What Are the Key Developmental Milestones in Babies?


child holding a mans hand

As a parent, you want to monitor the growth and development of your child and ensure they are progressing at a healthy and happy rate.

Especially during the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) when children are unable to talk when communicating with us, understanding their development and spotting any issues, is so important.

Each and every child is different so it’s perfectly normal for children to develop at their own pace. It does not necessarily mean anything is wrong if your child develops slower than their classmates but understanding developmental milestones gives you a reference point.

In this blog post we will identify what developmental milestones are, why they are important, and which milestones happen at different ages. As a caregiver or nursery practitioner, it’s good to have an awareness of these stages to help you monitor and support a child over a period of time.

What Are Developmental Milestones?

Developmental milestones are behavioural and physical checkpoints as your child grows. When they reach a certain age, they should typically be able to do certain things, as this shows they are developing at a steady rate.

Week by week, and month by month, you can check in with your child and see if there has been any progress. You could check to see if they are now capable of doing something on their own, that they have previously been unable to do.

It’s important to note that whilst these milestones provide a solid foundation of a child’s development, they are broad and should not be obsessed over. For example, if your child takes a little longer to achieve some of the milestones, this is usually nothing to worry about.

These development stages are to help parents understand what is broadly expected of a child at a certain age. As we have covered, every child is different and some children need to be supported more than others.

Why Are Developmental Milestones So Important?

By measuring your child against developmental milestones, it provides important cues into their health and well being.

The best way to spot any warning signs or delays in your child’s development is to track their progress over a certain period of time. Always keep in mind that development progress can fluctuate depending on different life events, for example the birth of a new sibling, which is why using a time frame is important.

This allows you to better understand your child and what is ‘normal’ for them so you can judge whether additional help is needed or not. If they are not reaching their milestones, then speaking to a healthcare professional is the best course of action.

These milestones are also very useful in determining if your child is ahead of their peers and classmates. Maybe they are progressing at a faster pace and reaching milestones early. It’s good to have an indication of what level your child is functioning at to ensure they are on track.

This gives you peace of mind that they are healthy and happy as you can provide extra support if needed. This allows your child to reach their full potential and will shape their future learning experiences.

Key Developmental Milestones

We have divided milestones into the 4 main areas of your child’s growth and development. This makes it easier for you to follow your child’s progress and understand their behaviours.

  • Motor development – This concerns your babies movements, in terms of when they sit, crawl, and hold objects.
  • Sensory milestones – These milestones track your baby’s senses including when they will be able to have regular sleep.
  • Communication milestones – This concerns when your baby starts speaking their first words and listening/ responding to questions.
  • Feeding milestones – These milestones help track the different stages of feeding.

baby lying on bed with legs in the air

0-3 Months

Motor Milestones

  • While your baby is lying on their stomach, they will push up using their arms
  • While lying on their stomach, they will be able to lift and holds their head
  • They will be able to open and close their fists
  • They will be able to raise their hands to their mouth
  • They will be able to moves their legs and arms up and down when excited

Sensory Milestones

  • While lying on down on their back, they will try to reach for a toy
  • While lying on their back, they will track a moving object from side to side
  • Able to calm by using a rocking movement and gentle sounds
  • Enjoys a variety of movements

Communication Milestones

  • Smiles in response to a sound or a voice
  • Turns head in the direction of the sound or voice
  • Shows interest in different peoples faces
  • Makes eye contact
  • Coos and smiles at people

Feeding Milestones

  • Tongue moves forward and back when feeding
  • Able to swallow well during feeding

baby's feet

4-6 Months

Motor Milestones

      • Supports their body with their hands while sitting up
      • Is able to roll from their back to their tummy and from their tummy to their back
      • Is able to reach for nearby toys while lying on tummy
      • While lying on back, they can reach to play with their feet

Sensory Milestones

      • Uses both hands to explore different objects and toys
      • Is able to bring their hands and toys up to their mouth
      • Can be calmed down by using rocking movements and gentle sounds
      • Enjoys a variety of movements

Communication Milestones

      • Reacts to sudden and loud noises
      • Shows signs of listening and responding when they are spoken to
      • Begins to use sounds when babbling, such as “da, da, da”
      • Makes different kinds of sounds when trying to communicate their feelings
      • Enjoys toys that make sounds
      • Gets attention by using sounds

Feeding Milestones

      • Shows more of an interest in trying food
      • Opens mouth as soon as they see a spoon approach
      • Is able to moves soft food from front of mouth to the back
      • Starts to eat food such as cereals and pureed foods

toddler sitting on the ground

7-9 Months

Motor Milestones

      • Is able to sit independently without needing support
      • Sits and reaches for objects and toys without falling over
      • Can moves from tummy or back into a sitting position
      • Starts to move by crawling
      • Turns head to track objects when they are moving
      • Shows more control while rolling over and sitting up
      • Is able to pick up and hold small objects between their thumbs and fingers

Sensory Milestones

      • Enjoys bouncing up and down, and rocking back and forth
      • Explores objects and toys by using both hands and their mouth
      • Experiments with the amount of force needed to pick up different objects
      • Focuses on objects near to them and far away
      • Examines shapes, sizes, and the feel of different objects
      • Observes their surroundings from different positions – while lying on back or tummy, sitting, crawling, and standing with support

