What are the key milestones of infant development?

Babies make a tremendous amount of progress during their first year, developing the ability to get to a seated position without help, pulling themselves up to stand, taking steps while holding onto furniture, and perhaps taking their first independent steps.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants can also be expected to display most of the following social and cognitive skills, although each child develops differently and may achieve some milestones earlier or later than others and still be considered to be experiencing healthy development:

Social Development

  • Is shy with strangers
  • Cries when parents leave
  • Has favorite things and people
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Hands adults a book when they want to hear a story
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Puts out an arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”

Cognitive Development and Communication Skills

  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking their head for no, or waving “bye-bye”
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone that mimic speech
  • Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh”
  • Tries to repeat words they hear
  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named
  • Starts to use objects correctly like a cup or hairbrush
  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
  • Lets things go without help
  • Pokes with index finger
  • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”

Can babies think logically?

Researchers who explore infant thinking now believe that babies are more complex thinkers than was once believed and there is some evidence that, by the end of their first 12 months, they are capable of logical reasoning, testing their hypotheses about the physical world and spending more time pondering unexpected results than expected ones. They also appear to use process of elimination to come to conclusions, not unlike adult detectives and scientists.

How does skin-to-skin contact benefit babies?

Cuddling is an essential piece of the bonding process for parents and babies—especially for premature babies—but research shows that it has powerful effects beyond building a relationship. Touch calms babies by reducing levels of stress hormones like cortisol and lowering their heart rate. Not insignificantly, skin-to-skin contact with their babies calms stressed-out new parents as well. There is also no evidence that holding or carrying babies “too much” will spoil or otherwise inhibit them; in fact, some research suggests that adults who were held and cuddled more as babies were more likely to be well-adjusted later in life.

Are babies moral?

It has long been believed that babies are amoral and must be taught to be helpful or kind to others. But a growing body of research shows that humans may be innately prosocial. Studies of babies as young as seven months old find that they are willing to share food, toys, and other objects, not only with their parents but with strangers as well, and both when requested and spontaneously. Newborns also show empathy, crying in reaction to hearing another baby’s cry in the first days of life. Later, they mimic the gestures and sounds their parents make to comfort them when they see another infant experiencing distress.

Why do babies laugh so much?

Babies love to laugh, and laboratory observations show that they also take it very seriously, focusing intensely on games that lead to laughter, such as peek-a-boo. Developmental psychologists believe that a baby’s laughter may serve a primarily social function; it is an invitation to adults to engage with them and it encourages adults to keep playing even if the basic action is repetitive. For the baby, the key to such games is the adult’s participation.

How does taking their first steps change an infant’s world?

Once a child begins to walk, they can navigate and explore their world in a much more directed and aggressive way. It is also considered to be a major milestone for a parent, whose role as supervisor and protector transforms. A parent’s anxiety may increase at this stage, although they will soon learn that while babies fall often as they take their first steps, they are rarely troubled by stumbles very long. It is the first step on the path toward granting their child independence.

Which words does a child say first?

A child’s first words are heavily influenced by which words their parents use most often, as well as local cultural effects: In some cultures, a child’s first words tend to include more verbs; in others, more terms referring to extended-family relationships; and in the U.S., where labeling and naming objects is a more common aspect of infant game play, babies are more likely to learn words like dog, cat, duck, and kitty. Large-scale cross-cultural studies, however, point to at least six universal first words: mommy, daddy, hello, bye, uh-oh, and woof-woof.

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