Physical Development Milestones for Babies (0-1 year)

This section of the site aims to explain you Physical Development Milestones achieved by your baby in his first year.

Most Important thing for you to understand is that your baby is unique and he’ll develop at its own pace . Like all other babies he’ll also lift head, smile, blabber and so on but when “right time” will come. And the “right time” is of course when your baby will be ready.

Your little angel is born and is now in your hands, I end up looking at my son all the time during these days, I distinctly remember his wide open eyes, whenever he’s not sleeping. Anyhow my first question to my pediatrician he lost weight within a day after being born, and I got to know its natural, I took a deep sigh, thanks, it was natural

Well almost entire of first year will be spend for your baby to understand, how to take part in physical world and to interact on his own terms with the things he finds around himself, he will need:

  • To gain control over his body so that she can move herself around by crawling or walking
  • To develop control over her hands in order to pick up and manipulate objects.

Before we dig in deep to understand entire process, we should understand this important point that physical development bears very little relationship with Intellectual development. Hence if your baby is last one to walk or talk in his peer group, is doesn’t imply he’ll be less intelligent.

Topics covered in this section are as follows:

Parent as a support in Physical Development

In order to really get around, baby needs to learn to sit, crawl and then walk. This means developing strength in her neck and back muscles to support his head and spine, which will take several months. Muscle control development takes top to down i.e. neck to toe.

Initially baby cannot support his head even, but if you hold your baby upright against you when cuddling or comforting him, will give him an opportunity to strengthen his neck muscles. I still remember when I first held my son against my shoulder, he tried to lift his head away and I was assured he is practicing his head control.

After few weeks your baby is strong enough to hold his head away from you for few minutes when you are stationary, but if you are moving about he will just not be able to steady himself enough.

By about ten weeks, he will have mastered control over neck and head and can keep his neck and head steady in most conditions, but now it will be shoulders that will let him down.

Infact, he will gain full control of his spine by six months, when he could sit up unaided.

Now here are tips for you to help your baby help him gain control:

  • Put him on his tummy atleast once a day to let him practice holding his head up.
  • Letting your baby free for sometime, his body also becomes unclenched from that foetal position. Gradually, he will start straightening his legs and arms.
  • By 12 weeks of age he will love lying on his back, at this stage give sometime each day lying his back on the floor with his nappy off.
  • Once your kid starts enjoying kicking, put on variety of surfaces so he can experience different textures.
  • Tie a helium balloon on his hand and see the fun happening.
  • Get a baby gym, for your little one to practice his new mastered skill. Trust me those were the most enjoyable times my son had. He starts giggling as soon as he realizes its gym time. To get more details on baby gym and its usefulness click here.
  • Now baby can sit up for sometimes, initially help your baby to sit up, by placing cushions, or use care seat to allow him to explore the world while sitting on his seat.

Gaining Balance

While all muscle control is developing, another system is also maturing which is crucial to getting moving and that is balance. Its going to be bit theoretical, but important to understand and help your baby.

The vestibular system is the oldest of our sensory systems. It coordinates information from the vestibular organs in the inner ear, the eyes, muscles and joints, fingertips and palms of the hands, pressers on the soles of the feet, jaw, and gravity receptors on the skin and adjusts heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tone, limb position, immune responses, arousal and balance.

When the vestibular system is working well, we know which direction we’re moving in, how fast we’re moving and whether we’re speeding up or slowing down . Under normal conditions we’re unaware of using it, but with illness and over-stimulation, we become more conscious of our vestibular system.

Now, you need to help your baby understand and come in terms with the input from his vestibular system, the more input he has, the more it matures. Initially, your baby relies on you for movement:

  • He will find slow movements like gentle rocking, swaying, quite soothing.
  • Rapid movements like jiggling, bouncing and swinging will stimulate him.
  • Carrying your baby in a sling or pram are one of the good ways to give your baby vestibular stimulation and allowing you to finish on other chores.

So next time when you are gently rocking, swaying or jiggling your baby you know you are helping his vestibular system to develop.

An important note, vestibular system won’t mature unitl seven years of age and will continue till puberty and beyond.

In the end, just to summarize, vestibular system supplies our brains with sense of direction, and many higher cognitive skills such as reading and writing require directional awareness (for example difference between ‘saw’ and ‘was’, ‘no’ and ‘on’; being aware of up and down, left and right)

I would like to emphasize that, now since we understand the importance of vestibular system and balance for baby, follow these activities to stimulate further.

