Developmental Milestones in Children

Parenthood is an exciting journey that is full of new discoveries as you learn and grow along with the little human being you and your partner have created.

Among these multiple discoveries, some of the most looked-forward-to are your child’s developmental milestones.

What are Developmental Milestones?

Developmental milestones are little and big achievements or abilities that your child acquires over the process of their growth and development.

They can come in the form of physical, emotional, mental, or social skills that appear gradually over time and compound into your child’s array of skill sets that make them more grown-up as the days, months, and years go by.

Parents often look forward to many of these milestones and they are better known as a child’s set of firsts like a baby’s fist step or first words.

Some of these firsts go on unnoticed since they often happen spontaneously and after gradually improving attempts from the child.

There are four main types of developmental milestones:

Developmental Milestones

1. Physical Milestones

Otherwise known as motor skills, these milestones are best observed among infants as they develop at a more rapid rate when learning new motor skills.

You may notice your baby developing gross motor skills like rolling over, crawling, learning to sit up then stand, and then later develop fine motor skills like grasping, pinching, or tinkering with small objects.

2. Mental Milestones

Also called cognitive development, are milestones related to a child’s to think. Abilities such as recognizing faces, noticing expressions, understanding words, or learning new things are all categorized under mental or cognitive milestones.

These milestones are not so noticeable so they may merit more attention in order to appreciate them.

3. Socio-emotional Milestones

The most concrete example of a socio-emotional type of development is when kids learn to interact or play with one another.

Toddlers typically engage in what is called parallel play when hey play simultaneously with a peer without interacting with one another.

Later on, this may develop into a more interactive play. Another important but barely noticeable milestone of this type is the recognition of one’s own feelings and the feelings of others around you.

4. Communication Milestones

Learning to talk and later learning to speak properly in sentences are obvious examples of this type of milestone. A less tangible example would be learning nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expression or tone of voice.

Stages of Development

Happy girl playing with her baby brother

Infancy

This covers a period between birth up to a year.

This is usually a remarkable period of many milestones because within this year your baby transforms from a helpless newborn into a toddling little human being with a full range of skills and physical attributes that seem to pop out of nowhere within a matter of months!

To break it down further, below are some of the developmental milestones you can watch out for month-by-month:

0-3 Months

Smiles.

Smiling baby girl lying in bed sleeping

Even babies fresh out of the womb may start to smile to themselves or unconsciously.

Later on as the weeks go by, you may notice your baby smiling when she sees your face and even respond to your smiles or facial expressions with a smile in return.

Follows objects with eyes. You can try this out with a brightly colored object that you can hold a few inches away from your baby’s face. Try moving it slowly from side to side and up and down and see how your baby follows through with her gaze.

Swipes at objects. This is typically seen when your baby is under a colorful mobile or any set of hanging toys that are within arm’s reach. Your baby may swipe at the plushies although she may not yet be able to grab hold of them.

Grips object in hand. If you place a finger in your baby’s hand you may notice your baby giving it a slight or a tight grip. Although they still are unable to get things, objects that are already in their hand are very much subject to clutching. You can also try placing other things like the side of a blanket in your baby’s hand and she will hold onto it.

Raises head and chest when on his tummy. Researches have shown that placing your infant on their tummies for some time while they are awake helps them develop their shoulder and neck strength.

One thing parents notice with their babies is that they tend to try to lift themselves up when in this position. It is an adorable sight to see and is a precursor to many future motor skills like rolling or crawling.

4-6 Months

Baby is trying to roll over on a bed while mommy holds her

Rolls over. Flipping is one major gross motor skill for many babies. The ability to flip from back to tummy and vice versa gives them more mobility. This is the age where you have to become extra watchful since your baby becomes more prone to falls due to this new skill.

Babbles. Commonly known as baby-talk, babbling can sometimes very much resemble real talk. Try to respond to your baby’s babbles as if the two of you are having a conversation and listen attentively for your baby’s response.

Laughs. One of the most enjoyable milestone is when you hear you baby’s first laugh. It is a good idea to have a camera nearby to document your baby’s adorable giggles. They may laugh at silly faces or sounds you make, or they might also have a ticklish spot.

Reaches out to grab things. When once your baby only swipes at objects that interest them, this time they may actually catch it. Later on your baby will know that he can actually “get” something that he likes when he reaches his hand out, aims, and then clutches at objects.

Masters head support. At this age, you will find that you baby will need less and less neck support until he reaches a point where you no longer need to support your baby’s head while being carried, or you can finally start carrying your baby upright without it being awkward.

