Parents experience a variety of joys, and occasional frustrations, with their children’s rapid changes in behaviors, feelings, and skills. One way for them to better understand their children is to have a solid understanding of child development. With the advances being made in brain science, we are continually learning more about the ways a child’s development proceeds and the vital impact of positive early experiences. The more parents know, the more they can help their children. No two children experience development, growth, and learning in precisely the same way or at identical paces. However, children generally develop in particular predictable ways. This can get complicated when watching the development of children of various ages growing up simultaneously. The following are key milestones of infanthood.
Newborn milestones are particularly fascinating to watch. A tiny human goes from utterly helpless to various motor and communication abilities. Moving milestones include supporting the head and upper body while the infant lies on the stomach, pushing up to look around for a moment, turning the head easily from side to side, finding self-comfort by sucking on fingers or fist of the hand brought to the face, keeping hands mostly fisted and closed, and blinking at bright lights. Talking at this stage exists as crying, smacking lips, yawning, and arching the back. Interaction consists of showing feelings with face, body, crying, and smiling, showing interest in watching faces, and quieting in response to touch. Cognitive milestones include sensitivity to sounds in the vicinity, startling at loud sounds, and seeing objects that are between eight and twelve inches from the face.
Infant Milestones From 1-12 Months
At about four months, there is a significant jump in milestone extent. Motor skills are shown by using hands to support the self when sitting, rolling from tummy to back and to tummy again, accepting weight entirely on the legs while standing with the help of support, reaching for nearby toys, and a reach for the feet with both hands. Sensory-wise, the infant will begin to use both hands to explore toys, brings objects and hands to the mouth, isn’t upset by the occurrence of everyday sounds, and enjoys a variety of movements.
At seven months, the infant sits without support and can reach for toys without signs of imbalance or falling. Moving from back or stomach to sitting is possible, as is crawling and creeping. The infant’s head turns to follow objects while sitting, and more control is exerted over rolling and sitting. At ten to twelve months, the infant is pulling to stand and cruising along the edges of furniture, standing alone and taking independent steps, moving from various positions to other stances to explore the environment and retrieve desired toys, and clapping hands. These are just some of the many milestones that pepper an infant’s development in the first year, with a focus on the physical.
Motor development at 18 months includes walking alone, moving up steps, and beginning to run. Walking backward begins to occur, as does the child self-feeding with a spoon and using a cup to drink. Children also begin to assist in dressing and undressing themselves. Talking is displayed with three or more single words and the imitation of phrases that consist of two words. Pointing to indicate what the child wants also happens, as does saying “no” with a head shake. Interaction-wise, these children show interest in other children, play simple pretend, imitate behaviors, and points at things to show to others. Cognitive development is displayed in activities such as scribbling with a pencil or crayon, pointing to at least one part of the body, following one-step directions without gestures, knowing the use of common objects such as spoons and hairbrushes, and enjoying books, songs, and stories.
The milestones of childhood development are fairly well-known and established. What is becoming more apparent are the impacts of parental styles and strategies on those milestones. One such tool is exposing children before five years of age to stimulating environments. This has been found to strengthen language development, problem-solving and memory function, social and emotional health, and use of logic. Another tool is conversation. The way we communicate with children has a huge impact on their development, including their senses of independence and autonomy. It shapes their self-confidence and abilities to communicate through their whole lives.