she is not allowed to play with the television remote
  • To recognize, understand, and name her feelings when her parents acknowledge her emotional state
  • To accept a substitute toy when her parents set the limit of “no touching the remote”

Language and Thinking Skills:

  • Words to describe both rules and feelings when her parents explain about not touching the remote
  • The ability to communicate through sounds (cries), words (Dat! dat!), and gestures (pointing and reaching).

Physical Skills:

  • Coordination and strength in her hands and fingers from pressing buttons. These muscles help children learn to write later on.

What to Expect From Your Baby’s Development

As you read the chart below, 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 12 to 15 Months

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

I’m moving!

  • I can walk on my own by holding your hand.
  • I am learning to crawl up stairs but can’t come down yet.
  • I can throw a ball and turn pages in books.
  • Give your child just enough help to reach his goal. If he wants to stand, let him hold your fingers for balance.
  • Encourage your child to turn the pages when you read together.
  • Support your child as he practices new skills like stair-climbing. Children need time to work on these new skills…safely!

I’m starting to talk and understand so much more.

  • I may use some words like “dudu” for “dog.”
  • I can show you what I want through my actions. I may bang my high chair when I want more food.
  • If you ask me to, I can point to a body part or a picture in a book.
  • Choose books about things that interest your child. Children often like books about kids their age doing things they like to do.
  • Build your child’s vocabulary. If she points to or says “bus,” you can say: The school bus is driving down the street.
  • Name the people, places, and things that your child sees each day: That’s a garbage truck taking our trash.
  • Play games that involve following directions: Throw the ball to me.

I want to do more for myself.

  • I say “no” or show you in other ways that I have my own ideas and want to do things on my own.
  • Involve your child in self-help tasks like washing his hands.
  • Follow your child’s lead. Let him choose what toys or games to play.

I love to imitate.

  • I copy actions I’ve seen other people do, like stir a pot or talk on the phone.
  • Join in your child’s play. If you see her putting a blanket on her toy bear, you might ask: Does Teddy need a bottle before bed?
  • Give her objects that she sees in “real life,” like plastic dishes, a toy telephone, a small dust broom.

Did You Know…

That the ability to point is a major milestone? Why? Because it is a very powerful and effective form of communication. A recent study found that 1-year-old babies use pointing as a way to engage and connect with adults. In the study, after a baby pointed, the adult paid attention and showed a lot of interest in the baby’s pointing. For example, the adult looked at the baby and where the baby was pointing, and talked about what the baby was pointing at. Babies loved this—they would point more frequently and pointed longer each time in order to keep the positive interaction going.

Reference: Liszkowski, U., Carpenter, M., Henning, A., Striano, T., & Tomasello, M. (2004). Twelve-month-olds point to share attention and interest. Developmental Science, 7(3), 297-307.

What the Research Means for You

Before babies can use words, pointing is one of the most powerful ways they connect and communicate with you. When you share your baby’s interest and excitement about his discoveries, you send the message that he is loved and important. Your baby also learns that he is a good communicator and that others care about his thoughts and feelings. So next time your baby points something out, take the time to stop, look, and talk with him about what he’s interested in and wanting to share with you. Moments like these build your baby’s language and thinking skills, his self-esteem and confidence, and his relationship with you.

Spotlight on: Steps to Walking

Over the next 6 months, you will see your baby begin to move more than ever before. Most of these new physical skills are leading up to the Big One—learning to walk. Learn more below about how your child develops the ability to walk and what you can do to help your child start to put one foot in front of the other.

When Do Children Learn to Walk

Like most skills children develop in the first 3 years, the “normal” time to begin walking can vary widely depending on the child. On average, children take their first step sometime between 11 and 14 months, but anytime between 9 and 18 months is still within the norm.

There are many factors that influence when children learn to walk, from the physical—such as a child’s muscle tone, balance, and coordination—to temperament, as some children are more driven to explore using their bodies than others. There is also an important cultural influence. Some cultures value keeping young children close and thus tend to hold and carry them more. While this may lead to children learning to walk later than “average,” once they start, their physical development progresses normally.

