In the first year of life babies undergo an incredible transformation. They begin as awestruck newborns discovering life beyond the womb and twelve months later they're active toddlers busy exploring their world. It's an incredible journey to be a part of and a rewarding experience to see all that hard work of parenting begin to pay off.
As babies grow, there are certain developmental markers that pediatricians look for to make sure everything is progressing as it should. While every baby is an individual and acquires new skills at their own pace, these developmental markers are important to pay attention to as significant delays might be a sign of an underlying problem. Early detection is a key component to correcting issues and improving outcomes for babies who do have an developmental delay.
Parent's need not worry if their baby isn't meeting the milestones right on time. A slight delay is perfectly normal as long as those goals are still being met. If they are not, parents need to get involved to help their little ones make a breakthrough and acquire those skills. In the event that they are still unsuccessful and a slight delay becomes a major one, parents should discuss the matter with their doctor.
As babies turn into toddlers at the twelve month mark, there are certain developmental milestones that they are expected to have reached. Here is a checklist for parents to make sure baby is on track.
15 Using Language
Babies begin to learn language before they are even born. As newborns their communication skills are limited to crying. Soon they begin to experiment with the occasional vowel and then consonants are added. Next babies begin stringing together various sounds in different configurations. This is the beginning of babbling and generally babies enter this phase at about six months of age.
As babies develop greater control of their mouths, babbling becomes more sophisticated as well as more frequent. Before they learn words, they learn the rhythm of speech. In an attempt to mimic what they hear babies babble in a way that will begin to sound like a foreign language.
At twelve months old baby should be a proficient babbler making a variety of sounds following the rhythm of speech. They should also have a rudimentary comprehension of words and understand things they often hear in context. Some babies may be saying a few first words such as “mama” and “dada” with comprehension and intent.
14 Showing What They Want
Even an advanced one year old can only be expected to know how to say a handful of words. However they should understand that speech is used for communication and they should be making efforts to communicate wants and needs. Even though they don't know the words they should be pointing and vocalizing to make their thoughts known.
Babies can be very inventive in how they get their point across. They may bring a toy to a parent to engage them in play. If they want attention they might make a noise or make physical contact with their hands and shake or tap the person. A baby that wants something out of their reach might stretch out their arms towards the desired object and vocalize.
Whatever ways your baby may have to communicate, at twelve months old they should be doing so with intent. These are no longer random actions but attempts to engage with other people to make their thoughts clear. This is an important achievement in developing social and language skills.
13 Standing Up
During those first twelve months the physical development of babies progresses in leaps and bounds. Newborns are pretty much entirely horizontal. By four months they should be able to hold up their head and body and sit with assistance. At seven months old babies are usually sitting without help, although they might still topple over from time to time.
The physical development of babies doesn't stop there. At twelve months old babies should be able to use their arms to pull themselves up to a standing position. They may wobble quite a bit but a one year old should have the ability to bear their weight on their feet and stand while holding on to furniture. They should also be able to let go and stand briefly unassisted.
Some babies take time to overcome their fear of falling over and are hesitant to let go of the object they are using for stability. At this age that is normal and not indicative of a problem. What is important is their ability to bear their weight and briefly balance, not their desire to do so.
12 Getting Across The Room
Being able to to get from one place to another has big advantages and babies are usually quite motivated to figure out some form of locomotion. The desire to get to a toy, parent, or simply to another part of the room is usually enough to inspire our young explorers to seek methods of self propulsion. Sometimes babies can be quite creative in how they get around.
Most babies crawl by the time they are ten months old but some settle on less conventional ways of locomotion. Crawling is not considered a necessary milestone so don't worry if your baby doesn't crawl. What is important is the discovery of being mobile regardless of how that mobility looks. By twelve months old babies should be proficient at getting around without assistance.
At the one year mark most babies will combine their ability to stand with their discovery of mobility and begin to cruise. Cruising occurs when babies walk by holding onto furniture or other objects. If your one year old baby isn't cruising, they should be very proficient at getting around in other ways.
