Developmentally Appropriate Milestones for 1-Year-Olds

By the 1st birthday, a strong and meaningful bond has developed between the kid and trusted adults, especially caregivers. Tears are not uncommon when a favorite caregiver is out of sight! Caregivers take time to get used to; the kid may be shy or anxious at 1st.

An observer of the world around them, the 1-year-old begins imitating adults and older kids when playing. Telephones, pots and pans, and other props have become popular for play. They are also busily building self-help skills. While they are still very dependent on adults, they’ll appreciate the time and freedom to try new skills on their own, such as brushing their hair, finger-feeding, and drinking from a cup.

The kid is curious about everything and experiments with cause and effect. They engage in repetitive behaviors, such as dropping a spoon from the high chair tray repeatedly or filling and dumping containers of toys. These actions, and tests of caregiver responses and actions, are a natural part of learning.

1-year-old kids have mastered the art of traveling around the room, though they do so in various ways. Many kids scoot on their bellies, some crawl, and some begin to walk. Most kids can pull themselves up to stand while holding on to solid objects. The 1-year-old has no concept of physical boundaries and may crawl into shelves and under chairs or attempt to climb. As motor skills and coordination develop, they will begin to stack several blocks, scribble with a crayon, clap hands, and pick up small objects using a pincer grasp.

The fundamentals for language are coming into place. Throughout this year, kids become more and more attentive to adult speech. Sounds are used to secure the attention and express meaning, and 1st words are spoken. Next, exclamations such as “uh-oh!” and favorite animal sounds follow! The kid also becomes adept at communicating with gestures, such as pointing, waving “bye-bye,” and shaking their head to say “no.” The introduction of sign language can create additional opportunities for successful communication by the 1-year-old kid.

Responding to 1-year-olds

Provide copies of favorite items, such as balls and toy telephones.

Offer different objects and materials to explore. Look for items that safely allow kids to experience different textures, materials, sizes, and weights.

Include open-ended materials, and enable inventive play. A block can become a telephone, or a bucket may become a drum! Seek the kid’s perspective: what are they seeing, doing, and learning as they play?

Organize toys materials and toys to facilitate play. A toy box of random pieces does not encourage meaningful play!

Provide lots of non-breakable mirrors. Consider mirrors at several heights on the wall, on the backs of shelves, and even on the floor.

Encourage cause-and-effect experiments by providing containers to fill and dump, tubes to roll balls through, and scarves for playing “peek-a-boo” with favorite toys!

Allow lots of time for meals and routines. Rather than rushing, provide time for kids to dabble and play in the water when washing hands, explore various foods and feed themselves at meals, and attempt self-help skills, such as putting on socks and shoes.

Diapering times and other 1-on-1 routines are a chore! Use this time to chat and sing with kids.

Describe what the kid is seeing, hearing, feeling, and doing. Acknowledge the kid when they do something all by themselves or discovers something new!

Acknowledge the kid’s attempts to communicate, and provide new words for things the kid is interested in.

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