One of the biggest joys of parenthood is to see your child grow, especially in the early years. Every little thing they do feels like an achievement and worth celebrating.
During the early months, babies seem to grow bigger and show a new skill every day. Gradually, their growth spurts slow down and continue at a fairly steady rate. Even so, every child is different and therefore will meet their milestones differently. Families with two or more children may even see this variance in the way siblings meet their growth and developmental milestones. Even though every child develops at their own pace, most of them will reach their milestones around the same age.
So to help parents understand and track their children’s growth and development, we follow a common reference scale. In this blog, our pediatric doctors in Dubai share some tips on how to monitor your child’s growth and mark their milestones.
Understanding Developmental Milestones
Every new skill your child displays- from waving bye to saying ‘mama’ for the first time- is considered a developmental milestone. Children reach their milestones in how they grow physically, move, act, play, learn and speak. To help parents know what to expect from their child at every stage, pediatric doctors and specialists give certain pointers.
Generally, your child’s development falls under five categories-
- Gross motor skills refer to the way your baby moves using their body’s large muscles. This includes sitting, crawling, standing, walking, running, changing positions, and maintaining their balance.
- Fine motor skills are the use of small muscles. The use of hands and fingers to grab, pick up things, eat, play, dress, draw and write are examples of fine motor skills.
- Language skills include verbal communication as well as the use of body language and gestures to understand what others say and convey what your little one wants to say.
- Social skills include making connections with people, cooperating, and responding to feelings. Bonding with parents and building relationships with friends and family is a key social skill.
- Cognitive skills refer to your child’s ability to think, understand, remember, reason, and problem-solve.
It is normal for a child to be ahead in some areas and behind in others as they grow. Gradually, they will develop these skills, meeting their milestones successfully. If your child has fallen behind in any area and it concerns you, talking to a pediatrician will help you understand whether your little one needs intervention.
Here is a commonly followed timeline for children’s developmental milestones till the age of 3 –
- At the age of 2 months, babies can look at faces, calm down when picked up or spoken to, seem happy when they see you, smile at you, make sounds other than crying, and react to external noises.
- They can also hold up their heads during tummy time, move both arms and legs and open their hands briefly.
- At 4 months, babies can smile, look, move or make sounds on their own to catch attention, chuckle when you try to make them laugh, make cooing sounds and talk back when you talk to them.
- Babies at this age will also remember to open their mouths when hungry at the sight of a bottle or breast. They can also hold their head steady without support, push on their elbows when placed on their tummies, hold on to a toy when put in their hand, use arms to swing at toys, and bring hands to the mouth.
- By the time your baby is six months, it is important to engage with them through back-and-forth play, reading, and naming things. At this age, most babies laugh, know people by their faces, like to look in the mirror, make sounds back at you, blow raspberries and squeal.
- Babies will also grab things and put them in their mouth. They may also start showing signs of teething.
- They will also roll from tummy to back, push with straight arms while on tummy, and lean on hand to support themselves while sitting.
- 9 months is a good time to improve their verbal and motor skills. At this age, they stay close to their caregivers and show fear around strangers. They also learn to show several facial expressions and look at you when their name is called. They may also show signs of separation anxiety.
- 9-month-olds love to laugh and play peek-a-boo. They can make sounds like ‘mama’ and ‘baba’. Babies at this age will also lift their arms to be picked up.
- Babies will also look for objects when they fall out of sight and bang things together while playing. They can move things like toys from one hand to another, get into a sitting position on their own and sit without support.
- One-year-olds are curious little people who will absorb everything in their surroundings like a sponge. This is a good time to teach them positive behaviors and easy words.
- Babies at this age will play with you, wave bye-bye, and can call their parents ‘mama’ or ‘dada’.
- They can look for things that you hide and put smaller things inside a container. One-year-olds can pull up to stand, cruise by holding furniture, drink from a cup as you hold it, and pick up things with a pincer grasp.
- By 15 months, babies are officially toddlers who can walk around on their own and eat food on their own. They can copy the actions of others, show you things they want, clap, hug and show affection.
- They will try to say more words and will look at familiar objects when you name them. 15-month-olds can also follow directions given with both words and gestures. They may also enjoy activities like stacking.
- 18-month-olds are explorers. They will move away from you to explore their surroundings while making sure that you are nearby. They can point at things that interest them, look at books, and copy chores. They will also know how to follow one-step verbal directions.
- Their walking becomes steadier and they will also learn to climb on and off a couch or chair without help. They will also be able to feed themselves with fingers and try to use spoons for the same.
- 2-year-olds have big personalities and can read people and situations better. They notice when others are upset or hurt, often showing sadness when someone is crying. They also tend to look at faces to see their reaction to a situation.
- Toddlers at this age will be able to put two words together and communicate. They will also be able to point to things and name their body parts by pointing to them.
- They use their hands for more gestures and for coordinated tasks like opening a container. They will also be curious about switches, knows, buttons, zips, and such.
- 2-year-olds can walk up the stairs with or without help, kick a ball, and run.
- 30-month-old toddlers can interact with their peer group and play with them. They can also follow simple routines and will enjoy helping around the home.
- Around this time, toddlers will also learn to say about 50 words. They will be able to use words such as “I”,” me” or “we” in simple sentences. They will also enjoy pretending plays.
- Toddlers at this age will also identify more complex things such as shapes and colors. They will also show simple problem-solving skills such as using a small stool to reach things. They can also twist things such as door knobs, pipes, and lids.
- 3-year-olds are ready to take on the world in their own way. They ask questions, solve problems and find ways to navigate their surroundings with ease.
- By the age of 3, children can calm down when they are away from their parents. They will interact better with other children and join them to play.
- They can also communicate by asking questions and holding simple conversations. They will also be able to say their first name when asked for it. 3-year-olds can talk well enough for most people to understand.
- They understand their surroundings better and avoid touching hot objects when warned. They can copy and draw simple shapes on paper, put on shoes or clothes and use their hands to string items such as large beads.
These are some of the most recognizable milestones that your child should meet at every age.
At the end of the day, you know your child best. If you feel like your child is missing out on one or more milestones and is losing skills that he or she had before, it’s best to consult with a pediatrician at the earliest. Many pediatricians follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics when it comes to developmental milestones and provide medical advices based on them. These are standardized using validated tools and are usually done at the ages of 9, 18, and 30 months for general developmental concerns and 18 and 24 months for autism.
If you are concerned at any stage regarding your child’s developmental milestones, you can reach out to Dr. Medhat Abu-Shaaban, Medical Director and pediatrician at myPediaclinic, for developmental milestone check-up and seek guidance on the same.