How your baby learns and grows: 9-12 Months

Milestones matter! How your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves offers important clues about his or her development.

This is a general guide to infants from four to six months of age. Remember, each child is unique and will grow and develop at their own pace. It is normal for a child to be behind in some areas and ahead in others. For babies born prematurely, milestones are based on their corrected age (your baby’s actual age minus the number of weeks or months they were born early).

Babies can’t be spoiled so feel free to play, cuddle and respond to all your baby’s cues and cries. You can help your baby learn and grow.

Your baby will have learned so much about interacting with others over the past year.  Keeping your baby close emotionally and letting them set the pace in new situations will help them develop.

Between 9 and 12 months, babies begin to do things with a goal in mind and may: You can help your baby learn by:
  • Cry when you leave the room
  • Act shy with strangers
  • Show fear in some situations
  • Start to help you by sticking out an arm or leg when you are dressing them
  • Hand you a book when they want to hear a story
  • Repeat sounds or actions to get attention
  • Play games such as peek-a-boo and pat-a cake
  • Understanding that new places and people are good experiences for your baby but can be scary
  • Letting your baby watch and listen in new situations and be there to comfort them. Let them move at their own speed.
  • Giving your child time to get to know a new caregiver. Bring a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket to help comfort your child.
  • Always say goodbye to your baby when you leave instead of sneaking out and reassure them that you will be back
  • Saying “no” firmly to unwanted behaviours. Do not yell, spank, or give long explanations.
  • Give your child lots of hugs, kisses, and praise for good behavior.
  • Spending more time encouraging wanted behaviors than punishing unwanted behaviors (Try to give four times as much encouragement for wanted behaviors as redirection for unwanted behaviors).
  • Praising baby and thanking them for being so helpful when dressing

By 12 months your baby will understand some of what you are saying.  Parents can use everyday activities such as bathing and mealtime as opportunities to promote language.

By age 1, most babies understand more words than they can say will be able to and may: You can help your baby learn by:
  • Say “mama,” “dada” and exclamations like “uh oh”
  • Try to copy words you say.
  • Follow simple directions, such as “pick up the toy.”
  • Point to simple images in a book when you ask. For example, “show me the cat.”
  • Use actions to help them communicate to you what they want. For example, they may point at something they want or bring you a book when they want to hear a story.
  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye”
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
  • Reading with your child every day. Let your child turn the pages. Name what is in the pictures.
  • Talking to your baby about what you are doing. For example, “Mommy is washing your hands”
  • Talking to your baby about their actions. For example, you could say “You are pushing your food away. I think you are telling me you are full.”
  • Naming something that your baby looks at or points to in the room or in a book
  • Building on what your child says or what points to. If they point to a truck and says “t” or “truck,” say, “Yes, that’s a big, blue truck.”

Your baby continues to learn about the world and how things work.  There are so many ways that parents can help their child learn.

Your baby is learning more about their world and how they can get things that they want. Your baby may: You can help your baby learn by: Safety Tips:
  • Find hidden things easily and enjoy finding “hidden” people and things
  • Learn that their actions can make things happen
  • Follow simple directions like “pick up the toy”
  • Use things properly (drink from a cup, roll a toy or pretend to talk on the phone)
  • Put objects into containers and take them out
  • Shake, bang, or throw things
  • Look at the right picture or thing when it’s named
  • Copy gestures
  • Let things go without help
  • Poke with index (pointer) finger
  • Providing lots of safe places for your toddler to explore
  • Playing hide-and-seek games. Try hiding toys for your baby to find.
  • Letting your baby flip the light switch or ring the doorbell
  • Giving your child opportunities to make noise. Pots and pans, small musical instruments like a drums or cymbals or toys with buttons that they can make sounds on are fun and help your child learn.
  • Letting your baby play games over and over. Babies love repetition and it reinforces learning
  • Singing songs with actions, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus.” Help your child do the actions with you.
  • Giving your child push toys like a wagon or toy “cars” that can they can push or ride on
  • NEVER shake your baby- this can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
  • Toddler-proof your home. Lock away products for cleaning, laundry, lawn care, and car care. Use a safety gate and lock doors to the outside and the basement. Check out our Home Safety Checklist
  • Babies put everything in their mouths. Never give your baby a toy with small parts that they could choke on. As a general rule, if it is small enough to fit through a toilet paper roll, it is too small to give to your baby. For more information on choking click here.
  • As your baby learns to move around her environment, keep cleaning products, medications, poisonous plants and anything else that may be dangerous locked away or out of reach. Manitoba Poison Control Centre phone number is 1-855-776-4766.
  • Avoid letting your baby watch the television, smart phone or computer screen. Screen time is not recommended for children under two years of age.
  • Model healthy screen use by turning off screens when not in use and avoiding playing a TV in the background.

“On the move” may describe your baby at one year.  Whether they are crawling, rolling or starting to walk, your baby will keep you on the go.

By one year, your baby may: You can help your baby learn by: Safety Tips:
  • Sit without help
  • Start to crawl
  • Pull up to stand and walk while holding on to furniture. This is sometimes called “cruising”
  • Take a few steps without holding on
  • Stand
  • Start walking
  • Dance to music
  • Your baby will also begin using her index (pointer) finger to poke
  • Placing several toys in out of reach on the floor to encourage them to move by to crawl and explore.
  • Playing music, holding your baby in a standing position and dancing together.
  • Providing plastic blocks or other toys and some larger containers so that they can put toys in and out of the containers
  • Letting them put toys or other objects on and off shelves.
  • Giving your child crayons and paper, and let your child draw freely. Show your child how to draw lines up and down and across the page. Praise your child
  • Playing with blocks, shape sorters, and other toys that encourage your child to use his hands.


You know your child best

Act early if you have concerns about the way your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves, or if your child:

  • Is missing milestones
  • Doesn’t crawl
  • Can’t stand when supported
  • Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide
  • Doesn’t say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Doesn’t learn gestures like waving or shaking head
  • Doesn’t point to things
  • Loses skills they once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay and ask for a developmental screening.  DON’T WAIT. Acting early can make a real difference!

For more information:


Caring for Kids: Information for Parents from Canada’s Paediatricians

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC’s Developmental Milestones