Healthy living

Child development 9–12 months

Your baby is now moving around. They’re ‘talking’ and making recognisable sounds.

Your baby loves you talking to them and looking at picture books together, pointing to objects they know. They’re putting sounds together by babbling, trying to copy or say first words, and saying ‘no’ with a shake of the head.

Your baby may be clingy and wary of strangers, but they’re forming special relationships with you and other family members. Their personality is becoming clear to you.

Social and emotional

It is usually during this time that your baby begins to understand their very special relationship with you and with friends and relatives.

  • They will smile and babble, try to have conversations with you, and copy simple hand games like ‘clap hands’ or ‘bye bye’.
  • They’re starting to know that when you go away you’ll come back again, and that you are still there even when they can’t see you. Unfortunately, this also means that they’re frightened when you leave and your baby may cling and cry. Your baby will start to be wary of strangers. Talking to them when you are in another room can help them to understand.
  • ‘Peek-a-boo’ and ‘hiding’ are favourite games because they’re about familiar people coming and going. Your baby is beginning to understand that when they see you, you also see them. But they still think if they can’t see you, you can’t see them (which is why they puts their hands over their eyes to hide).
  • Your baby is starting to understand that they’re a person and that the baby in the mirror might be them.
  • Your baby is really starting to know what they like and don’t like. They may kick and resist nappy change time or other limits on their behaviour.
  • They now understand ‘no’, though they’ll spend the next 18 months checking exactly what it means.

Physical development

Moving around

Your baby is now moving around all on their own.

  • They might pull themselves along with their arms, roll around, or crawl on all fours.
  • They’ll start to pull themselves to standing while holding on to you, a chair or other furniture, and then begin to walk while still holding on.
  • They might start to walk by themselves, or they might not walk for a few months yet.

It’s a big thing to see your baby ‘standing on their own two feet’, even if they're holding on to something.

Becoming independent

Your baby’s fine motor skills are improving quickly.

  • They can pick up an object with their thumb and fingers, rather than grabbing with the palm of their hand.
  • They poke and point with their finger, bang things together and transfers objects from one hand to another.
  • But they still can’t control putting things down and will often drop an object to release it from their grasp.
  • They’re now able to sit on their own for quite long times, and enjoy exploring objects and the sounds they can make with them, while sitting on the floor.
  • They can feed themselves in their high chair, although they’re often more interested in squishing and feeling than eating. They can only learn how to eat properly (such as using a spoon) by practising, so be prepared for some mess.
  • They can drink out of a cup with a spout without help.

Speech and language

Your baby now understands how conversations work (by taking turns).

  • Although you might not understand your baby's words, they will ‘chat’ away, imitating what a conversation sounds like.
  • They may be saying simple sounds like ‘mummum’ and ‘daddad’.
  • They know several words and may shake their head for ‘no’.
  • They are not making the huge variety of sounds that they were earlier because they’re starting to make the sounds of their family’s language.
  • They love music and rhymes and will bounce and sway to the rhythm. They love repeating songs over and over again.

Babies are usually very interested in picture books by now. Reading with your baby really helps develop their language.

  • Give your baby their own kitchen cupboard – they can open and shut the door, and play with things inside. (Toddler-proof any cupboards that have breakables or dangerous things in them.)
  • Give them pots, lids and spoons to bang.
  • Sing songs with actions and repeat phrases. Move to the rhythm of music together.
  • Look at simple books with clear pictures in them.
  • Play ‘hiding’ behind the couch or curtains. Talk with them a lot.
  • Sit your baby on the floor with their toys and play together. Follow their lead if they start playing a certain way – copy them and take turns. For example, build a tower of blocks so they can have fun knocking them down, over and over.
  • Encourage them to push a trolley with bricks in it.
  • Cuddle and roll on the floor.
  • At this age, your baby will like being with people best of all, but they’re starting to be interested in toys that move or make a noise.

Your baby is unique

Every baby is different and may develop at different rates.

So, if your baby does not do some of these things, they may be ‘working’ on a different area of learning and development. However, babies usually follow the same pattern of development, and it’s good to feel that your baby is developing normally, in their own unique way.

If you are worried about your baby’s development, or if they are very different from other babies, talk with your doctor or child health nurse. If there is a problem, it’s better to get help early.


Talk to your doctor or community health nurse if, by 12 months, your child is:

  • NOT pulling themselves up to stand.
  • NOT moving around.
  • NOT changing objects from one hand to another.
  • NOT looking up when you call their name.
  • NOT copying simple sounds like ‘mum mum’.
  • NOT showing signs of being especially attached to you (the person who looks after them most)
  • NOT smiling, laughing, squealing and trying to attract your attention.


Safety is a big issue when babies start to move around by themselves.

  • Baby-proof your house and make sure all dangerous items, including medicines, are locked away up high.
  • Put things that they might break well out of reach too – your baby can’t stop themselves from touching anything that looks interesting.
  • They will still put anything they hold into their mouth. Now that your baby can pick up small things, there’s a higher risk that they can choke, or swallow dangerous objects.
  • Always supervise children around water.

More information

Local community, school or child health nurse

  • See inside your baby's purple All About Me book
  • Look in the service finder for child health centres
  • Visit your nearest child health centre

Local family doctor

Ngala Parenting Line 

  • 8.00am – 8.00pm 7 days a week
  • Phone: (08) 9368 9368
  • Outside metro area – Free call 1800 111 546 (free from land line only)
  • Visit the Ngala website (external site)

Raising Children Network

Last reviewed: 27-05-2019

Child and Adolescent Health Service – Community Health (CAHS CH)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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