1-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 1

During the 12 months between ages 1 and 2, you'll watch your baby start to become less like an infant and more like a toddler! You'll witness a physical transformation as your 1-year-old begins to master new motor skills that help them gain a bit of independence and you'll likely begin to see their unique personality emerge.

"You are stepping into a beautiful but also challenging time," says Victoria Tenenbaum, a board-certified behavior analyst who holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis. She adds that babies learn from their environment, and parents and caregivers are the role models that they observe and follow in order to learn about the world around them.

Knowing how to set boundaries, encourage positive behaviors, help them explore their environment, and let them get a little messy every now and then will help you enjoy this transitional phase to toddlerhood.

1 year old development milestones
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

1-Year-Old Language and Cognitive Milestones

You'll likely see some big changes when it comes to your child's cognitive development this year. Between 12 and 24 months, your child is likely to be able to recognize named items, like a cat or dog. They will also be able to play simple make-believe games and show an improved ability to follow your instructions. 

Here's a look at some of the biggest language and cognitive milestones at age 1.

Becomes More Talkative

At the end of your baby's first year, they are still likely to rely on nonverbal communication strategies, such as pointing, gesturing, or throwing items.

But the coos and screams of early baby talk will give way to distinct babbling sounds like "da," "ba," "ga," and "ma." Your child will slowly begin to pull those together into recognizable words (including "mama," "dada" or another special name for you), and all the while, comprehend more of what you're saying—even "No," although they may choose not to comply.

Before your child's second birthday, they will likely be able to say simple sentences with two to four words and point to simple objects when you name them. (Both adorable and exciting!)

Follows Simple Directions

Around 18 months old, your toddler's thinking skills drastically improve. They can repeat actions by remembering past events and hold onto mental images of things that are out of sight.

The most helpful development for you, however, is their newfound ability to follow simple instructions. They may not remember on their own to grab their jacket before going outside, but they understand if you ask them to go get it. (Of course, they may not always comply!)

Becomes More Independent

Your 1-year-old will try to become independent in many ways. They may insist on trying to help dress themselves and may want to test out new physical skills.

That said, they're also likely to be clingy and seek you out for comfort when feeling tired, scared, or lonely. As they get closer to their second birthday, you're likely to see some defiant behavior as they insist on doing what they want, even when you say "no."

Language and Cognitive Checklist

  • Responds to their name
  • Tries to repeat words you say
  • Curious about everyday objects and how they work
  • Can find hidden objects
  • Waves goodbye

1-Year-Old Movement, Hand, and Finger Milestones 

The 12-month mark will likely mean some big changes for your child. In a short amount of time, they're likely to go from crawling to walking, and before you know it, trying to climb stairs and navigate through your home without any assistance. 

Here are a few of the biggest physical milestones for your 1-year-old.

Takes First Steps

Some babies begin to walk around 12 months old, while others wait a little longer (around 14 to 15 months). No matter when it happens, there are certain signs that show your little one may be ready to take those exciting first steps:

  • Pulling up to a stand
  • “Cruising,” or holding onto something (like a table) while walking
  • Standing without support

There are quite a few things you can do to help your baby learn to walk. Once they learn to stand up, you can hold their hands while they wobble about. When it comes to the best toys for 1-year-olds, push toys can be a lot of fun. Look for sturdy items that will help your little one maintain their balance as they begin testing out new motor skills. 

Plays With More Concentration

Play is important to a child's development at this age. Your 1-year-old's newfound dexterity will make them eager to investigate nearby objects.

Musical instruments that your child can shake or bang and toys that have levers, wheels, and moving parts are all popular at this age. Blocks are always a good choice, especially when your child gets to knock down a tower you build together.

Masters the Pincer Grasp

The pincer grasp describes your toddler's ability to pick up objects with their thumb and forefinger. You may have noticed them attempting it before their first birthday, but now they are becoming a pro. This is especially helpful when eating and playing with toys. It also gets them ready for holding a pencil down the road.

Physical Milestones Checklist

  • Plays games like peek-a-boo and patty-cake
  • Likes to place objects in and out of containers
  • Tries to imitate scribbling
  • Points with index finger
  • Drinks from an open cup if you hold it for them

1-Year-Old Emotional and Social Milestones

While you may notice your 1-year-old become a bit wary of strangers, you'll also see an amazing desire to interact with others, especially siblings and regular caretakers. Your child may even become excited to see other children, such as at a library storytime or at the playground.

Here are some emotional and social milestones to look out for.

Shows Interest in Other Kids

For the most part, 1-year-olds prefer to play next to other kids, as opposed to with them. This is called parallel play. But you may see your child begin to include other kids in their play at times. 