Learn more about the skills that lead to walking below:

Pulling Up

Soon you will see your baby use the strong arm, back, and shoulder muscles she has developed from crawling to pull herself up to standing position while holding on to something (usually you or the furniture) for balance. When your child gets to this new vertical position, her reward will be seeing the world from a new perspective—and smiles will abound. However, she might not be quite as skilled at getting down as she was at getting up. She might need a hand in learning how to safely return to a sitting position.


Now your baby is an expert at getting up and down. He can balance on two feet and has gotten the hang of holding on to the couch with one hand while waving his favorite toy around with the other. Now—baby’s gotta move! Cruising describes the way babies take wobbly steps while hanging on to something—usually a piece of furniture—for balance. Cruising gives babies a chance to practice walking with a “safety net” while developing muscle strength, coordination, and balance.


You may notice that your child will occasionally let go of the couch and balance for a moment, before reaching for support again or plopping into the sitting position. Over time, though, she will grow confident enough to take her first, independent steps. These first steps will likely be wide-legged with arms out to balance herself. While she may begin with just one or two steps before sitting or reaching for support, soon (about a month from her first steps) your child will be toddling across the room to meet your big smile and open arms.

Walking and Whining?

When children reach major milestones, it is very common for there to be some backsliding in other areas. Change and growth, while exciting, can also cause some stress and anxiety in young children about how life will be different with their latest achievement.

Leaps forward in one skill area can challenge other areas of development. For example, as a child is learning to walk, he must cope with the emotional ups and downs of this new skill. While it is exhilarating to be moving and more independent, a toddler may feel uncertain about the change in perspective one gets from being upright. Or he may suddenly find himself some distance away from his parent—which can be scary. There can also be frustration and anger with frequent falls. This is why some children become more clingy or irritable as they learn to walk. You may also see other changes in your child’s behavior, and in his eating, bedtime, and other routines. With some time and lots of patience from you, children successfully manage these changes and return to their usual behavior and schedules.

A Note About Safety

As your rookie walker begins to toddle around, you will want to get down to her level to do one more round of child-proofing. Watch out especially for hazards to toddlers who are on the move, including:

  • Sharp corners on tables
  • Heavy or fragile objects within baby’s reach or that can be knocked down when baby reaches out to balance herself
  • Wobbly tables that won’t withstand the grasp of a baby who needs to balance
  • Slippery area rugs (use non-skid pads to minimize accidents)
  • Electrical cords or drapery cords that baby might trip on
  • Open stairways or other places where new walkers could fall
  • Also, keep an eagle eye on your baby in the bathtub. Now that she can pull-up and cruise, the bathtub becomes a place for her to explore, not to sit in (how boring!).

Milestones After Your Child Learns to Walk

Your new walker is getting better and better at balancing and going faster and faster on his feet. Here are some “tricks” you’ll see your baby trying out in the months after he becomes a confident walker:

  • Holding a toy in her hands while he walks
  • Holding the cord or handle of a pull-toy while he walks
  • Stooping to pick something up that he has dropped while walking
  • Walking backward
  • Attempting to run
  • Then running!
  • Walking up the stairs
  • Playing games like Ring-Around-the-Rosy that involve side-stepping as well as “falling down” and getting up
  • Walking with a smooth heel-toe motion
  • Jumping
  • Climbing
  • Standing on tiptoe
  • Balancing on one foot
  • Jumping with both feet then, later, hopping on one foot or the other

When to Worry

As mentioned earlier, there is a wide range—between 9 and 18 months—during which children may begin to walk and still be considered within the norm. Some children develop certain skills faster than others. One may be quick to talk and slow to walk, another may be climbing before he says more than a few words. However, if your child doesn’t seem to be showing forward progress in his physical skills, talk to your health care provider or request a developmental assessment from your community’s Part C program.

Keep in mind that children may learn to walk later if they:

  • Are heavier than average.
  • Were born prematurely.
  • Were later in learning how to roll over and/or crawl.
  • Have a disability that affects their physical development.

What about toe-walking? You might see your new walker occasionally walking on tiptoes. While most toddlers toe-walk once in a while, if your child toe-walks most or all of the time, do talk to your health care provider. There could be a physical problem that prevents your child from putting her feet flat on the floor.

