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Babies' Social and Emotional Development from 9-12 Months


baby 9-12 months playing on floor with foam play mats


By the age of nine to 12 months, your baby has developed a distinct personality and demonstrates emotions like sadness, happiness, anger, fear, hurt or discomfort. Here are some more of the social and emotional milestones you can expect.

Social and Emotional Milestones

At this age, a typical baby:

  • Knows when a parent likes or dislikes certain behaviour.
  • Holds out arms and legs while being dressed.
  • Mimics simple actions.
  • Imitates other children.
  • Repeats sounds or movements that make you laugh.
  • Seeks comfort when upset.
  • Shows many emotions, such as being sad, happy, mad, scared, hurt, or uncomfortable.
  • Shows distress when he does something wrong.
  • Always needs to be within sight and hearing her caregiver.
  • Displays affection in hugs, kisses, pats, and smiles.

Play and Activity

Now that your baby is older, you can do even more to nurture social and emotional development through activity and play.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Respond to your baby’s calls or signals for help and attention to build trust.
  • Create and follow regular routines.
  • Offer choices you're comfortable with. For example, "Do you want this cup or that cup?"
  • Model good manners: use "please" and "thank you."
  • Talk about what happens next in routines or upcoming events.
  • Provide safe places for your baby to explore.
  • Continue to breastfeed.
  • Make lots of eye contact and smile at her.
  • Cuddle your baby.
  • Comfort your baby, especially when he is upset, sick, or hurt.
  • Create routines and structure in your baby’s day.
  • Turn everyday routines into playful moments.
  • Talk about your baby’s emotions: "I see you are feeling sad/happy/frustrated."
  • Ask your baby for hugs and kisses.
  • Provide your baby with chances to play with other children and to be around people.

Other Social and Emotional Milestones

Your nine to 12 month old may also:

  • Show fear of strangers.
  • Dance to music.
  • Know routines.
  • Try different ways of getting attention, such as copying sounds.
  • Enjoy being the centre of attention.
  • Cry when left with other caregivers.
  • Show empathy, such as starting to cry when another child cries.
  • Express a desire to do things independently.
  • Express like or dislike of certain people and toys.
  • Show discomfort when fearful or stressed.
  • Express new fears and insecurity with situations that were previously OK.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Emotional and Social Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months

Last Updated: January 25, 2018