Around 12 months, toddlers check off some major milestones. They may learn to sit up on their own, cruise, and even start playing with peers.
They also begin to understand object permanence, or that a toy still exists when it disappears from view. This is a great time to narrate their play and help them learn.
Experiencing Sensory Issues
The senses are your baby’s connection to the world, and sensory issues are when an individual experiences certain sensations as uncomfortable or even painful. This includes touch, sight, smell, taste, and movement. Children can experience both over-sensitivity (hypersensitivity) and under-sensitivity (hyposensitivity).
Usually, children with sensory issues are unaware that what they’re doing is unusual. That’s why they don’t understand their parents or teachers when they say that what they’re experiencing isn’t normal. They can’t tell you when things are uncomfortable and don’t know how to communicate that discomfort with others.
Babies with sensory issues may cry or scream when they’re touched, and they may arch their backs when being held. They may suck their thumbs, cover their ears, or put their fingers in their mouths. They can be fidgety and drop things often. They might also have a restricted eating diet and be super picky with the textures of foods. They may also be clumsy and have trouble with balance, coordination, and motor planning skills.
A child’s sensory challenges can be difficult for the whole family to deal with, especially when they become a major source of conflict and stress. Some children with sensory issues can become extremely over-stimulated and have trouble sleeping or concentrating. They may be easily startled by loud noises such as toilets flushing, crowd cheering, or fire drills.
Symptoms of sensory processing disorder can vary by the child, but some common ones include a low tolerance for light or sound and difficulty telling the difference between textures. Other symptoms can include an inability to eat certain types of food and a low pain threshold.
Sensory processing disorders aren’t officially recognized as a neurological condition, and it can be challenging to determine whether a 12-month-old is showing signs of this issue or not. That’s why it’s a good idea to consult with a professional who will be able to help you. They can evaluate your child’s behavior and make suggestions on how to improve their quality of life. They can also refer you to a healthcare professional who is familiar with this type of situation.
Experiencing Developmental Issues
At this age, children are experiencing a lot of growth and change. They are learning to control their body movements, developing gross motor skills, and establishing independence. This is often reflected in their behavior. Some toddlers may act like they are ignoring their toys because they have other things they need to do or because they are exploring a toy in a way that is different than how adults play with it. However, if they are playing with the toy at all, they are likely learning something from it.
Some 12-month-olds enjoy playing with a peer during free play. This is an excellent time to introduce social activities that teach cooperation and sharing. You can try games like Ring Around the Rosie and Chase or filling buckets together on the playground.
In addition to being interested in their peers, many 12-month-olds are also learning about their bodies. They are discovering their balance, speed, and climbing abilities. They are working to strengthen their legs and arms. Their brains are growing at a rapid rate.
Because of this, they are often more interested in pushing their limits and what their bodies can do than using the toys on the shelf. This is not necessarily bad, but it may make the toy seem boring to adults.
Toddlers are also learning how to express their needs and emotions. They are starting to understand that others have feelings, too, so they will often show affection or be afraid of leaving their parents. Usually, they will be more accepting of separation from their parents if they have been playing independently for a while.
During this age, it is important to keep in mind that some toddlers will experience developmental delays. This is because this is a period of very rapid development. For this reason, it is a good idea to monitor your child closely and refer to a developmental chart so that you can see if they are reaching milestones at the expected times.
It is also a good idea to minimize the number of toys in your child’s room and rotate them out regularly. This will help to keep them interested in the ones that they have out. Avoiding toys with small features such as buttons, beads, or anything that could fall off and become a choking hazard is also a good idea.
Experiencing Social Issues
As toddlers grow, they become more interested in playing with other children. This is the start of social play, and it’s great for helping kids learn about sharing and taking turns. Kids can also start to understand what others are feeling at this age. Kids this age are more affectionate and may be more willing to give hugs to family members and friends or show empathy for those in distress.
Another reason your 12-month-old might not be playing with 12-month-old toys is that they are exploring them unfamiliarly. This is often a sign that they are learning, but it can be frustrating for parents as it seems like they’re not doing what the toy was meant to do.
Toddlers always push the boundaries of what their bodies can do and explore their gross motor skills. Their interest in toys is usually a result of that exploration. They will be interested in how fast they can run, what heights they can climb, and how much strength they have. Sitting still and playing with toys is hard when you’re focused on developing these big-boy or girl abilities.
One final thing to consider is that maybe your child doesn’t see you playing with the toys or doesn’t know what the toy is supposed to do. It’s important that infants and toddlers are shown how to play with their toys by an adult. Babies and toddlers do what they see adults doing. If your kid doesn’t see you playing with her toys or hasn’t been taught what the toy is for, it’s possible she just doesn’t think it is interesting.
If you want your child to engage with their toys more, try picking out open-ended toys with multiple uses or engaging in a fun way, like blocks or dolls. You can also try setting up a playdate and getting your child to interact with other kids in a group. These social activities can help develop turn-taking and other key social skills. Limiting screen time is also a good idea, as it can interfere with development.
Experiencing Emotional Issues
During this time, babies’ brains are developing rapidly, and they start to really learn about their world. That’s why it’s important to let them explore and play with toys in safe ways. It’s also a great time to get them to interact with you and other people in playful ways. Playing games like peek-a-boo with your baby and teaching them how to respond to your reactions to their actions, like crying when they hurt themselves or becoming fearful in new situations, helps your child build a strong emotional base they’ll use throughout their life.
Babies in this age range often play with their toys in ways that don’t look “correct” to adults. For example, they may carry their toys from place to place or move objects around without playing with them. But their explorations are valuable and a great way for them to practice motor skills. They are also figuring out what their toys are for, which is called functional play.
Children can be very independent at this stage, but they may still need your presence and affection. Your toddler probably wants to interact with you as much as possible and enjoys your attention. This is a healthy, normal part of development and shows your baby that you are the love of her life. However, you can encourage her to engage in self-play and social interaction with other people by putting screens away while she plays, encouraging her to join you in your playtime activities, and introducing her to peers at a safe age.
It’s also normal for 12-month-olds to experience separation anxiety from you and other family members. It is also very normal for them to be fearful of strangers and loud noises or new situations, such as a trip to the park. If your child’s separation anxiety seems to be getting out of control, it’s worth talking to a therapist or psychologist to explore any underlying issues and come up with a treatment plan. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy offers a directory of practitioners in your area.