1-Year-old Reaching for Everything in Site, Very Frustrated

Updated on January 26, 2018
A.B. asks from Boston, MA
14 answers

My 1-year-old daughter has recently started reaching for everything she sees and getting very frustrated. As we walk through the house, she fixates on different things, first reaching and grunting towards the bathroom, then something she sees in the pantry, then the front door, and so on. I try to satisfy her by letting her explore things, but nothing seems to satisfy her and she is soon drawn to a new thing with similar urgency and frustration. This has also made it very difficult to sit and read to her, as she immediately spots something and wants to go for it. I am concerned that this degree of fixation moving from one object to the next might be a sign of something unusual developmentally. Or, maybe it's just normal! Any thoughts?

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answers from Dallas on

She's just 1 and exploring her world. Completely normal!

Expect some fidigiting with reading and don't expect her to be completely still. Continue to read... that's a good habit she'll get used to in time.

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answers from Portland on

Totally typical.

Think of how exciting the world is when they stand up and can explore - it's all new to them. I used to just sit with my cup of tea, and let them explore. I'd wait until THEY were ready to sit and be read to, usually when they were tired out. They'd grab their blankie and curl up with me.

I followed my kiddos cues and it worked a lot better. I rested when they were active and busy and just let them be. I'd sit and watch them (supervise) but I didn't interrupt. It just worked better to go with the flow.

With your first, you don't always do this (with nap times, bedtimes, food, etc.). I caught on with my second (because I had a busy toddler) that this worked so much better.

But yes, totally typical and I'd be more concerned if she didn't want to explore (at least to some degree).

I did have a toddler who was evaluated for developmental delays, etc. What you're describing does not compare to what they were checking for. If that helps.

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answers from San Antonio on

Google, go to the library, whatever - and get "What to Expect, The Second Year" and "the Toddler years". This is normal. She's 1.

Reading is NOT a priority at this age. Her attention span is short and it's supposed to be. And you can read while she explores. Instead of trying to make her interested in a book, explore the world WITH her. Talk to her about what she's showing interested in. Describe it, what it does, how it works, if it's fragile, the colors, everything. Doing this gives her vocabulary and expands her interactions.

Of course, CHILDPROOF. If it's not breakable, don't worry about it. If it is, move it up high. And again, talk to her/interact with her. Introduce her to the world - it's what she's interested in.

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answers from Los Angeles on

normal. let her explore, put appropriate playthings around in lieu of breakables and let he have at a child proof room. she will get practice walking, and problem solving will naturally occur if something is out of reach (like on a table and shes sitting, she will problem solve to understand she needs to stand to reach it, and once shes got that down the climbing will begin)
i don't know of any 1 year olds that will sit still for a book reading. neither of mine sat totally still. ds was a littler calmer during story time that dd was, but we still read 2-3 books every night at bedtime, and still do! but now it its them reading to us

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answers from Chicago on

This is totally normal. A friend of mine would put things around the house, some higher up but reachable to her kids. Sometimes she would put something in a box, with or without a lid and her kids would check it out. Sometimes is was a toy or a book. Sometimes she even put oranges or other fruits that were okay if it was not discovered until the next day. She would even put it on the table and her kids would figure out how to climb up to see what it was. It let them explore and find new things, even if the found it the week before. She would even put away some toys they had and they would discover them later. Just make sure your daughter's area is for her to explore. Her kids do the same now that they have their own.

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answers from Norfolk on

The challenge is to keep unsafe things out of her reach.
Don't be surprised if she starts to climb on things - our son was climbing before he was walking.
At this age they put everything into their mouth.
Part of that is exploration and part is teething.
Give her age appropriate toys that she can't choke on.
Toddlers are notorious for short attention spans.
At first we read cardboard picture books.
For awhile his favorite story was a book of baby faces showing different emotions.
"Happy baby" "Sad baby" "Angry baby", etc.
She sounds perfectly normal to me.

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answers from Boston on

Kids this age have zero attention span. Especially when they are discovering the joys of mobility and the new perspective of things they can spot while standing that they never noticed when crawling. This is also the time when you have to reassess what's in reach and you may have to put stuff away.

Get cabinet locks and doorknob covers, and have a few cabinets she is allowed in. Put Tupperware,wooden spoons and some plastic colanders/measuring cups in there. Even if she plays "drums" on them, it's not like metal ladles on a metal pot! The bathroom and the pantry can be off limits - and should. If you don't have a toilet lock and a set of oven control covers, get them! Also remove/secure venetian blind cords - toddlers are injured or killed every year by these.

Don't even try to read during high energy times. Save that for before nap, before bed and after-outside-play exhaustion. Take a look around the children's library - even there, there will be puppets and dress up clothes and blocks and other things to occupy kids.

You can consider a push toy if you can find one that's not noisy: lawnmower, doll stroller, toy shopping cart, etc. to give her something to do while she's roaming, but be aware that she's going to crash into doors and furniture with it.