What You Can Do to Nurture Walking Skills

Walking is a skill that is dependent, in large part, on your baby’s desire to walk and his physical development (muscle strength, balance, and coordination). Babies don’t need to be taught to walk. Learning to walk is a process that will happen on your child’s own timeline. Here are some ideas for ways to support your child’s growing physical skills:

  • Provide motivation. Lay a line of interesting toys along the couch or coffee table for your baby to pick up, hold, and explore. Learning to hold a toy in one hand while cruising with the other is a new skill and supports the development of balance.
  • Let your child practice balancing. She can hold on to one end of a toy or clothespin while you hold the other. Eventually, as your baby becomes more skilled, you can let go of your end.
  • Offer your baby a push-toy. Stable push-toys, ones that don’t go too fast, are useful for babies since they help them stand and balance in order to practice walking. Stay close by when your baby is using a push-toy. Occasionally the toy gets rolling faster than your baby can walk and he may need a hand with slowing down.
  • Take walks with your baby. Give your baby the experience of walking (with your assistance, if needed) on different surfaces—carpet, hardwood floors, sand, grass, etc.
  • Go barefoot. Letting your child go barefoot as much as possible while she is learning to walk helps her develop balance and coordination.
  • Avoid walkers. Baby walkers can prevent a baby’s leg muscles from developing correctly. Some research has also shown that walkers may actually slow the process of learning to walk. And walkers may be dangerous if babies can roll over stairwells. The best way to help your baby learn to walk is to give him lots of time to play, crawl, and cruise on the floor.
  • Limit the use of exersaucer-type toys. In order to learn how to walk, babies need to be able to see their feet. Exersaucer-type toys block babies’ view of their own feet. Once again, playtime on the floor is the best way to develop the muscles necessary for walking.

If My Child Can Walk, Why Am I Still Carrying Her?

Don’t be too quick to retire that stroller. Adults usually think of walking as just a way to get from Place A to Place B. But toddlers see walking not as a way to “go to” but as a way to “explore there and back,” with you in the middle as a safe home base. So if you sit down on the floor, you will probably see your toddler walk to you, then to a toy or area she wants to explore, then back to you, then out again. If you get up, your toddler will probably sit herself down and ask to be carried. Walking with you, not just around you, will come later in your toddler’s development. But when it does…you will get your exercise!

Your walking toddler may also prefer to be carried because for now, being in your arms is the most efficient way to keep up with you. Being carried also feels good. It’s warm and cuddly. Your child gets to see the world from your perspective, and talk to you and listen to you chat with others. It’s very common for toddlers to go through a stage where they want to be carried more than their loved ones want to carry them (or are physically able to carry them). Don’t worry—soon your child’s love of movement will win out and she will take off on her own. Until then, be sure to pack a stroller or baby backpack when you are out to make the lifting a little easier.

Let’s Play: Activities That Nurture Bonding and Learning

Pass It

Sit facing your child. Pass her a soft ball. See if she will hand it back to you. After you have passed the ball back and forth, switch it up and pass your child a small car or another toy. She will likely want to stop and examine this new object. Then start the passing game again. Activities like this develop hand-eye coordination, as well as sharing skills.

Shake, Shake, Shake

Fill a small, covered plastic food container with some dry beans or dry rice. Show your baby what happens when you shake it. Is he interested in shaking it himself? You can add a musical component by singing along as you shake together.

What’s on Your Mind

1. My 1-year-old is going to start child care soon and her new teacher suggests bringing a “lovey,” such as a favorite stuffed animal to help her with the transition. My daughter doesn’t really have a lovey right now. What should I do?

Think about the different stuffed animals, dolls, or blankets your child has and choose the one that you think she may be most connected to. Start to include this object into your everyday soothing routines. You might hold the bear or blanket on your lap as you cuddle with your child while reading books, or as you rock and sing to her before nap and bedtime. You can also bring it into your daughter’s playtimes in whatever way possible. The idea is to have your child connect the object with the warmth and trust she experiences from you so that it can serve as a substitute when she can’t be with you. Even if it doesn’t become a true “lovey,” the familiar object can still give her comfort and help her feel safe. Another idea is to make a photo album of your family and home that she can take to child care and look at when she is feeling sad.

Keep in mind that some children don’t need a lovey to make a healthy adjustment to child care. While some children do need time and support to make the transition, others are simply more flexible by nature and don’t need comforting objects to help them cope with change.

2. My 1-year-old hates taking baths. He will scream and kick and cry until we take him out. I can’t understand why this is happening, but it is really frustrating. Any ideas on helping him calm down while we get him clean?

