7 to 12 months Developmental summary

Topic What's going on for baby? How can parents and whānau help?
Enjoying books

At this stage baby will explore books (and toys) using their eyes, ears, hands and mouth. They’ll look at a book, shake it, bang it and mouth it.

Baby will also enjoy having whānau read to them. They’ll like hearing the same stories again and again, and will have their favourites.

When they have regular time enjoying books with whānau, they’ll learn to associate stories and book time with security and fun.

  • Snuggle up with baby and:
  • hold the book so both of you can see it
  • talk about the pictures
  • tell the story
  • encourage baby to turn the pages
  • enjoy ‘reading time’ together.
  • Provide a variety of books for baby.
  • Have books with plenty of animals in them, so baby can enjoy hearing parents and whānau make all the animal sounds.
  • If baby wants to look at the book in their own way, be patient and talk about whatever page they want to focus on.
Communicating

During this time, baby will understand many more words than they can say. By 12 months old, they can understand about 10 words that they’ve heard often.

They’ll also learn to follow requests such as, ‘Wave to Daddy!’ They’ll look at books and listen for a brief time when whānau share books with them, and they’ll also enjoy rhymes and songs.

Baby will use a mixture of strategies to communicate with people, such as gestures (especially pointing), sounds with gestures, jabbering (noises that sound like speech), facial expressions, ‘almost-words’ such as ‘ca’ for ‘cat’, and some complete words — such as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’.

  • Use parallel talk and self-talk so baby hears the words that match what they’re looking at (or playing with). This helps to increase their vocabulary.
  • Have fun sharing books together every day.
  • Share rhymes and songs. This is another fun way to learn what words mean.
  • Tell baby the words that match what they’re pointing and gesturing at. For example, if they’re pointing to their bottle or a cup, respond with, ‘Do you want a drink?’
Copying

Baby is paying close attention to what family members are doing and saying, and will try to copy their actions and words.

Copying is how a baby learns.

  • Help baby learn things like waving and clapping hands by showing and encouraging them.
  • Understand that when baby is determined to get mum or dad’s phone, or the TV remote, they just want to copy what they see others doing.
  • Think about the things you don’t really want baby to copy, and try not to do or say them when baby is nearby. This could include hitting, picking your nose, or swearing.
Experimenting

A baby can now use many different strategies and techniques to learn about a toy or an object.

This experimentation is called ‘cause and effect testing’. They’ll repeat some actions many times over, as though they’re testing to find out if the same thing happens every time.

They’ll also be mastering their ‘pincer grasp’ — using their thumb and index finger to pick up small objects.

This skill helps with the development of many fine motor skills such as manipulating toys and objects, turning pages in books and picking up small pieces of food.

Eventually it will also contribute to them mastering tools used for drawing and writing, and for threading beads and cutting.

  • Let baby safely do the same thing over and over again, as they test to see whether the same action gets the same result.
  • Be patient with baby when they want to repeat (and repeat) an action.
  • Keep a sense of humour.
  • Give baby a variety of objects to explore with their hands.
  • Give baby finger foods that they can pick up and feed themself.
  • Check their Well Child/Tamariki Ora book for ideas about safe finger foods for this stage.
  • Decide what baby should and shouldn’t touch based on whether it’s safe or not.
  • Understand that just telling baby to leave something alone is not enough to stop them. Their curiosity is too strong.
  • If you don’t want baby to touch something, try distracting them with another activity or moving it out of sight.
Exploring

A baby during this period is getting more mobile, moving around and exploring what they can see, reach and manipulate. They’ll be grasping, mouthing, shaking, banging, dropping —and then throwing — objects to see what happens, and what they can make happen.

They’ll also repeat actions that have interesting effects — for example, pressing a button to make a noise. These types of activities create many new connections in their brain.

Repetition makes these connections stronger. As connections get insulated with a fatty coating called ‘myelin’, they allow messages to travel quickly and efficiently, becoming permanent pathways in their brains.

