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Social and emotional development
Learning through play
Your baby tries to play with everything. And everything she plays with teaches her something new. She learns from toys, books and household items. She also learns from interactions with people.
If your baby has older brothers and sisters, she will watch to see how they play with toys. Your baby will want to play the same way. She imitates and copies what other people do.
If your baby is with another child of the same age, she will watch the other child. Sometimes she will copy that child’s play. The children may play side by side. But they probably won’t interact except to mimic one another.
Your baby will learn most from her interactions with you. Your patience and support will teach her independence. Your encouragement will help her learn that she is unique and has special skills. Your guidance and consistency will help her feel safe. In return, she will share her learning and success.
Working on words
Your 12-month-old is probably working hard on her language skills. She shows that she understands many words even though she can’t say them. This is called receptive language. For example, when you ask her to hand you a toy or point to a picture in a book, she can do it.
Continue to go slowly with requests. Break activities down into many parts. Your baby will be able to follow simple requests. For example, if you are looking at a picture book, don’t say, “Where are the farm animals?” Instead, say things like, “Point to the cow.” “Show me the pig.” “Do you see a chicken?” Give your baby time to think and respond before you move on to the next animal.
Expressive language—saying words—is developing, too. Your baby makes conversation-like noises, following your speech rhythm. She may say a few words clearly. She will point and gesture to help you understand the words she doesn’t pronounce well. Clearly say the word she is trying to use. She will try to imitate you. In time, her speech will become clear and easy to understand.
Remember your baby is working on 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. Usually, with your support, all areas of development will level out. Remember, if you become worried that her development is delayed, talk to her doctor.