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Babies' Cognitive Development from 9-12 Months


mom holding baby 9-12 months and playing with toy



Watching your nine to 12 month old problem solve is fascinating - a baby can make piling wooden blocks seem as entertaining as a theme park! Here's what else you can expect at this age.

Cognitive Milestones

A typical nine to 12 month old will: 

  • Try to find objects you've hidden.
  • Try new ways to reach the same goal, or change old actions through trial and error.
  • Connect animals with actions and sounds, such as meows, barks, or chirps.
  • Copy the actions of others.
  • Develop stronger memory skills.
  • Become aware of parents as separate people from herself. Baby may point when asked, "Who’s Mommy? Who’s Daddy?"
  • Recognize own name, when spoken.
  • Start to see cause and effect, such as the fact that things fall when dropped.
  • Match shapes. For example, your baby may place a cube in a matching square hole. 

Play and Activity

As your baby's cognitive skills develop and flourish, be sure to engage your child in fun and interesting activities.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Praise new accomplishments.
  • Keep adding to the range of objects/toys you are providing for your baby.
  • Play action games in which you and your baby take turns. Try blowing kisses, clapping, or peeking.
  • Ask your baby to help you find lost objects.
  • Talk about cause and effect: “You dropped Teddy, so now Teddy is on the floor.”
  • Read books with your baby.
  • Play music and encourage dancing and movement.
  • Continue to breastfeed.

Other Cognitive Milestones

Your nine to 12 month old may also:

  • Enjoy looking at pictures.
  • Point to the correct parts of the body when asked where they are.
  • Know that smaller objects fit into larger ones.
  • Search more for hidden objects.
  • Repeat an action that gets a reaction, such as knocking over blocks.
  • Put two ideas together, such as going to another room to get a toy and bringing it back.
  • Leave an activity and return to it later. 

Exploring Through Play

Playing is one of the most important ways that babies learn and develop. Between six and 12 months, they're known as "explorers" with an unquenchable curiosity about the world around them. During this time, your baby is beginning to sit up, crawl, pull up and grab for everything within reach.

Your baby will also start to understand cause and effect and search for things that were hidden - that may include you, as you walk into another room. You will find yourself talking to your baby more and more as you begin to hear first words. Your baby will be busy dumping, stacking and pouring. This is a good time to give your baby balls, sturdy toys on wheels, blocks, nesting toys, rattles and bowls of different sizes.

Become a Bookworm

An excellent way to foster your baby’s cognitive development is by reading books together – it’s never too early to start! Your baby may flip the pages and stare at the pictures at first, but it won’t be long before your little one is quietly listening to stories while you read. Visit your local library. There are many children’s books that your baby will enjoy. Make books an important part of your baby’s world.

Resources & Links:
Leap BC’s Guide: Move with Me from Birth to Three
HealthLink BC: Cognitive Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months 
HealthLink BC: Stimulate Your Baby's Learning

Last Updated: August 5, 2013