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9 To 12 Months
Getting Vertical: She stands & cruises & walks, oh my!
At about 9 months, your baby will probably be able to pull herself up to standing. For a while she will rely on you to support her, and then—usually by 15 months—she will start standing and moving around on her own steam, "cruising" from one piece of furniture to another.
"A coffee table with rounded edges or a couch is at the perfect height for a budding walker to hold on and pull up to standing or to stay balanced while cruising around," says Ari Brown, M.D. Placing a toy or standing just out of a baby's reach will encourage her to let go and move to the toy or to you. On average, most babies walk unassisted at around a year, though the normal range is anywhere from 9to 15 months. If you have wood floors, you may want to invest in a rug to prevent or cushion falls.
If you've heard that helping your baby walk before she is ready will make her bowlegged, Brown says it's an old wives' tale. "There is nothing wrong with encouraging your baby to cruise or walk, except that she may not be ready for it," Brown explains. "You can't control your baby's ability to accomplish a milestone. That is something she has to do on her own."
1 To 2 Years
Busy Hands: Fine motor skills get fine-tuned.
Fine motor skills—finger and hand movements—take lots of practice. Starting around 9 months, a baby will "palm" pieces of food and shove them into his mouth. When he's between 9 and 10 months, his pincer grasp—the ability to pick up a small object using the thumb and index finger—gets more precise. At 12 months he should be able to pick up something like a Cheerio and put it neatly into his mouth and to grab and drink from a sippy cup. Around the same age, babies also begin putting blocks into a pail and throwing things.
"By around 18 months, babies will start to scribble, but at this age they really don't know the difference between a piece of paper and the floor or wall," says Tanya Remar Altmann, M.D. "They're also able to build a three-block tower." Between 1 1/2 and 2 years, toddlers learn to put large puzzle pieces in place and to turn one page of a baby book at a time.
The good news is that your child doesn't need any special toys to develop these skills. "As long as parents offer a variety of activities to stimulate their baby, he will be fine," Altmann says. "A Tupperware bowl and wooden spoon will do."