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Developmental Milestones: The First Year

In the first 12 months your baby is learning and developing important skills every day. Here’s how you can support them to learn and grow.

Baby playing with ring pyramid

What are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are things most kids can do by a certain age.

They involve physical, social, emotional, cognitive and communication skills such as walking, sharing, expressing emotions, recognising sounds and talking.

What is considered ‘normal’ development can vary greatly.

It’s important to remember that all kids are different and some will do things faster or slower than others.

Milestones from 0 - 3 months

Your baby will be focused on feeding, sleeping, cuddling, communicating with you and developing their alertness. You might notice your baby:

  • Reach out to touch things with their hands
  • Start to watch and follow your face and other objects
  • Start to smile, laugh, coo and make gurgling sounds
  • ‘Match’ your emotions
  • Show signs of emotion like interest or distress
  • Turn head when their cheek is touched
  • Be startled by loud noises and look towards sounds
  • Shut eyes with bright light
  • Lift their head up when on their tummy
  • Kick their legs and play with hands and feet

Milestones from 3 - 6 months

Your baby is learning a lot about communication, emotions and building a stronger attachment with you. They will:

Improve control of their head movements

Take turns when 'talking' with parents

Watch people’s faces and respond by mimicking expressions

Roll from tummy to back and start to sit up with support

Reach out, grab things and put them in their mouth or shake them

Respond to their own name and when you talk to them

React to familiar things with laughing, squealing and excitement

Build attachments to familiar adults and show anxiety with strangers

Enjoy watching people and looking at bright objects

Communicate by smiling, making eye contact, movements, making sounds and babbling

Milestones from 6 - 9 months

You baby is moving, communicating with you more and developing an understanding of who they are. You might notice your baby:

  • Hold items like food in each hand and swaps hands
  • Start to sit up without support
  • Use furniture to pull themselves up to stand
  • Start trying to crawl
  • Start to link words with their meanings
  • Feed themselves and start to drink from a cup with help
  • Use body language to express emotions like fear
  • Look and feel objects before putting them in mouth
  • Explore things around them
  • Make noise to get attention
  • Copy sounds made by others
  • Make babbling sounds like ‘dada’ and ‘baba’
  • Recognise familiar words like ‘Dad’ or ‘Mum’ or their name
  • Upset when separated from main care giver

Milestones from 9 - 12 months

Your baby’s movement and communication skills are developing rapidly. They will:

  • Know and respond to their own name
  • Turn towards sounds made out of sight
  • Pick things up with their finger and thumb 
  • Become anxious if main caregiver is out of sight
  • Respond to simple instructions like ‘come here’, ‘wave bye bye’
  • Only like familiar adults to feed, dress and comfort them
  • Find something hidden under a cloth
  • Shake, bang, throw, drop and poke different objects
  • Shake head for ‘no’ and nod head for ‘yes’
  • Like to play with and talk to others, especially parents
  • Crawl, pull themselves to stand, walk while holding your hands
  • Say one or two words like ‘Mama’, ‘Dada’ and know what they mean

How can you support your baby’s development?

Here are some tips that can help:

Respond to crying with comfort

Introduce healthy and nutritious solid food at around 6 months

Reassure your child when they meet new people

Make your home baby safe when they become mobile

Listen and respond to your baby’s sounds and cues

Seek medical assistance to manage health conditions

Develop a routine around feeding, sleeping and playing

Try baby massage to help soothe and build connection

Give your baby opportunities to move, explore and play

Smile, talk, sing, read and play together

Encourage 'tummy time'

Give them a variety of things to look at, touch and play with

As a parent you might be feeling unsure about your baby’s development

It’s important to seek help if you notice some of these signs:

  • Your baby is crying a lot and it is worrying you
  • Your baby’s muscle tone may be floppy or stiff
  • Your baby is not responding to noise
  • Your baby is not smiling or communicating by using sounds, babbling
  • Your baby is not improving in their motor skills (lifting head, crawling etc.)

Support is available

If you’re worried about your baby’s development reach out for support

This content was last reviewed 22/05/2018

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