Sits without support. By the end of this phase, most babies are able to be left in a sitting position without support. This is usually the time when parents give their babies their first solid food in the form of purées or mash.

7-9 Months

Baby crawling milestone

Crawls. Once your little flipper gets the hang of rolling over, they may attempt to move forward. Mind you, this can happen a great many different way. They may scoot, drag, or do the conventional hands-and-knees crawl. Don’t be surprised if your baby has his own special way of crawling.

Sits up. Not only will you be able to leave your baby in a sitting position unsupported, he will also be able to put himself from a lying and up to a sitting position independently. As you may see, babies of this age range are a lot more active and need more supervision.

Responds to own name. This is also a time when babies learn to recognize their own names when being called. You can call out from the far end of a room and watch as your baby turns in response to his own name.

Pulls up to a standing position. At a later point in this phase, babies will show some interest in standing. If you take their hand and hive them a gentle tug, they may pull up in response and try to stand. Their legs may lock in place and you may witness your baby’s first ever stand.

10-12 Months

Baby eating milestone

Feeds self. Those who practice baby-led weaning may experience this a bit earlier, but this is typically the time when babies show a bit more skill in self feeding. Their grasp becomes a bit finer as they learn to pinch little food with their fingers instead of grabbing everything with their palms.

Cruises on legs. Since learning to stand with the help of an adult or a nearby object that they can pull themselves up with, babies may crab-walk along the lines of furniture while holding onto it. They may also take a few steps when held by the hand.

Points. Many may take it for granted, but pointing is actually a good sign of development. Expect your baby to start pointing at things he likes or places he wants to go to when carried during this stage.

First word. Don’t get too excited because your baby won’t be speaking full sentences yet. However, they may utter a sweet “Mama” or “Dada” from time to time. You can encourage more talking by talking with your baby and listening for a response.

First step. Since they are cruising, they may as well take their first unsupported step around this period. Some babies start as early as 10 months while some take their time well into their first birthday. Don’t be too pressured though, because babies develop at different paces from each other.

Toddlerhood

Toddler milestones

Toddlerhood is an exciting time for your developing child. They get to explore the world around them while being aware of their surroundings and at the same time have enough skills to navigate their way around.

They may start off with pushing and pulling, squatting, climbing, then later running and jumping.

Make sure to provide a safe environment for exercise and exploration. This would also be a time where your child starts potty training.

It would be a good idea to watch out for signs of readiness in your child and approach the matter gently and with lots of affirmation and positivity.

Mentally, your toddler may show early signs of interest in learning. It is great if you read them stories regularly to encourage a love for books. This is also a time where children learn about feelings -their own and of others. Try to allow your child the opportunity to sort out his feelings and don’t be in a rush to fix everything whenever he gets upset.

Preschool

Happy sisters smiling

Throwing, kicking, and catching are among the gross motor skills that children begin to display at this period. Fine motor skills also show up with their school work such as the ability to draw some basic shapes, lines, and using scissors.

Your child may also display more independence by being more involved in their self-care such as dressing up, bathing, or brushing their teeth.

They get a lot smarter by this age too. Preschoolers may learn how to count to ten, identify colors, follow simple instructions, and respond to questions that begin with “why”.

School-age

School age milestones

Children this age range seem to keep on growing and growing. At this period in their development, individual strengths, interests, and personalities become more and more distinct with each child although there are still several milestones that are common across all.

Physically, children at this period become more graceful and coordinated with their movements. They enjoy may activities like sports, art and music and may even dabble in more intricate crafts such as sewing or carpentry. Mentally, you’ll also begin to see a big leap in their knowledge. School aged kids usually already know complex shapes, and can count backwards. They also learn how to tell time and usually become great readers. Some children may even be able to write stories at this point.

Emotionally and socially, these children become more and more attuned to feelings of others and of their own. They become more aware of complex feelings like jealousy, competitiveness, and respect. When they start out socializing, they may only take to children of the same gender, but later on will start to show interest in the opposite sex.

Adolescence

Adolescence milestones

This period starts at around the age of thirteen and continues until kids reach early adulthood.

This period is a vital transition from childhood to adulthood and thus entails many physical, mental, and socio-emotional changes that turn kids more and more like adults.

Even if your kids are growing more and more independent, it is still important for them to feel your presence and know that you are there to support them with their life changes.

Open and honest communication is an essential tool in surviving this stage.

Vanessa is a freelance writer and a two-time certified boy mom to a toddler and a preschooler. She believes that raising happy kids is a delicate balance between doing your best as a parent and seeking help when you need it.

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