Of course, your 1-year-old won't understand what it means to share and might be very possessive of their toys. Don't insist they share with the other kids—instead, give them a few items that are off-limits from everyone else so they feel like they have some control over their play. 

Reacts to Emotions

You'll notice that your 1-year-old smiles and laughs in reaction to someone else or while they are playing with toys. (This makes your playtime with them even more fun!)

On the flip side, they may also cry when they see another child upset—but that's not a bad thing. Research has shown that young babies are able to show empathy, meaning they react to the pain of others as though it were happening to them. If your 1-year-old has a sibling, you've likely noticed this quite a bit.

Enjoys Books

At this age, your baby loves looking at books with you. Reading to them isn't just fun, but a great way to prepare them for preschool. Children who are read to more as toddlers tend to do better in school.

After their first birthday, kids start to make big strides in vocabulary while learning about letters, shapes, colors, weather, animals, seasons, etc.—all of which can be found in baby-friendly picture books.

Other Milestones for Your 1-Year-Old

Here is what else you should know about your growing 1-year-old.

Tries New Foods

Now that your baby is a solid-food connoisseur, you may be wondering what other types of food you can introduce at this age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies and toddlers have a consistent diet of healthy fats, such as those found in avocado, olive oil, fish, nut butters, and dairy.

Try to avoid saturated and trans fats as much as possible, including fried foods, fast foods, and many packaged foods. Keeping your child's daily caloric intake at about 1,000 calories should prevent overfeeding and an increased risk of weight gain, but you don't need to count their calories. Offer a variety of foods and let your baby follow their own hunger and fullness cues.

Develops Separation Anxiety

It's an all-too-familiar scenario: You leave the room for just a moment and your baby starts crying uncontrollably. Hello, separation anxiety! Your 1-year-old is very attached to you, and it is a normal part of their development.

Although it might be tempting to sneak away when you have to leave your baby with a family member, babysitter, or daycare, the best thing you can do is offer them a firm goodbye and assure them you will be back. The more consistent you remain, the easier it will get for both of you.

Becomes More Aggressive

You may notice your 1-year-old becoming more assertive physically. Children at this age don't understand that other people have feelings too, so they may hit without realizing it's hurting someone else. 

"Many parents start to ask how to manage some behaviors commonly associated with little toddlers," says Tenenbaum. "As our babies become more independent, they also start showing their personalities. [They start] experiencing many frustrating situations during this year, so parents might observe emotional outbursts and challenging moments."

When these types of challenges pop up, she recommends trying to learn how to understand the behavior. You can reach out to your pediatrician, find resources online, or contact a behavioral specialist to help guide you through this phase.

Continues Breastfeeding

Experts recommend, if possible, breastfeeding your baby until at least the 1-year mark. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed beyond that point is a personal choice.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for your baby. Research has shown that it can reduce the chances of (or cause less severe symptoms in) diarrhea, ear infections, and bacterial meningitis. It may also protect children from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity, and asthma.

That said, breastfeeding past the 1-year mark isn't for everyone. If you're feeling guilty about your desire to stop breastfeeding, you're not alone. "The decision to stop breastfeeding at any age can be upsetting for a number of reasons—sadness that baby is growing up, fear of losing a special connection and time together, and feelings of guilt," explains Carly Snyder, MD, a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist and director of women’s health for Family Health Associates.

She adds that any amount of time breastfeeding is great. By the 1-year mark, she explains that your baby has received tons of benefits from it, so there's no need to feel any guilt about stopping. "[Your] bond with [your] baby is eternal, regardless of breastfeeding status!" she says.

How to Help Your 1-Year-Old Learn and Grow

Talk about energy! Your 1-year-old is either on the move or working on it, which definitely keeps you on your toes. You're likely trying to get your picky toddler to sit still enough to eat three meals a day and keeping your fingers crossed that they actually nap.

This age is a fun time to play with your baby. You can support their budding independence by offering choices—hold out two different toys and let them pick which one they want to play with. You'll likely see problem-solving skills begin to improve as they figure out how to manipulate toys or put a block inside of a box.

To help your baby develop verbal skills, talk to them frequently. As you dress them, talk about the color of the clothes, the feel of the fabric, the name of the body part you're touching. Name items that you use every day, like towels, cups, the car, dolls, etc.

Try to be consistent and avoid using cutesy names, such as "toesy-woesies" for toes. Labeling will help your child learn vocabulary words and prepare for speaking on their own.

Most babies this age need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day, including one or two daytime naps. By 18 months old (or sooner), your baby may start to fight their morning nap, which is an indicator that they might be ready to condense two naps into one afternoon nap.

