What Goes Through a Baby's Mind at One Year Old?

By Kristen Berry
One-year-olds are able to comprehend simple phrases.
One-year-olds are able to comprehend simple phrases.

One-year-olds are extremely curious about their surroundings. While the rate of cognitive development varies for all children, according to PBS Parents, by the time your baby is a year old, she is already capable of experiencing a wide range of thoughts and emotions including frustration, irritation and joy.

Mathematical Thinking

The simple act of playing builds your baby's mathematical thinking as she starts to recognize patterns and shapes. PBS Parents notes that your one-year-old realizes that night is followed by day and that shoes go on her feet after the socks. Your baby also begins to categorize familiar objects by specific characteristics, such as whether they are round or square. Your one-year-old may also find satisfaction in filling and emptying different types of containers or completing basic insert puzzles when the puzzle pieces represent whole objects.

Imitation and Pretending

During your baby's first year, he begins to think about using specific objects for their intended purposes. For example, he might roll his toys cars on the floor, as he now understand the purpose of wheels. He may also put his teddy bear down with a pillow and blanket for a "nap." According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, imitation is an important learning process for one-year-olds. Your baby may “read” to you from his book, hold his toy phone to your ear or hand you your car keys so can can "go to the store." These activities show that your child is thinking about what to do with objects that are used for specific reasons.


As your baby is unable to process and understand every emotion she experiences, there will be times when she can think of nothing other than her frustration. She will likely express this frustration through crying or tantrums. According to Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., one of the primary reasons your one- year-old may feel temporary frustration results from having to share her toys. One year olds live in the moment when they are playing with toys, so they feel it's unfair to share. Taking small steps in learning to share helps your baby think about acting in caring ways toward friends.


Your one-year-old thinks about the pleasure she can find through cause and effect and she feels happy about completing basic tasks such as helping to clean up her toys after playing. She may also think about knocking her cup to the floor because it makes a specific sound that she likes to hear. She considers knocking her cup to the floor repeatedly so she can pick it up again just to set it up for the next "fall." According to PBS Parents, once your one-year-old makes a new discovery, she wants to make it happen again and again. She remembers the excitement of cause and effect and wants to experience it as often as possible.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Kristen Noelle has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in AOL News, "Mothering Magazine," "Maui News," "Christian Science Monitor," "Forsyth County News" and the "Forsyth Herald." Noelle studies comparative literature at the University of Georgia.