11 Making Eye Contact
Eye contact is a very important milestone which opens the door to social interactions. The ability to make eye contact usually develops within the first couple of months of an infant's life. If a one year old baby is consistently avoiding eye contact there is reason to be concerned.
The ability to make eye contact allows for other necessary skills such as joint attention and rudimentary communication. At twelve months old babies should be very comfortable with eye contact and use it to draw attention to an object with the use of gaze, get someone's attention, as well as use it to communicate wants. Without eye contact the child is bound to have delays in all of these areas.
Because eye contact develops at such an early age, any one year old who is struggling with this should be evaluated by a professional. This is indicative of an underlying issue and steps need to be taken to help overcome this obstacle.
10 Reacting To Sound
Most babies will generally get startled at loud noises from birth. There is much evidence to suggest that this begins while still in the womb and many women have even felt their unborn babies respond to loud sudden noises. Just like most other things, the reactions to sound mature with age.
As babies get older they associated certain sounds with specific tasks. When they hear an unfamiliar sound they begin to display curiosity and a desire to learn about the source of the new noise. Familiar sounds that represent something a baby might want, such as the bottle warmer turning on, should cause the baby to respond in a different way.
Twelve month old babies should understand a variety of sounds and and have appropriate reactions while being curious about new noises they are not familiar with. Many babies will be afraid of some household noises such as the vacuum turning on, and will react with fear. A one year old baby that doesn't show interest in sounds needs to be assessed by a doctor. The first step that a medical professional is likely to take is to request a hearing test.
9 Identifying Body Parts
A one year old should have some concept of self awareness. One way to build on this concept is by teaching them about their body. While getting them dressed or during diaper changes, take a bit of time to name some of their main body parts such as head, foot, tummy, and leg.
Although a one year old will probably lack the ability to say the words, they should be able to identify some of their body parts by pointing. As long as they have been taught the words, asking where their head is should result in the child touching their head. At twelve months it's enough if they know just a few parts of their body.
This skill is not something a one year old would pick up on their own. They need to be actively taught the names of their body parts. It's an important part of their education. Make sure you pay attention to this area of your baby's development.
8 Getting The Pincer Grasp Down
The pincer grasp is an important developmental milestone as it allows for greater dexterity and improved object manipulation. Babies demonstrate this skill when they pick up small items between the forefinger and thumb. This is usually learned around eight months of age.
By twelve months babies should have some level of proficiency with the pincer grasp and be able to manipulate small objects rather successfully. A one year old who shows no sign of employing this skill might need a bit of help. Before seeking professional help, make sure that baby is given the opportunity to attempt the pincer grasp.
Since babies have a strong inclination to put things in their mouth, it is unsafe to give them the small objects they need to practice their pincer grasp on. The best option is to provide small things that are safe to eat. A good choice may include dry breakfast cereals such as Cheerios, uniform bits of food that are easy to pick up, or small commercially packaged baby snacks. Always assess food for choking hazards and supervise babies while they eat.
7 Reacting To Their Own Name
Most babies realize that they have a name at around six months of age. As their name becomes familiar babies begin to react appropriately when called. This is usually one of the first verbal communication comprehension markers that doctors look for.
Twelve month old babies should have a good understanding of their name and grasp the concept of being called. Proper reactions to hearing their name include coming when asked or simply turning to look in the direction of whoever is calling them. One year old babies should be fairly consistent in these responses.
Generally babies that don't respond to their names won't show understanding of other words either. If this is the case in a twelve month old baby, there might be a problem. However, if the child does seem to know other words, there may simply be confusion in regards to their name. Make sure that the baby is consistently called by the same name instead of variations or nicknames.
6 Eating On Their Own
A one year old who isn't weaned yet should be well on their way towards this goal and have a diet rich in a variety of foods. Although babies and toddlers have a tendency to be somewhat picky eaters, they should also be curious about food and able to put food in their mouths. At this age babies can't be expected to be proficient with cutlery, but they should be using their hands to feed themselves.
Most babies show a strong aptitude towards putting things in their mouths before they begin to eat solid foods. When food is placed before them it eventually gets tasted without much coaxing being required. While often messy and somewhat wasteful, allowing babies to feed themselves is an important part of their development.