I think the grunting is because she doesn't have words yet to express her feelings and thoughts. Is the house baby-proofed enough that you don't have to walk with her all the time? If not, find ways to fix this. That will let her be curious without having to involve you all the time. You cannot be her constant companion. She can develop more independence on her own.

Look ahead - the next phase is climbing! So besides stairs, you have to secure dressers and bookshelves and TVs to the wall.

Ask the children's librarian for some good books on child development so you know the ranges for typical behaviors - and remember this are guidelines, not hard & fast rules.

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes it's normal. Do you have any baby/child development books? If not go to the library and check some out. DEVELOPMENT books, not parenting ones. I always liked Dr. Sears, because he was not only a doctor but a father to several children, including one with special needs.
It's important to understand all the stages your child is going through so you can react appropriately and not worry. It's also a good idea to ask questions during your baby's well check up appointments.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Completely normal. You might go to some sites like parentcenter.com and sign up for weekly newsletters that come and say things like "Your baby is now XX weeks old and you should notice them start doing XXXX soon". It's a lot of fun and gives you a good idea of what's normal and on time.

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answers from Washington DC on

a pre-verbal baby is curious about the world and trying to explore?

the horror!

i'd be far more worried if she showed no interest in her surroundings.

you can't expect a yearling to sit and be read to. she's not old enough yet.

you need to read a book about child development or have a long conversation with your pediatrician and have more realistic expectations.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

This is the reason child safety products is a multi-million (or billion?) dollar industry. ;)

Most libraries have age 3 and over story time and a separate under age 3 activity because the young ones can not stay seated long enough to listen to a book and distract the older kids. Some kids are able to sit with the big kids when they are 2 years old (each child will vary from the typical age range).

edit/add: I would recommend a mommy and me group that has children within 3 months of your baby's age. This way you all can talk about your experiences.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Totally normal.

When my kids were that age, I didn't really try to read to them during the day. Reading was usually something we did just before naptime or just before bedtime. During the day, they wanted to be moving and doing and exploring. It was in the evening that they wanted to sit and snuggle and listen to a story.

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answers from Miami on

Absolutely normal. She doesn't have any frame of reference for what she is looking at. To her, a chair could spout legs and walk. So yes, she's very interested in everything she sees and doesn't have a long attention span, so she's all over the place.

One of my friends had to put a blanket over her baby's face when she nursed because the baby wanted to turn around and look at everything all the time and it took forever to nurse her when that was happening.

Do you know the game "peek-a-boo"? Do you know why you play it with a baby? It's because babies don't know that when they can't see you, that you are still there. They have no understanding that you still exist when they can't see you. It's something that they figure out as their brain develops. The peek-a-boo game helps them with this as their brain develops the capacity to start to understand.

During her busy times of the day, have her in a room with a lot of toys she can touch and enjoy without you having to worry. Baby-proof EVERYWHERE in your home. Put things that she shouldn't touch way up out of her reach, or box them up for right now until she is older. When Christmas rolls around, have your husband tie up the tree so that it cannot tip over, and only put unbreakable ornaments where she can reach. Some parents put a gate around the tree so that children can't touch the tree, but it's better if they can. After they get used to the tree, they will get bored with it and not pull the ornaments off. Re-directing is what you do with little kiddies rather than saying "no". You don't want her first word to be "no"! Try to use that word as little as possible. Instead, you pick her up and remove her from what you don't want her to be doing and put her in front of something else that is okay. And yes, it's okay for her to cry about it.

Don't give her the run of the house. Closed doors and baby gates are your friend. Keep her in the room you are in. Don't hold her all the time. Sing and dance during your work and TALK to her. Try to make sure that you sit down on the floor with her when she isn't crying for you so that she knows you come to her when she's not crying for you.

Babies ARE frustrated when they can't have their way. But you are the parent and it's your job to manage her. Do it without getting upset with her. Understand that she will go through a lot trying to master new skills - walking and talking take a lot of brain development, and while she is working towards one, she may do less with the other. If she isn't walking yet, don't try to encourage it. Let it come on its own - it's SO much easier on you if she's not all over the place at this age. Work on words with her. Look up online speech and 12 month olds. The best thing you can do with your baby to help with frustration is to help her learn how to talk. Leave reading to her for before nap time and night time sleeping until she is older.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Totally normal.
Don't let this stop you from reading to her. Close the bedroom door to keep her in the room, and if she wanders off while you are reading, just keep going. One tip you can try to to let her hold the book on her own. She might not turn the pages in order, that's ok. There were books that I read to my boys so often that I had them memorized, and I just kept going even if they were on the wrong page (I think I could still recite Goodnight Moon and it's been many years). This is also a great age for books with peek-a-bo pages (little windows and slots that kids can pull a tab and see what is underneath and stuff like that) because it gives them something to do while you are reading.

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