The first step is to try and figure out why he hates the bath. He may be very sensitive to certain sensory experiences. He might not like feeling wet, hate having his hair washed, feel too cool while he’s being toweled off, or doesn’t like the texture of the towel or the smell of the shampoo. If this is a sudden change for him, then it is likely that he had an experience that made him fearful. The water during a recent bath may have been too hot and felt uncomfortable. He may have experienced something—like slipping or sliding—that made him feel insecure and afraid.

For now, it’s best not to fight this battle. There are plenty of other ways to keep him clean. A warm sponge bath works great and even a quick once-over with a soaped-up washcloth will get the job done. Don’t feel pressured to bathe your son every day unless he’s been finger-painting or making mudpies.

To make baths easier right now, give your son ways to feel in control while he’s in the tub. He can help you pour in bubbles, wet the washcloth, and clean himself. Also bring in lots of toys, squirters, measuring cups, strainers. Use bubbles or bath paints to make it fun (and to provide distraction). You might encourage “water play” when you son is not in the bath, like washing a toy duckie or doll, to gradually increase his comfort level with water play.

When you try the bath, read his cues to see if you can identify what bothers him. Is it shampooing that puts him over the edge? Or is it getting out and feeling cold as he towels off? You can modify the bath routine based on your observations.

Responding in this way is not spoiling him or being too lenient. It lets your child know that his needs are important, and that you will provide the support he needs to help him cope with life’s challenges.

3. My 1-year old is very receptive to everyone in my family and happily plays with whomever. But there’s this one uncle I have and whenever we see him, my son cries and refuses to go to him. Could a 1-year-old already have strong preferences for and against certain people? I feel so bad, and I’m not sure what to say to my uncle.

Even very young children can have preferences about all kinds of things—food, toys and, yes, people. That’s part of what makes children so unique and delightful—they don’t cover up their feelings. It gets awkward, though, when a child reacts negatively to someone, especially someone close to you like a family member.

The challenge is to figure out why your child is reacting this way. Maybe your uncle’s deep voice sounds scary to him, or he approaches too quickly. Perhaps he doesn’t read your son’s cues well (picks him up when he wants to sit, gives him a new toy to play with when he’s interested in the one he already has). Or, maybe he is anxious when he holds your son, making him feel nervous and uncomfortable. Or it could be something else entirely! I knew a baby who was frightened of a family friend who happened to have a moustache. When he shaved it off one day, the child was much friendlier toward him (though he was still never her favorite).

This is bound to be hurtful, even embarrassing, for your uncle. So first, take a moment to explain to your uncle that children can have very individual responses to people based on the unique way they take in information—how they hear a voice, the way they experience a facial feature or expression, etc.

Next, be a detective. Because 1-year-olds can’t tell us what they are thinking and feeling with words, we can only watch and make educated guesses based on their behavior. Next time you visit with your uncle, watch carefully to see if there are clues as to what your son is reacting to. If, for example, you observe that your uncle is not so good at reading your son’s cues, offer some gentle suggestions. When Jackson looks away like that, it usually means he’s ready for a break. That’s what he does with me too. If your son startles when he hears your uncle’s voice, explain that your son is sensitive to certain sounds, especially loud, sudden ones. Suggest that he try speaking in a softer voice and approaching your son more slowly. If you notice that your son reacts simply at the sight of your uncle, make sure your son sees you warmly greet and talk with your uncle. Children watch their parents for cues as to how to feel about others. When he sees you and your uncle interacting in a friendly way, your son will see that your uncle is a safe and good person. You might even try holding your son in your arms as you talk with your uncle.

Another helpful strategy is to slowly involve your uncle in one of your son’s favorite activities. First, have your uncle simply watch from a distance. Next, start to include him by talking as you play with your son: Uncle Charlie, can you believe how tall this tower is? Next, ask your uncle to hand you a block, and then ask him to put a block on the tower himself.

Even though it may be tempting to cut down your stress level by limiting visits with your uncle, resist that natural pull. Children are enriched by loving family relationships. Avoiding your uncle means missed opportunities to help your child learn that, with support, he can overcome fears. Over time, and with your love and support, these family gatherings will likely be filled with your child’s cries—of laughter, not tears.

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.

*Additional reporting by Claire Lerner


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