Growing physical independence
Only one month shy of his first birthday, your baby is no longer a helpless infant who can't do anything without you. He still needs plenty of care and support, but his growing independence — evident in his solo standing, stooping, and squatting — is becoming apparent. He may walk while gripping your hand, and he'll hold out his arm or leg to help you dress him. At mealtimes, he may be able to grip a cup and drink from it independently (though some children may not do this for a few more months) and hand-feed himself an entire meal.
Of course, once your child is able to drink from a cup by himself, you may need to start ducking, because he's just as likely to toss it when he's finished as he is to put it down gently. He'll also purposely drop objects for someone, probably you, to pick up.
Very easy readers
Your child likes to look at books and leaf through the pages, though he won't always turn them one by one. Indulge in great picture books, like Anno's Flea Market, by the great Japanese artist Mitsumasa Anno, Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue?, which introduces primary colors through photos of everyday objects, and The Snowman, a full-color cartoon book about a snowman who comes to life.
Becoming his own person
Your baby may now assert himself among his siblings and begin to engage in parallel play — contentedly playing alongside (but not with) another child. He may also have designated a favorite blanket or stuffed animal as a security object.
Time to start setting limits
Your baby now understands simple instructions, though he may purposely choose to ignore you when you say "no." (To help the word carry a little more weight, use it sparingly, for setting important limits.) But even though your baby may not always remember tomorrow what you've said today, it's not too soon to set certain boundaries and start teaching him some important distinctions, like right from wrong and safe from unsafe.
Use your best judgment as a guideline. You're not being mean if you don't let him devour a second cupcake, for example; you're setting healthy limits. If he pulls kitty's tail, move his hand, look him in the eye, and say, "No, that hurts the cat." Then guide your child's hand to pet the animal gently. His desire to explore is stronger than his desire to listen to your warnings, so it's up to you to protect and teach him. What seems to be defiance isn't; it's just his natural curiosity to see how the world works.
Talking up a storm
Words and word-like sounds are now spilling out of your baby — and he's able to use them meaningfully. As the frontal lobes of his brain continue to develop, so does his ability to reason and speak. Encourage his interest in language and his understanding of two-way communication by being an avid listener and responding to his sounds. To polish his memory skills, play games like patty-cake and peekaboo with him.
At this age, your baby can probably imitate word sounds and inflections, as well as actions. He may be able to follow simple one-step directions, such as "Please bring me the ball" or "Pick up the spoon." Help him learn by separating multi-step commands into easy-to-follow steps.
Cherish this brief but remarkable period when your baby's communication skills are emerging: They're perhaps his most important skill.
Is my baby developing normally?
Remember, each baby is unique and meets physical milestones at his own pace. These skills are simply a guide to what your baby has the potential to accomplish — if not right now, then shortly.If your baby was born prematurely, you'll probably find that it will take just a bit longer before he can do the same things as other children his age. Don't worry. Most doctors assess a preterm child's development from the time he should have been born and evaluate his skills accordingly.