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Developmental Milestones: The First Year

Developmental Milestones: The 1st Year

From the day we are born our brains are growing and developing. We learn by connecting with the people in our lives. Those within our families, and those who care for us. This is why it is so important for parents, carers and educators to provide babies with as many learning opportunities as possible to encourage their development.

father and newborn

Developmental Milestones for Birth to 4 Month Olds

How can we support babies’ learning and development?

  • Be delighted with them! Encouragement and enthusiasm for their achievements
  • Play with sound with one another.  Be playful with they making sounds with them. 
  • Use natural rhythms and  routines as times to engage with each other. Moments of eating, sleeping, playing are all learning opportunities for young infants. 
  • Make eye contact as often as possible and be in the moment. 
  • Talk and sing to children. While engaged in routines, talk to children about what is happening and why. “We are going to change your nappy, because you are wet.”
  • Play simple games such as peek-a-boo.
  • Use smiling as a form of communication. Smile back when they smile at you. This is connection.

    What milestones might we observe?

    The Growing Child

    • moves their whole body
    • squirms, waves arms, moves legs up and down
    • is beginning to develop eating and sleeping patterns
    • responds to being placed on a flat surface
    • reacts to sudden loud noises
    • will turn their head to the side when their cheek touched
    • makes sucking motions with mouth (seeking nipple)
    • responds to gentle touching, cuddling, rocking
    • will shut eyes tightly in bright sunlight
    • is able to lift their head and chest when laying on stomach
    • begins to roll from side to side
    • starts to reach to swipe at dangling objects
    • able to grasp object that is put into hands

    The Social & Feeling Child

    • smiles and laughs
    • makes eye contact when held about 20cm from face of adult looking at them
    • may sleep most of the time
    • alert and preoccupied with faces
    • moves head to sound of voices
    • bonding
    • cries (peaks at about six to eight weeks and levels off at about 12-14 weeks)
    • cries when hungry or uncomfortable and usually stops when held
    • shows excitement as parent prepares for feeding

    The Thinking Child 

    • smiles and laughs
    • looks toward direction of sound
    • eyes track slow moving targets for brief periods e.g. follows your finger
    • looks at edges, patterns with light/dark contrast and faces
    • mimics adult tongue movements when being held and talked to
    • learns through sensory experiences
    • repeats actions but unaware of ability to cause actions

    The Communicating Child 

    • will make small throaty noises to indicate feelings e.g. coos and gurgles (makes ‘goo’ and ‘gah’ sounds)
    • is soothed by the sound of voices or by low rhythmic sounds
    • will mimic adult tongue movements when being held and talked to
    • may start to copy sounds
    • expresses needs i.e. by making sounds or actions or crying

    When should we be concerned?

    • floppy or stiff
    • crying a lot
    • arching his/her back
    • not responding to sounds
    • not showing interest or responding when played with
    • not feeding as expected
    • not starting to make sounds
    • not responding to familiar faces

    Recommended Toys:

    • baby gym: to support developing arm and leg control and eye sight. 
    • play mat: a soft clean place to play on the floor
    • a mobile above the cot: developing visual perception 

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    Developmental Milestones for 4-8 Month Olds

    By the time your baby is four months old he or she has already developed their own personality. They know when you call their name and can be soothed by the sound of your voice. Over the next few months you’ll see your baby becoming more curious of their surroundings and starting to play and communicate with other babies and toddlers.

    developmental milestones in the first year

    How can we support babies’ learning and development?

    • Mimic their sounds and actions e.g. clapping, waving
    • Encourage their motor skills e.g. place a toy out of reach and urge them to crawl towards it
    • Play games e.g. peek-a-boo, splash time in the bath, go to the mirror and show their reflection
    • Play together on the floor to encourage your baby to stretch, wriggle and roll
    • Tickle and laugh with your baby
    • Read them books with simple, bright pictures

    What milestones might we observe?

