When I was expecting my second baby, a good friend and fellow young mother presented me with a hand-stitched wall hanging with the following:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow
For babies grow up-we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So settle down, cobwebs and dust go to sleep
Before you know it, your toddler will grow up and enter primary school. From age 6 to 10, watch your child grow at an exponential rate and marvel at their rapid growth and development.
They do grow up so quickly, don’t they? One day they are immobile and completely dependent and the next day your baby will roll from back to front…then front to back…then they’re crawling…and walking….
For all the excitement at watching your baby’s development (tinged with a bit of melancholy), however, there can also be a bit of anxiety. Are they on target? Are they developmentally behind? Chances are, no. Every child grows and develops in their own time; some sooner than others. The following milestones are considered normal. But if, for instance, your baby doesn’t cut their first tooth by the time they’re 6 months old, don’t panic.
Age 0 to 1 year
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Language development: By age 3 months, your baby should recognize your voice and it should be soothing to him/her. Hearing your voice will quiet your baby’s cry. He/she will also begin to gurgle and make cooing sounds around this time, as well. By age 6 months your baby will use sounds other than crying to show pleasure and displeasure and begin to form letter sounds like ‘ba’, ‘da’, mm’ and ‘o’. By age one, your baby will likely have a vocabulary of 6 to 10 words but will understand 60 to 70 words including simple instructions.
Physical development: By the time your baby is a month old, he/she should be able to hold their head up when on their stomach. By 2 months, they should be holding their head up on their own for longer periods of time in any position. By 5 months your baby should have found their hands and feet-playing with them and rolling from back to front and front to back. Crawling will begin at 6-8 months and by 12 months, most babies will be walking. If they’ve not let go and taken off, they’ll at least be walking around everything.
Cognitive skills develop at a steady pace in the first year of life. Your baby will smile and laugh by 2 months, follow things with their eyes by 3 months and recognize and reach for items and play with their hands and feet by 5 months. By 7-8 months your baby will pass things from one hand to another, and play peek-a-boo. By age 1, your baby will imitate and use their hands to grab, reach, pull, push and pull.
From age 1 to age 3
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Language skills develop at a rapid pace after your baby’s first birthday-at the rate of 6-10 words a month. By 18 months your toddler will be able to recognize, point to and say most body parts, pieces of clothing, familiar people, places and things. By age two they will say 2-3 word sentences and by age 3, will be able to speak in full sentences, repeat most anything and will comprehend directions as long as they contain words in their vocabulary.
Physical development includes going from walking (using a heel to toe rhythm) to running, standing on tiptoe, kicking a ball and of course, climbing. By the time your toddler turns 3, they will try to skip (some will be able to, others won’t).
As for cognitive and social skills, the 1 to 2-year-old will occupy themselves for somewhat extended periods of time playing with toys and will sit still for short picture book stories-especially those that allow them to mimic sounds. They will become increasingly independent and yes, defiant at times. Between the ages of 2 and 3, they will begin to sort things into groups (colours and some shapes) with help, enjoy the interaction of other children and will mimic actions of those around them. Their independence continues to grow but it’s not unusual for a toddler this age to experience periods of separation anxiety, too. They’re torn between being a baby and toddler. But these periods are usually short-lived and nothing to worry about.
From age 3 to age 5
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You are going to see your child transform right before your eyes between the ages of 3 and 4; especially in their language development. It is during this time that your child begins to ask questions, answer questions, tell stories and uses their ever-increasing vocabulary in context. They will be able to sing and remember simple songs, rhymes and stories.
At age 4 they will be able to recite the alphabet, sing more songs and recognize some letters and letter sounds. Your 5-year-old will use correct tense and subject-verb agreement (most of the time) and will be able to reason with you to great extent. They will still often times have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy (is a storybook or television show real) but will be able to comprehend your explanations. The 5-year-old has a full grasp on opposites, instructions and can recognize and write the alphabet. Many will even be able to read (mainly sight words), write their full name and possibly their phone number and/or address.
From a cognitive and motor skills point of view, you’ll see them recognize their shapes and colours, handle a pencil or crayon with impressive agility (don’t expect them to colour within the lines quite yet) and will be able to do puzzles that are age-appropriate. By the time your child turns 4, they will be able to use safety scissors, write most letters in upper case form and some numbers. They will be able to follow multiple part instructions (1. Take your boots off. 2. Hang your coat up. 3. Wash your hands.) and understand concepts such as morning and after lunch. They can throw a ball, catch a ball, keep a balloon in the air, hop, walk backwards, turn somersaults, and twist and bend without losing their balance.
The 5-year-old progresses tremendously in his/her cognitive and motor skills. A 5-year-old can colour and paint within the lines, cut along the lines, paste shapes into place correctly, and will have established handedness. Your 5 year old will be able to walk on a balance beam, jump in a controlled manner, skip rope (with practice), skate and possibly ride a bike without training wheels.
Socially, a 3 to 4-year-old continues to increase their vocabulary to upwards of 300-400 words and uses them correctly. They enjoy the company of other children but also begin to distinguish between who is their friend and who isn’t. They are also learning right from wrong and need guidance in seeing the difference clearly. By age 5, your child has a pretty clear picture of right from wrong, is eager to please you and loves to play. They crave interaction from both you and their peers and are soaking up everything you say and do like a sponge. Their character is being formed at an alarming rate-much of what they learn now moulds them into the person they become.
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As I stated at the beginning of the article-these milestones are general and based on the average development of a child. My firstborn walked when he was 9 months-not 12 and his youngest daughter walked when she was 8 months and was running like the wind by 10 months. But…she’s now 20 months old and her vocabulary is not quite within the guidelines. My second-born didn’t walk until she was 13 months old, but her vocabulary at 12 months was that of a 3-year-old. It’s all dependent on the child. But…if you have concerns, ask your paediatrician. It’s better to know than to wonder and worry.