✅ This article has been checked by our resident pediatric specialist.

Aim

The aim of this article is to provide a comprehensive look at developmental milestones for 1-year-old children across all areas of development: cognition, motor skills, language and social-emotional skills.

Outline

Introduction
What are developmental milestones?
Motor skills
Cognition
Language
Social and emotional skills
What if I’m concerned about my child?

Introduction

Watching your child blow out their first birthday candle is a special moment for any parent. It’s also a time to consider how much your child has grown since coming into this world as a tiny infant. You may find yourself asking: is my child developing normally? Are there any milestones – or behaviors, skills and abilities – that he or she should have developed by now? And, if not, what can I do to better support them – and when does missing milestones become a cause for concern? Fortunately, knowing age-appropriate developmental milestones can provide parents with the insight they need to answer some of these questions.

What are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are skills that children usually reach by a certain age. Developmental milestones can be useful in providing a general idea of what changes to expect as a child grows older. According to the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s vital to remember that children develop at their own pace and so it’s impossible to tell when a child will acquire a specific skill. As a result, parents shouldn’t be too concerned if a child is slightly delayed in reaching a milestone. However, if a child seems to be missing a few milestones or truly seems to be struggling, parents are advised to consult their doctor.

Motor Skills

Motor skills are defined as the range of abilities required to plan and carry out movements. There are two kinds of motor skills: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. When children use large muscle groups to move their neck, trunk, arms or legs they are developing gross motor skills. Controlling small muscle groups in their hands to eat or play reflects fine motor skills. There are a range of activities that can help your child build these skills as they grow.

Gross motor skills

By age 1, children can typically:

  • Move into a sitting position without leaning on anything else or being held up
  • Move from sitting to lying on their stomach (also known as prone position)
  • Move into the hands-and-knees position ready for crawling
  • Belly crawl, scoot (on their bottom) or creep on their hands and knees (pull with their arms and push with their legs)
  • Pull themselves up to a standing position
  • May stand alone (if only momentarily)
  • Walk while holding onto furniture (“cruising”)
  • Take two or three steps without holding on (if they have started walking)

Between age 1 and age 2, children can typically:

  • Stand by themselves and walk while holding someone’s hand
  • Raise their arms and legs to assist caregivers while getting dressed
  • Walk without help
  • Begin walking up the stairs

Fine motor skills

By age 1:

  • Use a pincer grip (thumb together with first finger) to pick up objects
  • Bang two objects together
  • Put objects into a container and pluck them out again
  • Know how to let go of objects voluntarily
  • Poke objects with index finger
  • Try to imitate scribbling

Toward the age of 2, children can typically:

  • Drink from a sippy cup, or a regular cup with assistance
  • Begin using a spoon to eat
  • Use a pincer grip to grasp food and finger-feed themselves
  • Scribble with crayon or marker

Cognition

By the age of 1, children can typically:

  • Poke (using the index finger) a specific object
  • Explore objects in different ways – by shaking, banging, throwing and dropping
  • Find hidden objects easily
  • Look or point at a correct picture when an image is named
  • Imitate gestures
  • Begin to use objects correctly, like drinking from a cup or brushing their hair
  • Repeat behaviors that produce a desired effect
  • Follow simple directions e.g. “pick up the toy”

By the age of 18 months, they may also be able to stack two blocks.

Language

By age 1, children can typically:

  • Babble in a way that sounds like talking, using intonation (changes in pitch/tone of voice)
  • “Speak” to you by first listening when you speak and then responding with babbling
  • Say at least 1 word
  • Say “no,” “mama” or “dada” in specific reference to the parent
  • Use exclamations, like “oh-oh!”
  • Try to imitate words you say
  • Respond to their name most of the time when you say it
  • Pay attention to the speech of those around them
  • Use simple gestures to communicate, like shaking their head “no”, waving “bye-bye” or raising their arms when they want to be picked up
  • Respond to simple verbal requests e.g. “stop” or “come here”
  • Respond to “no”
  • Point to desired objects that are out of reach or make sounds to indicate this whilst pointing

For older children:

  • Understand simple questions, like “where’s your nose?”
  • Recognize family members’ names and basic words for common items

Social and Emotional Skills

By age 1, children can typically:

  • Prefer parent and/or regular caregiver over anyone else
  • Cry when their mother or father leaves
  • Be shy or anxious with strangers and clingy with caregivers
  • Show fear in some situations
  • Show a preference for particular people and toys
  • Test parental responses to their behavior e.g. not wanting to eat, crying when you leave the room
  • Imitate people as part of play
  • Play games like “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”
  • Hand you a book when they want to hear a story
  • Repeat actions or sounds in order to get attention
  • Help with getting dressed by putting out their arm or leg
  • Express happiness, sadness and frustration with different sounds and cries
  • Smile or laugh in reaction to someone else or when playing
  • Have a mild temper tantrum when frustrated
  • Cry when someone nearby is upset
  • Feel comfortable exploring a room when a caregiver is nearby

What if I’m concerned about my child?

It’s natural to be vigilant, but it’s important to recognize that children tend to develop at their own pace. However, if you are concerned about your child’s developmental status, there are some signs that your child could be experiencing some difficulties. Pay attention and consider consulting your pediatrician if your child:

Motor

  • Doesn’t crawl or drags one side of their body while crawling (for longer than one month)
  • Cannot stand when supported
  • Falls forward instead of backwards
  • Walks with a limp or an uneven stride

Cognitive

  • Does not search for objects that are hidden while they look on
  • Does not point to objects or pictures
  • Does not follow simple instructions
  • Does not enjoy pretend play
  • Does not see or hear things clearly

Language and Communication

  • Does not say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Does not babble with consonant sounds, like “ga” or “ba”
  • Does not learn to use gestures, like shaking their head or waving

Social and Emotional

  • Doesn’t enjoy eye contact or cuddles
  • Doesn’t notice or appear to mind when you leave or enter a room