The first few years of a baby's life are comprised of a variety of milestones.
A lot happens in the course of your baby’s first few years. Most babies make certain similar developments at the same time. However, child development is not a fixed science, and your baby is likely to grow and develop at their own unique pace. Besides logging weight and height, there are several childhood development milestones to watch for along your parenting journey.
What are child developmental milestones?
Child development is not the same as growth in a child. Growth is measured in terms of weight, size, and height, while development is the child’s ability and skills to tackle complex things as they become older.
Some of the skills they develop include:
- Motor skills where they learn how to use muscles to keep balance, change position to sit, crawl, stand, walk, etc. These also incorporate more refined motor skills such as using hands to eat, drink, play, and many other things.
- Language skills include using gestures, body language, communication, hearing, and understanding.
- Cognitive skills include learning, understanding, reasoning, remembering, and problem-solving.
- Social skills include interacting, cooperating and forming relationships with others, and responding to their feelings.
What are some common child development signs?
As a parent or guardian, you can look out for the following signs to ensure that your baby develops normally. With a bit of attention, you may be able to notice when something is not right:
Longer and Regular Sleeping Patterns
As your baby grows, they should sleep for longer hours and on a more regular pattern. At four months, your little one should be able to sleep for half the night before waking up for feeding. During the day, they should take several naps on a semi-regular schedule.
Motor Development Milestone
Usually, children will develop their motor skills starting from the head moving down to the legs. They gain control over the body first, then move on to the lower body. The typical pattern for the development of motor milestones is:
- Rolling over
- Pulling up
Other motor skills include:
- Grasping objects
- Placing blocks and objects in a container
When measuring your baby’s language ability, the typical range is that you should be able to understand about 50% of what your two-year-old says and about 75% by the time they’re three years old. By age 4, you should understand everything.
Your child's social developments should include:
- Imitates behavior and expressions
- Enjoy social play
- Increased independence
- Cooperates with other children
Your baby should be able to:
- Play make-believe games
- Sort items by color and shape
- Find hidden objects
How to spot delays in your baby’s development
Delays in a child's development are a common concern in parenting. You will find that some children lag on their ability to communicate, socialize, think, and manage their emotions. Noticing development delays is not always easy or obvious. However, there are a few signs that may signal delays to a parent:
A sudden change in your child. Sudden change is a typical "aha" moment for parents that could signal a problem in your child's development. It could be something simple as failure to respond to their name when they should be or some unexplainable behavior like frequent tantrums that take a long time to calm down. You could also note the changes gradually, which are compelling enough to make you notice that something is not okay.
How to define normal development
Understanding the typical developmental milestones for children and understanding that it’s a range can help you identify when your baby’s development is different. Various sources and websites provide well-researched and best practices information on areas of development across all ages.
Compare your child’s development with other kids
Comparing your child’s milestone development with other children can also help signal if your baby’s development is normal. However, keep in mind that each child is unique and that development milestones are a range.
The best way to use comparison as a sign is to place your child with various children from different settings for a better picture. Though a bit of difference does not signal delay, it may bring to your notice something that requires medical attention.
What to do If your baby is not developing normally
During your well-child visit, the doctor will spend time observing your child and talking with you about your baby’s development since your last visit. If you have any worries, share them with your child’s doctor. Through a series of questions and observations, your child’s doctor will use developmental screening and developmental milestones as a guide to identifying any risk of developmental delay.
If your child’s doctor finds a cause for alarm, they will refer you to a specialist or services such as early intervention programs that can help your child make as much progress as possible.
Since each baby's development is unique, it's impossible to give an exact time when your child will develop or perfect a given milestone. However, development milestone guidelines offer a general idea of what to expect, but do not worry too much if your baby's development differs slightly.
If you are concerned about some possible development delays, alert your pediatrician.