Every child's development is unique and complex. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of steps and milestones, they may not proceed through these steps in the same way or at the same time. A child's development is also greatly influenced by factors in his or her environment and the experiences he or she has. The information in this guide explains what child development experts consider to be "widely-held expectations" for what an average child might achieve within a given year. Please consider what you read in the context of your child's unique development.
Below is a snapshot of this year. For more in-depth information click on the specific areas of development in the menu at the left.
Everything is new and interesting to one-year-olds. They enthusiastically use their five senses to actively explore the world around them. They find pleasure in causing things to happen and in completing basic tasks. And once a discovery is made, one-year-olds want to make it happen again and again and again!
Emotionally, one-year-olds are just learning to recognize and manage their feelings. They experience a wide range of emotions and have tantrums when they are tired or frustrated. They may also respond to conflict by hitting, biting, screaming, or crying. One-year-olds seek autonomy and may say, "No!" to adult suggestions or insist that they, "Do byself!" Then, moments later, they might cling to an adult's leg or ask for help.
During this year, language skills typically progress from grunting and pointing to speaking single words and experimenting with simple word combinations. Pronunciation is quite difficult, however and familiar adults almost always need to "translate" for others. One-year-olds steadily build their vocabularies by absorbing the language around them. They are able to understand common phrases and simple directions used in routine situations.
Even though one-year-olds have no awareness of print at this age, they take pleasure in nursery rhymes and books with single pictures of familiar and related items. They may apply their growing vocabularies by naming pictures in books read to them. Children this age also have no understanding of true "writing," but many enjoy experimenting with marks and scribbles on a surface.
As one-year olds play, they start to build their mathematical thinking by recognizing patterns and understanding shapes. For example, they notice that night is followed by day and that socks go on feet before shoes. They begin to sort familiar objects by one characteristic, such as whether they are "hard" or "soft." They may enjoy filling and emptying containers. They know that when an object is hidden, it is still there. Many can also do simple insert puzzles when the puzzle pieces show whole objects.
One-year-olds are just discovering their creative abilities. Their interest in art is focused on the sensory exploration of art materials, such as paint and clay. With music, they can respond with their whole bodies to rhythm, beat and melody. Children this age make an important developmental leap by beginning to pretend during play, often by imitating adult movements.
Some of the most obvious changes that you will notice in your child this year are in the area of physical development. Most one-year-olds typically move from crawling to running by about 20 months. They hold their hands out to the side or poke their bellies out for balance. Their gait is a bit awkward and clumsy and falls are common. They use their new mobility to push and pull toys, dance and climb. One-year-olds also improve in hand and finger coordination, but skills at this age are still immature, so they fumble and drop objects frequently.