Movement and your Baby’s Brain

The three parts of brain involved in movement, and also interact with each other are:cerebellum, basal ganglia and motor cortex.

  • The Cerebellum is a cauliflower shaped structure which sits above the spinal cord and merges with the rest of the brain. The cerebellum runs skills that have been acquired through practice and no longer need conscious control like playing guitar, piano or touch typing. 
  • The vestibular system feeds into this structure and any damage to the cerebellum results in poor co-ordination and clumsiness or ataxia.
  • The Basal ganglia lie below the cortex and span virtually the entire length of the brain. Basal ganglia are associated with a variety of functions: motor control, cognition, emotions, and learning. Damage to these result in movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s chorea, cerebral palsy, stuttering and ADHD.
  • The Motor Cortex sits over the brain like a hair band. Motor cortex is a term that describes regions of the cerebral cortex involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary motor functions. In a way it is responsible for our conscious actions, and is unique to us. Any new action is probably controlled by the motor cortex, but once mastered, is then controlled by cerebellum.

The movements that baby make are under control of first two, more primitive regions of the brain. Some of the initial movements include reflex actions, which emerges at 9 to 12 weeks after conception and is designed to respond to any unexpected event, particularly loss of head support. Your baby needs to outgrow his reflex actions before he can really master complicated, consciously thought movements.

The First Month

  • He try to raise his head if lying on tummy
  • He can recognize your voice and smell.
  • He’ll be able to move his hands and legs at one time
  • He will move suddenly on sharp noises
  • When close to you, he will be able to watch your face
  • Starts to uncurl from his fetal position
  • Sticks out his tongue in response to your doing it.

The Second Month

  • He will smile for the first time.
  • May turn head from side to side
  • Watches movements of others
  • Coos in response to you
  • Shows excitement when he see you are near
  • Opens and closes his mouth in imitation when you talk to your kid
  • Can see things further away
  • Make smoother movements

The Third Month

  • He will hold his head up without support for few seconds.
  • He can lift his head and chest up when lying on his tummy.
  • He can close and open his hands and play with fingers
  • He is getting social and observing people around him.
  • He can watch his hands
  • Clasp a toy in his hand
  • Swipes at toys
  • Reaches out and grab a thing.
  • Experiments with vowel sounds.

The Fourth Month

  • He can rollback on his tummy
  • He can follow a person by moving his eyes.
  • He can grasp objects
  • Head control becomes steady
  • Use hands to explore his own face and objects of interest
  • Can recognize people closest to him and react differently to each one of them.

The Fifth Month

  • Grabs his toes and puts them in mouth
  • May cry to attract attention
  • Start rolling over from front to back
  • Reaches for toys he wants
  • Raises his arms to be picked up.
  • Turns his head away when he doesn’t want any more food.
  • Puts everything in his mouth

The Sixth Month

  • He can raise his hands above his body
  • Sits with proper support
  • Begins finger feeding
  • Babbles and laugh
  • Changes tone of voice to express himself
  • Starts to chuckle
  • Initiates interaction: understands he can get attention by making noise and banging objects.

The Seventh Month

  • Move objects from one hand to other
  • He can recognize and smile at his mirror image
  • Knows his parents
  • Become anxious of strangers

The Eight Month

  • He can sit upright without support.
  • Can stand for a short period
  • Can creep.
  • Recognize his name and may start saying simple words as mama, papa
  • Develops understanding of language

The Ninth Month

  • He can crawl on his hands and knees
  • Picks up objects
  • Responds on being called by his name.
  • Masters a pincer grip and is able to point to and pick up objects.

The Tenth Month

  • He understand ‘no’ and ‘bye-bye’.
  • Develops a sense of humour.
  • Can understand many words and start to imitate sound.
  • Hits together two objects held in hand.
  • Looks out for hidden things.

The Eleventh Month

  • Waves for good-bye
  • May stand alone for a short period and take a few sreps.
  • Imitate simple words.
  • Can find simple objects easily.

The Twelth Month

  • He can stand alone.
  • He can walk with support, may start walking on his own.
  • May start self feeding with spoon.
  • Copies others.
  • Understands commands and requests.

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Physical Development Milestones for toddlers (1-2 years)

Physical Development Milestones for toddlers (2-3 years)