While you should give your little one time and space to come into his own, do not forget to keep these developmental red flags in mind as well.
All parents will agree that their child’s first milestones are truly special, whether it is the first time they lift their head, crawl, walk or talk. But if your bub is unable to achieve any of these milestones within his first year, they can turn into developmental red flags.
From the time of his birth, your little one offers important clues about his growth and development. The way he looks at things, the way he grabs them, or how fast he learns to talk and walk are all clues. These are signs he is growing up as a healthy child.
Similarly, there are a few signs that are considered to be developmental red flags. These act as catalysts in identifying the child’s underlying growth problems and delayed development.
Developmental red flags (1-36 months): Everything you need to know about them
Usually most parents are able to recognise developmental red flags in their children. You will be able to pick up if your child is slow in his fine motor skills, cognitive skills, language and speech as well as physical development.
But sometimes, you might miss out on these developmental reg flags. Let’s take a look at each of them based on their ages.
1. Developmental reg flags (1 to 3 months)
It might seem as though in the first three months, a newborn cannot exhibit much growth a development. But you will be surprised to know how quickly they actually do.
In their own little way, they are able to indicate healthy development.
If you notice any of the following, you should consider them developmental red flags.
- Unable to respond to loud noises
- Unable to follow moving objects even by three months
- Doesn’t smile at you or at your voice even by three months
- Is not able to grasp objects by three months
- Cannot support his head by three months
- Is not interested in pulling objects near his mouth
- Cannot push toys with his legs
- Has trouble moving either one or both of his eyes
Although these are considered developmental red flags, it is crucial to understand that many babies take their time to do these activities. So even if he is not really being that physically active, you need not worry.
You should only consider going for a checkup if you notice issues with his vision and his ability to hear.
2. Developmental reg flag (4 to 7 months)
By this age, the child becomes particularly physically active. You may notice him rolling around the bed, trying to life his head, or laughing and squealing and even following objects with his eyes.
But if you notice him not doing any of these, then that could be a red flag. In addition, you might want to be careful about the following signs of delayed development as well:
- Very tight and stiff muscles
- Flops around like a rag doll
- Is unable to hold his head till his seventh month
- Shows no affection towards his parents and caretakers
- Does not like more than one or two people around him
- Gets cranky when he sees many people at once
- Is unable to focus with both eyes
- Is extremely sensitive to light, tears up often or his eyes are mostly dry
- Still doesn’t respond to any sound, especially loud noises
- Has difficulty bringing objects and toys towards his mouth
- Doesn’t turn around to check out the source of any kind of noise or a person’s voice
- Unable to roll over by six months
- Unable to sit with your help even at six months
- Doesn’t laugh or squeal at your voice
- His legs are really skinny as compared to the rest of the body
Again, all of these are signs of delayed development. But they could also be indicative of an underlying health issue. For instance, not being able to focus on an object could indicate an issue with the baby’s eyesight.
The best thing to do is to keep your eye peeled for all these activities and give your baby some time. He may just come around after a month.
But if even after seven months, he displays the aforementioned behaviour, you might want to consider a regular checkup.
3. Developmental red flags (8-12 months)
As your little one nears his biggest milestone (turning one) you may notice him wanting to stand on his own. He might also try to talk and become more active with his toys.
However, the following can be developmental reg flags for a baby who is about to turn one:
- Unable to crawl
- Drags one side of his entire body in order to crawl
- Unable to stand even with support
- Is not that interested in playing games and doesn’t like searching for his toys
- Doesn’t use any single words (like “mama” or “dada”)
- Cannot use any gestures like waving of hands
- Is unable to sit in one place even after turning 10 months
These red flags can may indicate neurological disorders and development delays such as Down syndrome or autism.
However, you must note that while activities like walking start between 8 and 12 months, for some kids it may take 13 months. In other rare cases, walking can take up to 18 months.
But if your child doesn’t walk even by that time, you should get a checkup done.
As with the other delays, a buffer time of a month should be given to kids before you take them for a checkup.
4. Developmental red flags (12-24 months)
By this stage most toddlers are able to develop their own beautiful personalities. Some are docile, some are fierce, while others can be lazy or playful. As soon as your little one turns one, you will be able to notice a seismic change in his behaviour and play.
Exploration and decreased sleep times will become part of your normal day. Your child might even develop good eating habits and sleep patterns.
However, if you notice the following, count them as developmental reg flags.
- Unable to walk by 18 months
- Prefers to only walk on toes and doesn’t keep his entire foot on the floor
- Cannot babble single words like “mama” and “papa” or “dada” by 18th month
- Even by 15 months, cannot use spoons, forks or is unaware of regular household objects like the phone (unless you have kept him away from all of these)
- Is unable to imitate words or actions even by 24 months
- Cannot follow any single-step instructions even by 24 months
As your child turns two, most of his motor and cognitive skills, as well as language and speech skills, are in place. Of course, as he grows older they will get sharpened. But if he has not developed even the basic skills at this point, then that might need immediate attention.
5. Developmental red flags (24-36 months)
By his second year, your toddler will have learned to walk, talk, play and even run around easily. His speech and language skills might also be improving. This is good news.
But if you haven’t seen any progress at all in the past year, it could be a cause of worry. Thankfully, we have a list of what you need to check for during this phase so you don’t have to worry:
- Unable to crawl or walk
- Falls frequently while trying to climb the stairs
- Still has unclear speech
- Drools persistently (although this is not very serious, but it could indicate a neurological disorder)
- Faces difficulty in manipulating toys and objects
- Cannot follow one-step instructions
- Shows little or no interest in other kids
- Is unable to communicate in sentences
- Doesn’t want to leave you or any caregiver
While these can be considered developmental reg flags, it’s important to note that all kids are different. While some take one year to walk, others may start walking within eight months.
Similarly, while some may be able to talk and develop a fairly good understanding of instructions at 15 months, others may follow suit at 24.
So the best thing to do is that if you notice any of these developmental red flags, give your child a month. If they still remain as is, consult a doctor or a specialist to identify the root cause.
6. Developmental reg flags (3-4 years)
Your little one is finally ready for his big day at school. There is a lot to look forward to, and competition among kids is just one of those things. Most kids are fluent with their motor and cognitive skills, as well as language and speech skills, by the age of three. But if your kid has not developed any or one of these, it is a red flag.
Make sure you keep an eye on the following to better understand if your child is progressing or showing signs of delay:
- Unable to jump in place or walk properly
- Cannot grab anything between the index finger and thumb
- Mostly ignores other children
- Has difficulty scribbling anything
- Is clingy and unable to leave parents at all
- Has no interest in any kind of interactive game
- Doesn’t like talking to or engaging with people who are not family
- Resists sleeping, dressing up or going to the toilet
- Gets upset and angry quickly and throws violent tantrums
- Unable to use “you” or “me” properly
As mentioned before, each child is unique. While early learning comes naturally to some, others take their time. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with those who take longer to develop.
Excessively delayed development is also not good. It can be an indication of an underlying neurological, physical or psychological issue. So it’s best to keep these developmental red flags in mind. Ideally, your kid should be able to do all the listed activities in the given time. But if he cannot, give him a little time and observe him closely.
Only after proper observation and screening should you come to the conclusion that there is something wrong. If you suspect there is a problem, consult a doctor immediately to better understand the underlying issue. Other than that, give your kids the space and time they need to grow and develop. Let them enjoy their childhood. Do not try to rush them into learning everything at once.
After all everything has its place and time. A baby’s development is no different.