Tracking your baby’s development, from a few days to 4 years old.

By Wolfson Children’s Hospital

New parents keep close watch for baby’s big moments, like the first smile, but other milestones, like visually tracking an object, may go totally unnoticed. Here’s everything to look for (and look forward to) over the first four years of your child’s development.

Year 1: The building blocks

From making eye contact and moving his or her hands, to crawling and uttering that highly anticipated first word, your little one’s going to be very busy this year.

Your child’s pediatrician will examine your baby and ask about his or her physical and cognitive development at routine checkups. Physical therapist Ann Losak, PT, and speech-language pathologist Sarina Tarantino, CCC-SLP, who work with children to meet milestones at Wolfson Children’s Rehabilitation, say these are the major milestones they expect to see in a baby’s first year.

0 to 2 months:

  • Kicks both legs and moves both arms equally while on his or her back and turns head to both sides
  • Lifts and turns head to both sides while on his or her belly
  • Makes gurgling sounds
  • Interacts with caregivers by smiling, calming when they speak and moving arms and legs in excitement

3 to 6 months:

  • Reaches up and bats at toys while on his or her back
  • Brings knees to chest and hands to feet
  • Rolls from back to belly
  • Pushes up and holds head high while reaching forward for toys
  • May pivot while on his or her belly to explore the environment
  • May begin to push up onto hands and knees and rock back and forth, getting ready to crawl
  • Can prop or “tripod” sit, using hands to hold up the upper body while in a seated position
  • Notices more about his or her surroundings, like when people come in and out of the room
  • Responds to his or her name
  • Looks between caregiver and an activity, like a book or toy
  • Coos while interacting with parents, pets and toys

6 to 9 months:

  • Rolls from back to belly and belly to back
  • Begins to crawl, crawling independently by 9 months
  • Sits independently, and gets in and out of the sitting position
  • Makes different consonant and vowel sounds
  • Anticipates your actions
  • Bangs objects together to make loud sounds

9 to 12 months:

  • Crawls
  • Pulls to stand
  • Begins to cruise
  • Attempts to stand without support
  • May walk, though many walk later
  • Uses gestures like pointing to involve you in their routines, interests and requests
  • Babbles with intonations similar to an adult’s speech patterns
  • Imitates simple, familiar words
  • Takes turns while playing
  • Follows simple directions when used with gestures

Year 2: Taking it all in stride

Once you have a toddler, physical milestones become less about rolling and sitting and more about, well, toddling.

“From 13 to 14 months old, most kids are walking, but not all,” said Losak. “They can crawl up stairs, squat and pick up a toy, and they are learning to stand up from the floor without help. At 15 to 18 months, little ones can crawl down the stairs, run, and start to kick a ball forward.”

By the time your child is 2, your little explorer should have an easy time walking with few falls and a more mature gait (meaning they don’t rock back and forth while stepping). He or she can also jump in place and kick a ball with either foot.

As for communication, Tarantino said by 18 months, she hopes to see children using at least 10 words.

“This can include things they want, like ‘cookie,’ object names, like ‘cup’ or ‘car,’ and descriptions, like ‘hot.’ Toddlers should be able to wait for a snack to be prepared, show you what they want if you don’t understand their request, and begin to play pretend.”

The age 2 milestone for words is 60, but most kids will know more than 100 and will be stringing together phrases and making requests.

Year 3: A hop, skip and jump

With another year of practice, that sometimes-clumsy 2-year-old will become a coordinated and well-spoken child. And the more you chat with them, the more they’ll learn.

“A 2-to-3-year-old is expected to be about 50% intelligible,” said Tarantino. “We try to encourage parents to sit or lay on the floor with their child and play, read and be silly.”

When playing, it’s important to talk about the interaction rather than “quiz” the child during play. This helps build a stronger language connection. An example would be, “Wow! You put the block on top!” instead of, “Where is the block?”

“At 3, children can balance on one foot for a few seconds at a time and jump forward 10 to 12 inches. They can catch a large ball, so they’re getting some hand-eye coordination, and they’re starting to ride those little tricycles. In fact, they’re pretty good at most things,” said Losak.

Year 4: Well on their way

By age 4, your kiddo will be running, jumping and climbing like a champ. In fact, kids this age should be proficient at most movements, but there’s one last milestone to check for: being able to hop on one foot.

“If parents are watching their child struggle with balance and coordination activities like kicking or hopping, they should mention it to their pediatrician,” Losak said.

Same goes for if your little one is difficult to understand more often than not.

“We would expect 75% intelligibility by age 4,” Tarantino said. “By the time a child is 5, you should be able to understand everything he or she is saying.”

What if milestones aren’t met?

Every child is different, and so too are their developmental journeys. Your child’s pediatrician will check for milestone developments at routine appointments, which are scheduled frequently throughout the first year. If your child hasn’t met a milestone on time, don’t worry too much — just keep an eye on your little one, and mention it at their next checkup.

Pediatric therapists offer treatment for developmental delays, fine or gross motor challenges, and more. If your child is having difficulty with any physical, cognitive, occupational, speech or feeding tasks, call 904.202.4200 or visit wolfsonchildrens.com/rehab to learn more about Wolfson Children’s Rehabilitation.

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By Evolve Editorial Team
By Evolve Editorial Team