Infant learning, 9-12 months

Discover what's happening in your baby's beautiful little mind—all before his first birthday!

Learning Stages

By Clement Chau, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Learning Expert

As the children and media expert on the Learning Team, Clement primarily works on toys and digital products related to social studies, creativity, life skills and early childhood development. Before joining LeapFrog, he was an early education consultant, a media literacy researcher at the MIT Comparative Media Studies department, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, and a researcher and lecturer at the Tufts University Developmental Technologies Research Group. Clement received his PhD from Tufts University's Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development and completed his dissertation on evaluating children's mobile apps.

The short span between 9 and 12 months mark significant growth in emerging toddlers. During this period, babies are gearing up for two important developments—walking and talking—and there is a lot to do in preparation for these major milestones.

Physical development

Between 9 and 12 months, babies’ physical development affords them many different opportunities to play, move and relate. Standing and cruising bring babies to new places in their homes, as well as access to objects and furniture at new heights. They can now pick up objects from the floor as well as reach for items that might be on low shelves or coffee tables. Locomotion and movements empower them to be sociable—they can seek for attention rather than wait for someone.

Besides gross motor development, the older babies’ hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are also maturing. They are more able to grasp and manipulate small objects. They practice picking up and letting go of whatever they can put their hands on—perhaps you've seen this "game" played from your baby's high-chair. These activities are in the service of exercising fine motor skills and coordination, as well as experimenting with action and reaction. Your baby's high-chair hijinx may actually be his experiments to learn about how things fall.

Imitation & play

As babies continue to observe new events and explore new environments, they might begin to imitate adult behaviors. Imitation becomes a key way for older babies and new toddlers. They may imitate and replicate voice sounds they hear, a specific sequence of actions, or even emulate adult behaviors with pretend play. Playing games that involve funny sounds and facial expressions helps spark your child’s imagination. 

After the age of nine months, babies become fascinated with learning about objects. Babies at this stage may begin to use everyday objects and toys in the way they were intended. They experiment by interacting with objects in new and creative ways. 

Remember, learning doesn’t happen at once

Your baby develops many skills at the same time. For example, she may be putting a lot of energy into learning to walk. If so, her language development may slow down for a bit. Or she may be trying to get used to a new child-care center. If so, her physical and social skills may stall. Give plenty of support, and all areas of development will usually level out.