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Learning, Play, and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old

Your child has gone from tiny newborn to curious infant, reaching out and exploring their environment. That curiosity and readiness to learn will continue as your baby becomes more mobile during these next few months.

What Is My Baby Learning?

Language Skills

Your little one will make big gains in learning. Play will take on a new dimension as language emerges. During these next few months, your baby's babbling will start to turn into words like "mama," "dada," and "baba." These will come randomly at first, but your baby will soon learn to associate them with mom, dad, and bottle.

Gross Motor Skills

Your child can move around more and is interested in exploring. Babies this age can move from lying to sitting. By 12 months, most babies can pull themselves to stand and walk while holding on to furniture. Some infants may stand alone or take their first steps without holding on.

Fine Motor Skills

Your baby will explore objects in greater detail as fine motor skills improve. Babies can pick up small items, bang 2 blocks together, and put blocks in a cup. They enjoy looking for an object that is partially hidden or a toy they’ve dropped out of sight.

How Can I Help My Baby Learn?

Your baby's ability to get around and endless curiosity boost learning now. So give your baby chances to safely explore. Your baby may enjoy playing with egg cartons, blocks, balls, and stacking toys. When your baby is in the bath, provide squeeze toys and cups and containers to splash around with. Always supervise and never leave your baby unattended, especially near water.

Name familiar and new objects and let your baby try to imitate you. Reinforce the words by repeating them. Encourage language skills by waiting for a response when you have a "conversation."

Continue reading from books with large, colorful illustrations. Point to and name pictures in the book and ask questions. Encourage your child to point to pictures ("Where is the cat?").

How Can I Help My Baby Play?

Here are some other ideas for encouraging your 8- to 12-month-old to learn and play:

  • Help your baby get into the crawling position on their hands and knees. Place a favorite toy out of reach and encourage your baby to move toward it.
  • Let babies feed themselves. Finger feeding builds fine motor skills, hand–eye coordination, and independence.
  • Continue to play games like peekaboo, but vary it a bit by hiding your face with a blanket and letting your baby pull it off. You can also hide around a corner, and show your baby how to cover their face with their hands.
  • Let your baby watch you hide a toy — first partially hidden, then covered completely — and then find it.
  • Teach your baby action songs, like "Pat-A-Cake," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," and "Pop Goes the Weasel." Babies love to hear and learn these songs with hand gestures.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

There is a wide range of normal development, so some children may gain skills earlier or later than others.

Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about how your baby sees and hears, or if you have any questions or concerns about your baby's development.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: May 27, 2022

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