Because self feeding is a skill that develops early, any one year old that makes no attempt to get food into their mouth on their own needs to be assessed. There could be an underlying problem. Speak to your child's doctor if your baby doesn't develop this skill by their first birthday.
5 Following Simple Commands
Language skills take time to learn and before a child can speak they must understand. A one year old should have a rudimentary vocabulary of words they know the meaning of. These probably include their name, caregivers, pets, favourite toys, and other words commonly used around them.
Understanding words leads to communicating thoughts and the first step is to understand the communications of others. At twelve months old a baby should be able to follow simple commands and requests. A one year old child will probably be able to perform tasks such as fetching a favourite toy or going to a specified parent.
It may be a good idea to teach the meaning of the word “no” to children at this level. Although they may not always obey, it's wise to start enforcing this early. Toddlers have a very limited sense of danger and the ability to stop them from a distance can help prevent accidents.
4 Engaging In Joint Attention
Joint attention occurs when two people are paying attention to the same thing while knowing that they are both doing so. It requires one person to deliberately bring something to the attention of a second person. True joint attention occurs for a social purpose where the person initiating the activity is doing so for the purpose of sharing the object of interest rather than because they want the object given to them.
Joint attention begins in infancy when babies begin to follow the gaze of adults to see what they are looking at. A more advanced form which should develop within the first year is following what a person is pointing at. Being able to initiate joint attention also develops before the first birthday.
At one year old a child should be able to use gaze and pointing to both follow and initiate joint attention. This is an important skill as it facilitates learning. A parent who is able to get a child to focus on something specific can facilitate teaching, while the child initiating joint attention is an important aspect of communication and social development.
3 Looking For Hidden Objects
In the world of tiny babies only the objects that are visible exist. Once a toy or person exits from their field of view it drops off the face of the earth. This is why in the first few months of life babies will not look for dropped objects. In their reality that item simply disappeared.
Somewhere between four and seven months old babies learn the concept of object permanence. This is the understanding that objects exist even when they are not visible. With this new information, babies begin to look for lost and hidden things.
At first their search may be limited to a quick glance around the immediate area but they soon become more persistent and better aware of possible hiding spots. They will start to look for a ball that rolled under the couch, lift a blanket that buried their teddy bear, and look for you in another room. At 12 months old a baby should be somewhat proficient in looking for objects, especially if they observe them being hidden.
2 Not Forgetting Skills
While everyone occasionally forgets things, the ability to retain skills is crucial for building knowledge and understanding. Otherwise we would constantly have to relearn basic skills and that would drastically impact our ability to function. The lack of skill retention in babies is a major indicator of a problem.
Lack of skill retention may be a red flag, but parents need to understand the difference between simple forgetting and loss of skills before jumping to conclusions. Just because your child managed to say “mama” one day and refuses to say it the next doesn't necessarily mean there is reason for concern. Children need to be adept at a skill before they can lose it.
What is worrying are babies that demonstrate consistent understanding or use of skill and then suddenly revert back to not having that information or ability at all. Another thing to watch for are recurring patterns. Babies that have a reoccurring tendency to grasp new concepts and then seem to lose those abilities are at greater risk.
1 Using Objects Correctly
Babies spend a large portion of their time observing other people go about their day. The information they gain from watching others is a large component of figuring out the world around them. Before long babies begin to imitate what they see others do and this includes using household objects for their intended purpose.
A one year old child might do things such as put the phone up to their ear and understand that the remote controls the TV. While they probably don't know how to make a phone call or input the numbers for their favourite channel, it is the fact that they use the objects for their intended purpose that is important.
If a twelve month old baby doesn't show much interest in mimicking how others use common objects, they should at least attempt to use the tools that caregivers regularly use on them. This might include putting their toothbrush in the mouth, using a hairbrush on their hair, or holding a spoon and aiming it at their mouth. Although their proficiency at using these tools might not be well developed and their success is likely to be limited, it is the understand and intent that matter.
Sources: BabyCenter.com, WebMD.com