1-Year-Old Sleep

  • Needs about 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day, including one or two naps
  • May drop the morning nap by 18 months or older
  • A bedtime routine can help improve an inconsistent sleep schedule

Tenenbaum explains that as your baby grows up and becomes more independent, you may start to observe sleep changes. "One of the significant challenges with sleep begins when the baby starts engaging in bedtime refusal behaviors," she says. "Suddenly, after the usual bedtime routine, the baby might start crying, sign to ask to get out of the crib, or have a tough time letting the parent walk away." This can also occur during daily naps.

While this can be challenging, it's important to harness your patience and remember that your baby is starting to become more engaged and delighted with the world around them—and they don't want to miss out by sleeping.

How to Keep Your 1-Year-Old Safe

Now that you're faced with a newly mobile and independent toddler, there are certain safety tips to keep in mind.

Baby-Proof Your Home

Your 1-year-old won't understand which objects are stationary and which aren't safe to hold onto. As they begin learning to walk, folding tables, delicate breakables, and stacked items that can topple can all pose a danger, so it's important to remove unstable objects they may try to use for balance.

Now that your baby is on the move, it's also easier to access different parts of the house, so brush up on your baby-proofing as well, including covering light sockets and sharp edges on furniture and gating off staircases.

Practice Safe Sleep

Although your little one is becoming more of an independent toddler, it's still important to follow safe sleep guidelines. At 1 year old, it is okay to allow a light blanket or small stuffed animal in your child's crib, but avoid toys that are overly large.

Ensure there are no unsafe items near the crib that your baby can grab or wrap around their neck, such as curtains, window blind pulls, pictures, or other wall hangings.

Be Vigilant Around Water

Your 1-year-old probably loves playing in the water, especially on warm summer days. It is so important to never leave a baby alone near a bathtub, bucket of water, swimming/wading pool, or any other water, even for a moment. Children of this age are at risk of drawing in as little as 2 inches of water. Always stay within arm's reach.

If you have a pool in the backyard, the AAP recommends adding a fence on all four sides at least 4 feet high. Many drownings occur when a child wanders out of the home and into the backyard, so take extra precautions to baby-proof your pool.

Follow Car Seat Safety Guidelines

The AAP recommends keeping your child rear-facing in their car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer. Many convertible car seats allow you to keep your child rear-facing for as long as 2 to 5 years of age.

Research has shown that the risk of severe injury or death from a car accident in small children is five times lower if they are rear-facing versus front-facing. The longer you can keep your child rear-facing, the better.

When to Be Concerned

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends talking to your child's healthcare provider if by 18 months your child:

  • Can't walk independently
  • Doesn't point to show you things
  • Doesn't copy others
  • Doesn't try to say three or more words besides “mama” or “dada”
  • Doesn't notice or mind when a caregiver leaves or returns
  • Loses skills or abilities they previously had

While all babies develop at slightly different rates, talk to a pediatrician if your child isn't meeting certain milestones or if you notice potential developmental delays.

A Word From Verywell

Your child's first birthday comes with so many new and exciting milestones! That said, it can also be a tough time as they learn how to navigate their newfound emotions, independence, and physical abilities. Because of this, it's imperative to keep your own mental health a priority.

"Parental mental health is profoundly impactful throughout a child’s life," says Dr. Snyder. "As baby gets older, their sense of safety and ability to connect with others is profoundly impacted by interactions with adults in their lives."

She explains that being bubbly, engaged, and happy with your child is crucial to their development. If you find you are struggling emotionally, it’s best to seek support from a mental health provider not just for your sake, but for the sake of your child.

Remember that your child is looking to you for guidance, love, reassurance. "You know your baby better than anyone," says Dr. Snyder. "Your job is to protect them, enjoy them and help them grow and learn."

15 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Scholastic. Ages & stages: Learning to follow directions.

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  6. Nemours KidsHealth. Toddler reading time.

  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. Sample menu for a one-year-old.

  8. Nemours KidsHealth. Separation anxiety.

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  10. Nemours KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: How much and how often.

  11. Nemours KidsHealth. Sleep and your 1- to 2-year-old.

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  14. The Car Seat Lady. Why ride rear facing?.

  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: Your child by eighteen months.

By Alex Vance
Alex Vance is a freelance writer covering topics ranging from pregnancy and parenting to health and wellness. She is a former news and features writer for Moms.com and Blog Writer for The HOTH. Her motherhood-related pieces have been published on Scary Mommy, Motherhood Understood, and Thought Catalog.

Originally written by
Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

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