Communication Milestones

      • Start to use more sounds and syllable combinations when communicating
      • Become more familiar with peoples names and look at them when their name is called
      • Start to recognise the sound of their own name
      • Participates in two-way communication by listening and responding
      • Shows an understanding of commonly used words
      • Understand basic gestures such as someone shaking their head to say no
      • Copies sounds and movements

Feeding Milestones

      • They can hold and drink from a bottle
      • Start to eat thicker pureed foods
      • Enjoys chewing different toys to soothe swollen gums when teething
      • Starts to look and reach for objects, such as, food
      • Reacts to new smells and tastes

baby in white hoodie walking

0-12 Months

Motor Milestones

      • Pull themselves up to stand and is able to move along furniture
      • Moves into different positions to explore their surroundings
      • Can balance themselves when sitting up
      • Claps hands
      • Can release objects from their grip

Sensory Milestones

      • Explores toys using their fingers and their mouth
      • Crawls to or away from objects
      • Enjoys listening to music

Communication Milestones

      • Start to say sounds such as “mama” or “dada”
      • Responds to simple instructions such as “leave that”
      • Is able to say a couple of words
      • Imitates different speech sounds
      • Their babbling has a rhythm of speech
      • Pays more attention to where you are pointing to and looks in that direction
      • Listens and responds to “no”
      • Begins using hand movements to communicate what they want such as reaches their arms out when they want to be picked up

Feeding Milestones

      • Can feed themselves using their finger
      • Enjoys eating a bigger variety of food
      • Begins to use an open cup instead of a bottle
      • Can eat soft-cooked vegetables, soft fruits, and finger foods
      • Enjoys more smells and tastes

child stacking cubes

13-18 Months

Motor Milestones

      • Is able to start walking with little or no support
      • Can squat when reaching down to pick up a toy
      • Can stack objects on top of each other

Sensory Milestones

      • Wants to help when getting dressed and undressed
      • Enjoys a more consistent and regular sleeping pattern
      • Eats a wide variety of foods

Communication Milestones

When they reach 15 months:

      • Able to use a few different words perhaps between 5-10 words
      • Combines sounds and gestures when expressing themselves
      • Copies basic words and movements
      • Follows simple directions
      • Is interested and excited in pictures

When they reach 18 months:

      • Responds to questions
      • Repeats different words they have overheard in a conversation
      • Recognises familiar objects and people in photographs and points to them
      • Listens and responds to yes/no questions by shaking or nodding their head

Feeding milestones

      • Increases the amount and variety of food they eat
      • Can hold and drink from a cup

child wearing pink jumper reading a book

19-24 Months

      • Be able to use a minimum of 50 words
      • Consistently imitates new words and new sounds
      • Is able to names objects and people in pictures
      • Understands simple pronouns (me, you, my)
      • Understands and grasps new words quickly
      • Uses simple pronouns (me, you, my)
      • Understands action words and what different actions mean
      • Uses gestures and words during pretend play
      • Enjoys listening to stories

FAQ’s About Key Developmental Milestones

As a parent, you will always have questions regarding your child’s growth and development. Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions to put your mind at ease.

What Age Do Babies Smile?

Around 2 months of age you can expect to see your baby smile. Although when they are passing wind this can also be mistaken for a smile!

What Age Do Babies Roll Over?

Babies usually start to roll over between 4 and 6 months of age, although some babies can roll over from as young as 3 months.

What Age Do Babies Sit Up?

Usually around 5-6 months is the age when babies can sit up with a little bit of support. By 8 months they should be able to sit up by themselves unassisted.

What Age Do Babies Crawl?

Once your little one has managed to sit up independently, crawling is usually the next stage. However, they usually master being able to crawl backwards before understanding how to crawl forwards!

What Age Do Babies Talk?

This can really vary depending on the child as some children start to babble and say a few sounds around 6 months of age, whereas other children might not talk until they are 12 months of age.
baby girl crawling on the floor

What Are the Key Developmental Milestones in Babies?

Developmental milestones allow parents to monitor their child’s growth and development. From seeing them wave for the first time to hearing their first word, these checkpoints enable parents to make sure their child is on track for their age and stage of development.

However, it is important to emphasise that each child is different so it’s impossible to determine exactly when a child should learn a new skill. As a parent, you know your child best and you are the best person to judge whether or not they need additional support.

The development milestones outlined above should be used as more of a general guide than a concrete set of stages. Of course, if you have any concerns at all about your child then you should seek a professional opinion who will be able to advise further.

Seeing your child develop is such an exciting time for any parent. There’s nothing better than hearing your child’s first words or seeing them sit up by themselves for the first time. That sense of achievement as they reach a new milestone is very special. At Learning Journals we don’t want you to miss a moment of this precious journey.

With our online platform, you can upload and track your child’s progress over a period of time. Even if they’re at nursery school or another setting, you’ll never miss out on these moments as you can upload and share limitless observations and comment on your child’s profile.

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