If you’re a new parent, it’s only natural that you’ll want to know what to expect when it comes to your baby’s development. Each baby is different, and the skills that they acquire will be largely impacted by their environment — by the interaction they have with you and anyone else that spends a significant amount of time with them. Being able to understand how your baby acquirers their cognitive and motor skills will not only teach you more about them, but will help you remember that each baby is different. Because of that fact, time frames instead of specific ages are typically given for developmental accomplishments.
Birth to 3 Months of Age
- They will begin lifting, and turning their heads
- They will stretch out their arms and legs
- They begin opening their hands and patting, or swiping at things
- They begin to maintain eye contact and study the faces around them
- They start smiling
- They make their first sounds
Babies soon learn how to lift the weight of their heads. If you lay an infant down on the floor on his stomach, they soon begin lifting their head up, at first just by inches, but by 3 months of age, they should be able to lift their heads higher than their bottoms.
A newborn starts their life with their arms curled into their body, but typically by the time they have completed 3 months, they should be able to stretch out their arms and legs and have more freedom of movement with them.
While a newborn’s hands are often tightly closed into fists, they begin to unfold them, and swipe away at things sometime during their second month. By the time they are 3 months, their hands are generally half open. At this point, you’ll notice that they become enthralled with their hands, often playing with them in front of their face, or sucking on their fingers.
It’s usually when they are about 2 months of age that your baby begins to make genuine eye contact with you, at least for a few seconds. Not long after this, they will begin to smile at you and may soon begin to laugh, or make long drawn out sounds.
From 4 to 6 Months of Age
- Binocular vision begins to develop
- They can accurately track movement
- They now reach out with both hands and are able to hold onto things
- They are learning how to sit
- They begin to babble more
At 4 months of age, your baby begins to develop binocular vision, meaning that they are now properly using both eyes, and have better depth perception. Now, when they put their hands up to reach something, they are able to connect with it.
They’ve also learned the ability to track you as you move across the room, or perhaps the family pet. They’ll actually turn their head so that they can keep you in their line of vision.
By 6 months of age, your child’s back muscles have developed to the point that they are strong enough to support them while they’re sitting up. They learn to do this gradually, with the process likely starting at around 4 months of age and not completing, with them being able to set up by themselves, until they are 6 months of age.
Another major development at 6 months of age is when your infant first begins to develop their verbal communication skills. At about this age, they realize that they can alter sounds by changing the shape of their mouth and tongue, and somewhere between 6 and 9 months of age, they begin to repeat simple syllables, saying things like “gaga.”
From 7 to 12 Months of Age
- They begin using the pincer grasp (picking up things that with their thumb and forefinger)
- They begin to communicate with gestures
- They switch from crawling to either cruising around, or walking
Your, baby’s motor development has begun to seriously develop, allowing him to pick things up and get himself around the room easier. Somewhere between 7 to 9 months of age, they also begin to gesture or use nonverbal communication, which is an important stepping stone towards verbal communication and language. They are able to express to you by gestures if they want you to pick them up, or put them down.
By about a year old, or somewhere between 12 and 13 months, babies are typically ready to take their first steps on their own, assuming they haven’t already. However, before actually walking any distance on their own, they typically go for short bursts, where they might lunge from one piece of furniture to another, and then they stop, get their balance and move on again. If your baby hasn’t started walking by this time, it doesn’t mean you have something to be worried about. Often times it simply has a lot to do with temperament — I’m told I didn’t walk until late because I figured out that daddy would carry me everywhere, so why should I walk. It was either that or I slid around on my backside. But doctors say that often times children that begin to walk later, typically walk well right away, and this was the case with me.
When we talk about the milestones that an infant will reach in the first year of their life, it’s important to remember that we can’t take them out of context. Each stage of development happens because the previous necessary step has occurred. So don’t become fixated on comparing your child’s development to another child. Just pay attention to the sequence of their development, so you can be prepared for the next step.