10–12 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

10–12 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

Your baby’s cognitive and language development at 10–12 months old. Follow your baby’s milestones step-by-step.

Cognitive development refers to the acquisition of skills such as memory, attention, reasoning, and planning. These skills allow children to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, in addition to helping them store knowledge, solve problems, exercise judgment, and understand the world around them. Cognitive development also includes language development, which is a child’s ability to communicate, make sounds, understand language, and begin to talk.

Cognitive and language development: 10–12months old

Cognitive skills

At this age:

  • Your baby can look for a hidden object in several places, not just where they last saw it. For example, they may lift overturned bowls, look in a box, or open bags.
  • They associate gestures and sounds with certain things. For example, your baby may meow at the cat, or point their finger in the air when they see a bird.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • Your baby’s memory is improving. For example, they are able to imitate a sound they heard earlier, and can remember an object that they’ve seen before, even if it’s no longer in front of them.
  • Your baby can stay focused on objects they like for several minutes at a time.

Over the next few months, your baby will begin to do the following:

  • Enjoy looking at pictures in books
  • Recognize and point to the correct body parts when asked
  • Understand that small objects can fit into larger ones
  • Match shapes (e.g., inserting a cylindrical object into the corresponding hole in a container)
  • Have fun pretending by using simple gestures (e.g., putting an imaginary phone to their ear)

Language skills

At this age:

  • Your baby understands certain simple sentences, such as "give me the book," when accompanied by gestures (e.g., when you hold out your hand to show that you expect to be given the object).
  • They learn to gesture when they hear words, such as shaking their head from side to side when they hear “no,” or waving their hand when they hear “bye bye.”
  • They can string together several different syllables in a row (e.g., “a-ba-da”).
  • Your child points and makes sounds to ask for something.
  • They increasingly imitate the sounds they hear in their environment, such as animal noises.

Over the next few months, your baby will begin to do the following:

  • Respond to simple verbal requests without gestures.
  • Use words to describe people and objects. These words won’t necessarily sound like real words (e.g., “bah” for sheep, “ba” for ball).

How can you help your child progress?

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your baby’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your baby’s cognitive and language development depending on their age.

When you regularly sing familiar songs to your baby,
they recognize them and may try to repeat certain words or gestures.
When you give your baby words of encouragement (e.g., “well done!”),
they understand that you’re encouraging them and that helps develop their self confidence.
When you repeat the same words over and over to comfort your baby (e.g., “Mommy’s here”),
they gradually understand these words and find them reassuring.
When you play simple games like “peek-a-boo” with your baby,
they learn to repeat gestures and associate them with words.
When you encourage your baby to use rattles and pots and pans to make music, and then imitate their sounds and gestures,
they like that you’re imitating them and want to imitate you too.
When you imitate the sounds of animals, vehicles, or familiar household items,
your baby enjoys it and may try to repeat the same noises you’re making.
When you give your baby interesting objects and empty containers (e.g., cereal boxes, yogurt containers, sponges),
they study the objects and start to understand their functions and dimensions (size and shape).
When you use a string to tie a toy to your baby’s high chair,
they start looking for the object after it falls off the tray and learn that it can be retrieved by pulling on the string.
When you name an object several times in a row in various sentences, for example: “The car is running! The car goes fast! Here, I’ll give you the car,”
your baby learns the names of objects more easily.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Marie-Ève Bergeron-Gaudin, speech-language pathologist, and Noémie Montminy, doctoral student in psychopedagogy at Université Laval.
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: August 2021


Photo: GettyImages/FatCamera



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