    The Growing Child 

    • plays with feet and toes
    • makes an effort to sit alone, but needs hand support
    • raises head and chest when lying on stomach
    • tries to crawl when lying on stomach
    • rolls from back to stomach
    • reaches for and grasp objects, using one hand to grasp
    • crawls using both hands and feet
    • eyes smoothly follow an object or person
    • able to take weight on feet when standing
    • watches activities across room and eyes move in unison
    • turns head to sound of voices

    The Social & Feeling Child

    • reacts when approaching or around another baby or toddler
    • responds to own name
    • smiles often and shows excitement when seeing food being made or at bath time
    • recognises familiar people and stretches arms to be picked up
    • is becoming more settled in eating and sleeping patterns
    • laughs, especially in social interactions
    • may soothe self when tired or upset by sucking thumb or dummy
    • begins to show wariness of strangers
    • may fret when parent leaves the room
    • happy to see faces they know

    The Thinking Child 

    • swipes at dangling objects
    • shakes and stares at toy placed in hand
    • becomes bored if left alone for long periods of time
    • repeats accidentally caused actions that are interesting
    • enjoys games such as peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake
    • will search for partly hidden objects
    • enjoys toys, banging objects, scrunching paper
    • explores objects by looking at and mouthing them
    • develops preferences for foods

    The Communicating Child 

    • enjoys games such as peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake
    • babbles and repeat sounds
    • makes talking sounds in response to others talking
    • copies sounds
    • smiles and babbles at own image in mirror
    • responds to own name

    When should we be concerned?

    • not learning to make sounds
    • not responding to familiar faces
    • not learning to roll when playing on the floor
    • not responsive to carers
    • not babbling and making sounds
    • not playing with feet/swapping objects between hands

    Recommended Toys:

    • baby gym: to support developing arm and leg control and eye sight. 
    • play mat: a soft clean place to play on the floor with toys to reach for
    • rattles and hand held toys
    • small balls, fabric, textural, rubber 

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    Developmental Milestones for 8-12 Month Olds

    At 8 – 12 months your baby is on the move and getting into everything, developing skills like problem solving, investigating and experimenting. He or she is becoming more excited and curious about the world. They’re learning how to point and make sounds at the things they want and are beginning to understand how they affect the people around them.

    mother and child connecting

    How can we support babies’ learning and development?

    • Provide opportunities that challenge, intrigue and surprise them
    • Encourage them when they try to explore e.g. try to crawl to get something
    • Share their achievements with family and people around them
    • Look at books together, naming and pointing to the pictures
    • Talk to your baby in simple language
    • Take turns in playing simple games e.g. clapping, blowing bubbles or finger and toe songs and games
    • Sing nursery rhymes with actions e.g. round and round the garden
    • Place a toy out of reach and encourage them to crawl or walk to it
    • Give them finger foods, using different tastes and textures
    • Give them space to crawl and pull themselves up on furniture
    • Encourage them to mimic you using simple sounds and words
    • Always let them know you or another family member is there with them

    What milestones might we observe?

    The Growing Child 

    • pulls self to standing position when hands held
    • raises self to sitting position
    • sits without support
    • stands by pulling themselves up using furniture
    • steps around furniture
    • successfully reaches out and grasps toy
    • transfers objects from hand to hand
    • picks up and pokes small objects with thumb and finger
    • picks up and throws small objects
    • holds simple, familiar objects, such as biscuit or bottle
    • crawls quickly and fluently
    • may stand alone momentarily
    • may attempt to crawl up stairs
    • grasps spoon in palm, but poor aim of food to mouth
    • uses hands to feed self
    • has alert peripheral vision
    • rolls ball and crawls to retrieve it

    The Social & Feeling Child

    • shows definite anxiety or wariness at appearance of strangers
    • actively seeks to be near parent or primary caregiver
    • shows signs of anxiety or stress if parent goes away
    • offers toy to adult but does not release it
    • shows signs of empathy to distress of others (but often soothes self)
    • actively explores and plays when parent present, returning now and then for assurance and interaction

    The Thinking Child 

    • moves obstacle to get at desired toy
    • bangs two objects held in hands together
    • responds to own name
    • makes gestures to communicate and to symbolize objects, e.g. points to something they want
    • seems to understand some things parent or familiar adults say to them
    • drops toys to be retrieved; when handed back, drops again and looks in direction of dropped toy
    • smiles at image in mirror
    • likes playing with water
    • shows an interest in picture books
    • understands gestures/responds to ‘bye, bye’
    • listens with pleasure to sound-making toys and music
    • notices differences and shows surprise

    The Communicating Child 

    • responds to own name being called
    • responds to family names and familiar objects
    • babbles tunefully
    • says words like ‘dada’ or ‘mama’
    • waves goodbye
    • imitates hand clapping
    • imitates actions and sounds
    • enjoys finger-rhymes
    • shouts to attract attention
    • vocalises loudly using most vowels and consonants – beginning to sound like conversation

    Recommended Toys:

    • Wooden blocks: a set of simple wooden blocks to hold, knock over towers, 
    • Balls for throwing
    • Treasure baskets to explore shapes, textures and attributes

    References:

    This guide has been written using:

     


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