Baby Development Stages

By: Anita Eracybab

These days many parents have not had a lot of experience with babies until their first baby comes along. If you are one of these parents you will probably find you have many questions about this new person who has come into your life and who is so small and helpless. It can be overwhelming and scary when you realize your baby is so dependent on you for everything, especially if you feel you don’t know a lot about babies. Understanding what babies are like may help to make it easier to care for your baby.

Birth to 4 months

At this time babies are adjusting to life in the world. Most of each day will be spent sleeping but with increasing periods of time awake. Babies are totally dependent on you for their basic needs. As babies grow and spend more time awake they become more alert to what is happening around them. At this stage, crying is a normal and natural way that babies communicate their needs.

Between birth and 4 months your baby is learning to:
• Focus for longer periods
• Observe surroundings and follow a person or object with their eyes
• Enjoy close visual and verbal stimulation
• Recognize and turn head to familiar voices
• Coo and make sounds
• Watch and clasp hands
• Play with fingers and bring hands to mouth
• Hit dangling objects with hands or feet
• Hold head up when lying on tummy
• Show pleasure by wriggling body and smiling
• Respond to sound that are louder than normal

4 to 8 months

Babies are now becoming their own person. They are very excited about the world. Everything they see is of interest and they are developing curiosity about their surroundings. At this time babies like to be in places they know with people they know.

Between 4 months and 8 months your baby is learning to:
• Recognize name by turning when name is spoken
• Roll over
• Bring hands together to play and grasp
• Bring objects to mouth to explore
• Transfer objects from one hand to the other
• Lift head and chest using forearms for support
• Prop on one hand or elbow while reaching for a toy with the other
• Pull feet to mouth
• Sit without support
• Show the need for attention and affection
• Mix different sounds, squeal and laugh
• Listen with interest and turn head to loud sounds
• Be aware of being separated from mother or father
• Cope with the introduction of pureed food, moving on to more lumpy textures.

8 to 12 months

Babies are becoming more excited and intensely curious about the world as they become more independently mobile. They are now on the move and are getting into everything, but will keep an eye on the people around them. They like to have mother/carer close by.

Between 8 months and 12 months your baby is learning to:
• Point, gesture and make sounds to indicate what they want and need
• Show anger by stiffening body and screaming
• Jabber and babble expressively
• Uses voices to attract attention
• Enjoy simple and repetitive games
• Repeat actions and sounds that they enjoy making
• Crawl
• Pull up onto furniture and cruise around the furniture
• Stand briefly by themselves
• Pick up small objects with thumb and index finger
• Intentionally drop objects to have them picked up
• Show anxiety around unfamiliar people
• Eat food with fingers
• Watch an adult walking across the room
• Look for objects hidden from view
• Turn head to sounds that are at the side or below

9 months old

Babies between 7–12 months are learning to crawl, climb, stand, cruise and eventually walk. They are learning sounds and are learning that they are separate people from their parents. Babies are beginning to relate differently to their main caregiver.

Babies between 7-12 months are learning to crawl, climb, stand, cruise and eventually walk. It is during this time, if not before, that the house needs to be made safe for a little explorer. All precious and dangerous objects need to be removed.

• Babies at this stage are intensely curious
• They are developing their fine motor skills and will reach for very small objects
• They enjoy experiencing a variety of shapes, textures, colors and sounds
• Everything of interest is banged, felt, tasted and thrown
• They need room to move in a supervised, safe environment

12 to 18 months

Children are now walking and pleased to be out with the big kids, but they still need constant care and attention. Seemingly independent, they venture out alone, but keep an eye on those around them. They can watch, listen and take part in the social life of the family, and be an active listener.

Between 12 to 18 months your child is learning to:
• Use words e.g. “mum", “dad", “ball", “water", “more"
• Shake and nod their head for “yes" and “no"
• Use long strings of sounds that often sound like another language
• Understand more and more words and can follow simple directions e.g. “get your bottle", “show me your nose"
• Move and dance to music
• Walk alone with wobbly steps
• Push and pull large toys
• Walk upstairs holding a hand or rail
• Climb
• Be more assertive and independent
• Enjoy banging and stacking blocks and putting thins into containers
• Be very curious and into everything
• Constantly look for new activities although attention span can be short
• Stop and pick up object they have dropped
• Turn head to sounds that are above or below

Growing and learning in the family

The first and most important learning in a child's life happens within the family. Children learn from the way people treat them and from what they see, hear and experience as soon as they are born. Children are natural learners. Between birth and five years, and especially to three years, children grow and learn at the fastest rate of their lifetime. It is easy to see the enormous opportunity parents, and those who care for children, have in these early years to help shape children's learning before they start school.


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