One Year Old Charlie

Happy Birthday Charlie, you are one year old!

The day has finally arrived to celebrate Charlie’s happy birthday!  You have the balloons out by the end of the driveway with a big 1 on them.  Your eyes carry you through pin wheels, teddy bears and yard signs as they line your walkway to the backyard.  Guests have arrived with their children, and grandma and grandpa have their favorite one-year old in their arms.  The trees in the backyard provide for great shade and the cool breeze this afternoon makes for a great celebration!

As parents, you step back for a moment to contemplate the scene and wonder how you ever got to this point.  Why, it only seemed like yesterday that this bundle of joy was so dependent on you for all the feedings, diaper changes and soothing to sleep.

The energy that goes into gross motor development

One of the biggest accomplishments for a one-year-old is learning how to walk.  The energy put into this accomplishment has been building for a long time.  Gross motor development in a child is very predictable, gradually developing strength from the neck and upper body as he learns how to hold his head steady by four months, to building core muscle strength so he can sit in a highchair by six months, and then developing those pelvic muscles and start to crawl by nine months.  Once he gets the idea that he can go places by crawling, he soon realizes that he can pull himself up on furniture, cruise along the furniture and eventually let go.  Those first few steps are exciting, not just for him as you see his facial expression of apprehension changing to smile and satisfaction, but for you as a parent as well as you feel so proud for his accomplishment.  Friends and parents must learn of this milestone, and we post it on Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook.

What is interesting about the development of this independence is that he truly believes he can conquer everything.  Going over safety and making sure one more time that your home is child-proof is of paramount importance.  You can get a good checklist at American Academy of Pediatrics Home Safety Checklist .

Refining Fine Motor skills

Along with gross motor development, your child’s hands and fingers have become better at handling objects, including the spoon and fork.  Depending on how tidy you like to be, you might feel compelled to provide food for him on his tray and let him use the spoon and fork.  Sometimes, your springer spaniel Murphy gets to have some extra treats when Charlie is in his highchair.  The pincer grasp, with his thumb and index finger, which probably started around nine months of age, is now fully developed as he picks up cheerios and crumbs without difficulty.  His dexterity has also developed so that he turns pages in a book with care, gradually moving away from that stage where he used to mouth the book.

Speech Development at one year

Speech development is just starting to take off.  He has been listening (receptive language) a fair amount and you get the impression he can understand a good amount.  However, expressive language always lags receptive language, and at this stage in his life, he has about two to three words in his vocabulary that you can understand.  His frustrations are frequent as you play guessing games with what he wants, and this will continue for the next year.  What is interesting is that if he has older siblings, they seem to understand him better and they frequently speak for him.

Problem solving and social development

His curiosity continues to push him to explore his surroundings.  He is learning the concept of space and how objects can go into boxes, and he can then take them out.  Object permanency is also taking place so you can hide objects from him, and he can search for them.  And finally, he is learning to scribble on paper as he holds a crayon with an immature grasp (using all five fingers).

Socially, he is still exhibiting some stranger anxiety which had initially sprung up around six to nine months of age.   But if friends and family members can gain his confidence, he can play and interact with them as he shares toys and passes them back and forth or throws a ball across the room.  He is also participating better in getting dressed as he offers you his arms and legs while you try to put on his shirt and pants.

One of the challenges in trying to understand his pushing people away is that sometimes this stranger anxiety mixes in with his sense of independence.  He wants to do things himself and his way.  If we can see this difference, we can then adopt a role of a helper when he is trying to do things his way rather than us moving back a step if he feels stranger anxiety.  The more you do things for him, the more dissatisfied he is going to be and the more likely you are to see some of his frustration.  Then, the temper tantrums will start and sometimes it is hard to get out of that cycle.

His negative energy can make you feel frustrated, and everything can move in a downward spiral.  A good tip of advice: give him space to do it his way and be encouraging and supportive.   A good effort on his part should be celebrated.  Positivity begets positivity and creates the beginnings of a life-long trusting foundation of parental support for the child’s independence and endeavors.

So, for now, it is time to celebrate this magical moment of turning one year old.  I like chocolate cake, how about you?


  1. Ages & Stages Questionnaire
  2. AAP Pediatric Patient Education, Home Safety Checklist
  3. Touchpoints, The Essential Reference, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1992.

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