Play through the ages: Ages 6 to 12 months

All children develop at their own pace, but there are very important expectations for each age range. Let’s take a look at the development for children ages 6 to 12 months.

As we look at the developmental age range of 6 to 12 months, know that it is a stage which is very much associated and characterized by a high increase in motor functioning. Gross and fine motor functioning increase with great strides during this range. Children begin to learn how to use their bodies to explore their environment. They use their innate curiosity to learn how their hands and fingers work and are using their whole body to get from one location to another. The 6-to-12-month age range is truly a wondrous time with the first steps towards independence.

In this article, we’ll discuss some important developmental milestones and appropriate activities associated with children ages 6 to 12 months. The discussion will revolve around five specific areas of development and fun activities associated with increasing a child’s skills within these areas. The expectations are listed in appropriate developmental order below.

Gross motor development is the large muscle movements of the body. For children ages 6 to 12 months, the developmental expectations include sitting alone for a couple of minutes, getting to a sitting position (may be wobbly), pulling to stand (holding hands or pulling up on furniture), crawling on belly and then crawling on all fours (hands and knees), sitting alone without assistance, walking with some support or help, standing alone with no help and taking a few steps without help (three to five steps alone).

Activities for the 6-to-12 month age range include getting down and playing a lot on the floor. Give children pillows to crawl over and sit up against. Use favorite toys to encourage them to get up on their hands and knees and crawl. Use your legs as a bridge for them to crawl over and under (also to help raise them up onto their hands and knees). Have them sit up with you to look at books, hold onto objects such as rattles and practice balance in a sitting position. Have them sit with you but not directly against you once they can sit alone for a few seconds. Finally, give them incentive to pull up to a standing position by placing toys or favorite objects just out of their reach on a couch or very stable chair or table.

Fine motor development is the small muscle movements of the body. For children ages 6 to 12 months, the developmental expectations include holding onto a rattle for a few moments, holding two toys (one in each hand), turning a toy in each hand while investigating, using a pincer grasp to pick up a small object (thumb and forefinger together), beginning to stack small objects like blocks or cubes), lightly tossing a small ball (tossing it right in front of them) and beginning to imitate a scribble.

Activities for the 6-to-12-month age range include beginning to play with blocks that are small enough to be held in one hand. They will try to put the block into their mouth and that is to be expected. Children love the sensory experience of taste at this time. However, when they try to put the block in their mouth, they are moving their hand in a rotational pattern thus increasing their fine motor ability. It is also time to practice picking up small objects such as cheerios or other types of cereal or small food (this skill usually begins closer to the age of 12 months). Finally, at around 10-12 months of age, it will be time to start holding onto a crayon and placing it to paper. If the crayon goes into the mouth, after three or four tries, then it may be time to take the crayon away and try a different activity such as picking up the cheerio.

Language development is a child’s ability to communicate with others verbally and nonverbally. For children ages 6 to 12 months, the developmental expectations include talking to toys (a babble, other polysyllabic sounds), using vocal signals for attention, beginning to imitate sounds, saying “mama,” “dada” and “baba”, holding hands out to be picked up, using dada and mama as names (around 10-12 months), playing pat-a-cake, responding to the word “no”, handing a toy back and forth, attempting to imitate words and having at least one to two words besides mama and dada.

Activities for the 6-to-12-month age range include continuing to talk to and with your child. Use the key sounds of mama, dada and baba consistently. Have your child sit with you and while saying mama and dada and help them touch you with their hands (this helps them put the name to the person). Read to them daily. Make reading a part of your daily routine. Talk out loud a lot during the day. Be their background noise and talk while you are doing any activities like washing dishes, picking up and cleaning. Continue to practice imitation of sounds. Make silly sounds to your child, sing silly made up songs and repeat the silly sounds they make.

Social development refers to a child’s ability to interact with their environment and other people. For children ages 6 to 12 months, the developmental expectations include showing a reaction to strangers, clinging to parents when distressed or upset, playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, beginning to express affection and anger, understanding and responding to the word no, objecting to separation, imitating small actions of others (hand movements, facial expressions) and handing a small toy back and forth.

Activities for the 6-to-12 month age range include practicing playing games like peek-a-boo and what’s under the blanket? Use your child’s name when you touch them and when you pick them up. Practice separation from your child with other adults your child has a trusting relationship with. Mom can leave while dad spends time and vice versa. Sing songs with lots of movement (Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) so your child can watch the movements. Start to use feelings words and show your child different feelings faces—be a mirror for your child.

Emotional development refers to a child’s ability to express their feelings to others and notice how others are feeling. For children ages 6 to 12 months, the developmental expectations include showing distinct stranger reactions, expressing many recognizable emotions, showing anxiety at separation and expressing affection and anger or frustration towards others.

Activities for the 6-to-12-month age range include using feeling words throughout the day. Your child will not yet be imitating these words, but you will be building the foundation for understanding feelings and faces. Spend time with other adults and children outside of the immediate or closest family. Visit library story times and other functions in your community designed for children under 1 year of age. Play outside as much as possible. Describe the world you are seeing through basic words and sensory experiences.

For more information on child development, parenting and school readiness please visit the Family Section on the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Reports: “Preparing young children to success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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