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Milestones: 12 to 15 Months: Emotional Development

One of the great miracles of parenting is watching your baby slowly emerge into toddlerhood and then childhood. Every new skill is a triumph, and each thought and feeling is experienced as a new, exciting and sometimes frustrating new sensation. By the time your baby reaches 1-year-old, they have already learned a great deal. Your baby is likely cruising if not walking, saying a couple of recognizable words, and is increasingly responsive to a wide variety of situations.

But learning is hard work, especially when there’s so much to learn. As a result, beginning around their first birthday, many babies begin to demonstrate a new and powerful emotion: frustration. You may be familiar with the “terrible twos,” so it might not come as a surprise when your baby starts to show signs of frustration and even tantrums long before the second birthday. Just remember: this is a critical learning period that is part of your toddler’s journey to childhood.

By 12-15 months, most toddlers can:

Have temper tantrums in response to frustrating situations.

Occasionally cling to you and perhaps hide from strangers.

Begin to display a sense of humor. Your baby may laugh when you make a strange noise, play peek-a-boo, or pretend to chase across the room.

Experience separation anxiety, even for short separations.

Play happily independently for short intervals (usually no more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time).

By 12-15 months, some toddlers are trying to:

Assert their independence, sometimes by walking away from you.

Attempt to manipulate you by whining or crying.

Imitate your expressions, gestures and everyday routines (such as pretending to talk on the phone or make dinner in a toy kitchen).

Play on equal terms with older children.

By 12-15 months, a few toddlers can: 

Adopt a security blanket, stuffed doll, or other type of “lovey” that needs to be kept in close proximity.

Willingly share toys with friends and siblings.

Cling to one parent more than the other.

More in milestones:

12-15 Months: Cognitive Development

12-15 Months: Physical Development

Why developmental milestones will make you crazy


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important Milestones: Babies at 18 Months.
    National Institutes of Health. Developmental Milestone Records – 18 Months.
    Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Developmental Milestones.
    British Columbia Ministry of Health. Ages 12 to 18 Months: Social and Emotional Development.

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