Babies are pre-programmed to develop skills in a certain order and stimulating babies can help them achieve milestones more quickly

Baby steps: stages, phases and baby’s first milestones.

Children develop at different rates and it’s not helpful to compare children, however, a general overview of the types of skills that children develop can help parents spot any difficulties early and maximise the opportunity for early intervention. In the first few weeks of life, babies seem like they’re just waking up to the world and it’s difficult for parents to know what their little ones are taking in.

The answer is pretty much everything! Their senses are awakening but they’re still very much passive receivers of information. When they start smiling (some time after about 4 weeks) they start interacting with the world and begin on a journey that leads them to understand cause and effect, to form attachments and to engage fully with their environment.

For newborns, activities that encourage muscle development, eye tracking and social interaction are great – time spent on their tummies is important in helping to develop neck and core stability. Closeness to the primary carer provides your baby with the emotional security he needs whilst learning to recognise familiar sights, sounds, smells, touches and tastes.

By around 6 months of age, babies are already very well developed with mature vision and an understanding of routine. Their world is expanding as they sit up and are able to view and interact more with their surroundings. Learning through trial and error is just beginning as children learn that they have an effect on their environment and those around them.

The next 6 months is when a lot of the big milestones are achieved – movement (crawling, pulling to standing and even walking for some children), thumb and forefinger apposition (pincer grip) and first words are all often achieved by a baby’s first birthday. Attention is still very fleeting and babies are easilydistracted, but they do focus on things for increasing periods of time. Babies at this stage can absorb an enormous amount of information about things they attend to as they’ve not yet developed the process of cognitive economy, so they attend to everything.

After a baby’s first birthday, your child will be showing obvious signs of development in all aspects of their life. At this stage, babies will be stronger and more coordinated as their balance and core stability has a burst in development about now. Language learning is also exploding at this stage.

Even if the baby isn’t saying much, the level of understanding is rocketing. Young toddlers do not yet understand playing with other children and can get frustrated easily. They also tend to go through a clingy phase not long after the first birthday as their attachment to the primary carer solidifies whilst their understanding of the wider world is still very limited.

Summary: Babies are pre-programmed to develop skills in a certain order and stimulating babies can help them achieve milestones more quickly, butit’s important to allow children the freedom to engage naturally with their environment and develop holistically.

Article written in consultation with a Leading Child Psychologist, Dr. Amanda Gummer.