Make sure baby can explore safely. Check and make safe:

  • drinks and food items left within reach
  • household cleaners
  • heaters, fires and ovens
  • indoor plants
  • medications
  • poisons
  • poisonous plants
  • plugs and electrical cords
  • steps and stairs — teach baby to come down backwards
  • windows.
Figuring out the world

A baby’s brain is now developing the ability to visualise a thing or a person when they’re out of baby’s sight.

This is called having ‘object permanence’ — they understand that things and people still exist, even when they can’t be seen.

Now baby will look for things that are hidden, and may get upset if the person they’re attached to is no longer in their sight.

  • Play hiding and finding games with baby, such as hiding a toy under the rug and encouraging baby to find it.
  • Call to baby when you’ve left the room, so baby knows you’re still nearby.
  • Share a ‘flap’ book with baby. This helps them learn about things appearing and disappearing.
  • Play ‘peekaboo’ with baby. This also helps them understand that things and people can disappear and then reappear.
Learning about limits

During this period a baby is increasing their skills and ability to move on their own, going when and where they choose. And they’ll be playing with things that interest them — whether they’re safe for baby or not.

Baby is interested in finding things and then discovering what they can do with them. They’re focusing on exploring and satisfying their curiosity, without any awareness of hazards and dangers.

  • Find a balance between baby exercising their curiosity and staying safe. There will be times and places when parents will need to limit baby’s activities.
  • Think about what places are more ‘baby friendly’ than others.
  • Remember that baby isn’t behaving in this way to upset or annoy dad or mum, they’re exploring to learn.
  • Be consistent — baby will get confused if something is okay sometimes and other times it’s not. If it’s ‘no’ once, it needs to stay ‘no’
  • Use a firm but warm tone of voice.
  • Have a small number of ‘no’s’ and stick to them.
  • Say what mum and dad want baby to do rather than what they don’t want them to do. For example, if they are trying to stand up in their highchair parents could say, ‘Sit down in your highchair. Chairs are for sitting.’
  • Try distracting baby with a different toy or activity — even better if it’s like the one they’re not allowed. For example, ‘Here’s a soft ball for throwing. Books are for looking at’.
On the move

During this stage baby will be rolling, sitting, pulling themselves up to a standing position, ‘cruising’ (sidestepping while holding onto furniture), standing on their own, and maybe beginning to walk with help or by themselves.

As their mobility increases, they can decide for themselves where they’ll go and what they’ll explore when they get there!

  • Share baby’s excitement as they learn to move.
  • Encourage new movement skills by giving baby toys that roll, and by putting toys in places that baby has to move to reach them.
  • Get down to baby’s level and check around the house and garden for dangerous or precious things that baby shouldn’t touch.
  • Move or remove those precious or dangerous things so baby can explore freely and safely. This is called making a ‘Yes!’ environment.
Recognising familiar people

During this stage as a baby becomes more strongly attached to close family members, they become aware there are other people they don’t know as well.

They may be cautious when new people come close, and they might grizzle and get anxious or upset. This is known as ‘stranger anxiety’ and is a sign of a healthy attachment between baby and their caregivers.

  • Feel glad that baby knows the difference between close family and other people and understand that baby will sometimes need to ‘warm up’ gradually to others.
  • Reassure other people that baby is in a new stage of development and is learning that they are ‘okay’ people to be with, if they give baby time and understanding.
Showing their feelings

At this stage of development, baby will express affection and frustration towards their parents and caregivers.

They’ll want to move and explore, but they also need to feel secure — so they’ll keep an eye on mum or dad and come back to them for reassurance.

  • Understand that baby has feelings as intense as an adult’s.
  • Try to stay calm and acknowledge baby’s feelings.
  • Enjoy kisses and cuddles with baby — you’re giving them a reward for their love and attention.
  • Stick with your limits when baby is frustrated at not getting what they want.
  • Stay calm and show them love and warmth, even when their behaviour may be irritating.