Baby development

Profile of a growing baby

Your child's development from birth to 3

By Cathie Kryczka
Profile of a growing baby

After all the waiting, now you can hold your baby in your arms! In some ways, she’s a tiny stranger, but she’s already well loved. She knows you; your voice soothes her from your first moments together. And in the weeks and months ahead, you will come to know her as she grows, step by step, into a happy, confident little person.

Understanding milestones

Your baby is like no other. While she will sit, stand and walk in that order, it may not happen at the same time as any other baby (even a sibling). Some babies walk or talk before others; some babies don’t crawl on hands and knees at all, going from a straight-legged bear walk to an upright toddle. It’s all normal and no reflection on your parenting skills. Be patient; everything will happen in time. If you’re worried, share your concerns with your health care provider.

0 to 3 months

Settling in: Your newborn is perfectly suited to the cozy world he came from — his focus is close up, his legs are drawn up, his hands in tight little fists. In the coming months, he’ll stretch out, take a swipe at an interesting toy, support his head when you carry him, and raise his face when he’s lying on his tummy. Already, he’s beginning to take in all that this great new world has to offer.

Watch for:
• His first smiles, at around four to six weeks, will seem a bit random at first, but will soon be unmistakably “real” — and utterly delightful!
• He’ll make cooing sounds (like ooh) in his second month.
• At three months, he’ll find some very convenient playthings — his hands!

Try this:
• Carry your baby. Talk about whatever is happening, especially when he looks at you or makes little noises.
• Learn a few nursery rhymes to recite, so he hears the nuances and rhythms of language.
• Take turns: Make a funny face, then wait patiently, and your baby will try to copy you. Take turns with sounds, too.
• Give him time to gaze at high contrast pictures, patterned toys…and you.

3 to 6 months

Reaching out: She’s a baby in motion, kicking her legs, grabbing and holding onto toys. She can roll from tummy to back (and soon the other way). She’s sociable — she loves to watch her family. And she delights you with her smiles and babble!

Watch for:
• When she swipes at a toy, it moves! She’s learning about cause and effect.
• Whatever she gets ahold of, she brings to her mouth — it’s an important way for her to explore objects.
• She has more sounds now, like ba and ma. At around six months, she will babble with strings of sounds. While she doesn’t have any words, she understands some, like bye-bye.

Try this:
• Show your baby the world so she experiences colour, light, textures. The more interesting (but not overwhelming) sensations, the better.
• Let her see your face while you talk to her. Give her time to “reply” so she learns the give and take of speech.
• Tummy time strengthens neck and shoulder muscles, which she will need for crawling.
• Now — and for months to come — peekaboo is hilarious fun for a baby who’s learning that when objects disappear, they still exist.

6 to 9 months

Creeping and connecting: She will sit and play with a toy now (keep your hand close by, at first). She can put her weight onto her arms when she’s on her tummy, and stand when you hold her up; bouncing is great fun! She may creep or scoot on her bum; it takes time to actually crawl on hands and knees.

Watch for:
• She’ll let you know what she wants. She may point to a toy and say, “Uh-uh,” or reach with outstretched arms to be picked up.
• Separation anxiety — dismay when you leave, even for a minute — often starts around eight months. It means she has a healthy attachment to you.
• Around nine months, she may try to pull herself up momentarily, hanging onto the crib rail or your knees. This may become a preoccupation!

Try this:
• Learn some fingerplays, like “Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear,” and gentle knee bounces.
• Install an unbreakable mirror; she’ll be intrigued by the amazing baby she sees there. Talk about her eyes, nose and mouth.
• Give her safe ways to explore as she’s beginning to get around. She might like to climb on sofa cushions, with you beside her.

9 to 12 months

On the go! One way or another (crawling, cruising from chair to chair, walking), your baby is on the move, and you’ll need to ramp up your babyproofing. He’s agile and beginning to drink from a cup and feed himself. He can shake his head no — you’re learning all about his likes and dislikes!

Watch for:
• He’s mastered the pincer grip, allowing him to pick up small toys and bits of food between his forefinger and thumb.
• If he’s just walking, it may take all his concentration. When he wants to hold a toy or listen to you, he’ll stop and sit down. One thing at a time!
• At about a year, he’ll respond to his name when he hears it. He may begin to say, “Mama” or “Dada” and knows what you mean when you say, “No.” He can wave bye-bye.

Try this:
• He’ll like playthings he can pick up and arrange like stacking toys, shape sorters and blocks.
• A little cart or push toy will provide balance for a beginning walker.
• He’ll have favourite books now and will want to hear the same story again and again. We all love what’s familiar.

