All parents like the reassurance of knowing that their child is developing “normally”.
In fact, that term can be very difficult to define because children develop at different rates.
Over more than a century, child development experts have used statistics to define certain milestones for children’s progress. In what follows though, do remember that these are just statistics – they may mean little in the case of a given individual child.
So, don’t get overly concerned if your child hasn’t reached the milestone by the specified age. In addition, health care practices may vary from one area to another.
Physical milestones in early life
A paediatrician or midwife will usually check your baby’s eyes for any problems shortly after birth.
Around 4-5 weeks, you may be offered a hearing test to check that your child’s hearing is developing normally. Over the first 6-9 months, child healthcare services may perform regular examinations checking the development of things such as the cardiovascular and muscular systems.
The age at which babies clearly show recognition of events, visual and auditory, may vary. Experts argue about this and test results vary hugely but most sources agree by around 8 months (or often much earlier) your baby should be able to see and recognise the most familiar faces across a distance.
By around 4 months, your baby should be able to flip themselves over from their tummy onto their back. At roughly 6 months, they can flip from their back onto their front – usually a precursor to crawling.
At around 4-7 months, your baby should start to babble and show signs of experimenting with making sounds.
Sometime around 8 months, your child should start to be able to sit up, as their muscles develop. Roughly at that same time, they should start to crawl.
Walking is very difficult to generalise about. Some children start taking their first steps (holding on tightly!) at perhaps 8-9 months. Some may be walking fairly well by 12-15 months but others may not walk until they’re 15-20 months.
There is a vast list of milestones under this category. Here, we can only give a very brief flavour of them:
- Under 3 months – follow moving objects with their eyes and use expressions to reflect their environment and how they feel;
- 3-8 months – show they recognise familiar faces by their facial expressions;
- 6-9 months – your baby should be showing some signs that it understands that not everything it sees is within reach and some objects are far away;
- 9-12 months – babies should be able to imitate facial expressions and gestures. They should show they are aware of picture books and look at the pictures. You should also see signs that they’re manipulating objects such as playing with toys or stacking play bricks etc;
- 12-24 months – your baby should be showing that it can recognise objects, point to them on posters, and name them. They should start to develop a vocabulary and be able to show they can understand and use the difference between “you” and “me”. They should be able to recognise and name themself in the mirror and by 2, be able to sort rings onto different sized poles in a game (and similar game-play tasks).
A final word on this entire subject. As we said at the outset PLEASE don’t fret if your baby or toddler hasn’t “ticked the box” in these areas by the timeframes mentioned above.
There is a huge variation in these things, child-by-child.
If you are in any doubt, contact your doctor, who will arrange for a check by a professional but in the vast majority of cases, such concerns are groundless.