12 to 18 months

Enjoying the new view: Your baby is walking, or will be soon (likely by about 15 months). Once that happens, his perspective on the world changes; he’s upright and his hands are free for grasping and exploring. His appetite may level off because he’s not growing so fast physically, but his language and thinking skills are burgeoning!

Watch for:
• It’s a favourite game: He drops a bowl over the side of his high chair — you pick it up. He’s learning where things go when they’re out of sight…more fun for him than for you!
• By 18 months, he’ll have a handful of words (around five to 10).
• He can follow a simple instruction, for example, “Bring Daddy a diaper, please.”
• He may discover climbing in a big way. Look to your chairs, tables and bookshelves!

Try this:
• Read and talk about what you see; ask him to point to the bunny or the boy.
• Smile when you say, ‘Good job!’ so he sees how the words you say match the expression on your face. He’s beginning to learn about emotions.
• Push or pull toys are fun to fill with toys, move around and dump out.
• Provide safe props so he can imitate grown-up work (the beginnings of pretend play): toy phone, dolls, teddies, and some real kitchen gear like unbreakable cups and bowls.

18 to 24 months

Busy, busy: Your toddler understands so much more now and has busy hands and feet! She’s walking and beginning to run (with the occasional oops). She may have just a few recognizable words at 1½ years; by two she’ll have many more. She may want to help with little chores (maybe dump laundry into a basket?), and she’ll pretend to talk on the phone or press buttons on a calculator — just like you.

Watch for:
• Her speech is clearer now and she puts a couple of words together in a sentence: “Mommie go.”
• They’re not fun, but toddler tantrums are a normal growing pain.
• She’ll play alongside a buddy and be happy to see a little friend (although they won’t exactly play together yet).
• She can kick a ball, climb into a big chair, and carry an armload of stuffed animals — she’s getting strong!

Try this:
• Make your home a safe, interesting place so your toddler can explore freely and make the occasional mess with paint, playdough or glue.
• She’ll feel proud to do things for herself. If you provide simple clothes and unbreakable dinnerware, she’ll have more success.
• Don’t correct or criticize her pronunciation of a word; just use the correct word when you reply.
• Provide balls, a sturdy ride-on toy and lots of outdoor activity — outlets for her energy.

24 to 30 months

Independence days: Your child wants to do things for herself now. She may insist on trying to dress herself — and she can hold a spoon and feed herself (neither perfectly!). She can throw a ball (though not aim well) and loves to jump from puddle to puddle when you hold her hand. She makes interesting scribbles with a marker. She’s speaking more — saying her name and putting a few words together in a little sentence.

Watch for:
• Words often heard may be mine and no! She isn’t being selfish — it’s a tiny first step to independence.
• Her pretend play tends to mimic familiar things she sees around her: stirring a soup pot or tucking a stuffed animal into bed.
• She’ll turn the pages of her book and she loves to name interesting things she sees pictured there.
• She plays with a buddy now — briefly — and she likes to watch how other children play. She still won’t be good at sharing, so provide duplicates or alternatives when children want the same toy.

Try this:
• She’ll love playgrounds with interesting nooks to explore — and perhaps a small slide to zip down!
• She has a bigger vocabulary, but she still can’t express everything she feels. Let her know you understand her frustration and help her put simple labels on her emotions.
• She may play a funny trick on you — and she’ll think it’s hilarious if you substitute silly words into familiar nursery rhymes (like “Rock-a-bye cookie”).
• Give her some control. Offer simple choices, such as which pyjamas to wear. If she invites you to play, join in, but let her direct the fun.

30 to 36 months

Oh, the things he knows! He’s a good runner and soon he’ll be able to walk on tiptoes and catch a big ball. He may like to snip with safe scissors or make slithery circles in fingerpaint. His speech is clearer — people who aren’t family members understand him. He knows his first and last name and a couple hundred other words, too. He has his own interests (doggies, dinosaurs) and is beginning to understand some abstract ideas, like what’s a square or what “tomorrow” means. It’s exciting to see his understanding blossom!

Watch for:
• He may have a best friend or two, and they are getting better at taking turns and sharing.
• His artwork looks like squiggly lines, but he has a clear idea of what he’s drawn — ask him to tell you about it.
• His pretend play is more creative — he’ll drive a cardboard box “race car” or flap around the house like a fairy.
• Now (or earlier) he can unscrew a lid and turn knobs; be sure unsafe materials are well out of reach.

Try this:
• Arrange playdates so your child learns how much fun friends are.
• When reading a favourite book — one he’s heard many times — ask what’s going to happen next before you turn the page.
• He’ll soon be ready for a small tricycle. He’s stronger and more coordinated, so give him safe opportunities for climbing, too.
• Explore your neighbourhood together. Expect lots of questions about the interesting things you see.

This article was originally published on Oct 11, 2010

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