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Things to Look for When Observing an Infant's Development

by Erica Loop

You may wonder if your infant is developing in the typical way. If you are trying to decipher whether or not your little one is progressing according to normal expectations, there are some things to look for when observing an infant's development. These include general developmental milestones that can clue you in to your baby's growth.

Fine Motor Milestones

Your baby wasn't born with the ability to hold a crayon, put a peg in a hole or cut with scissors. During the course of the first year, most infants are busy developing rudimentary fine motor skills that will help them with actions involving eye-hand coordination and dexterity. According to the national child development organization Zero to Three, by 3 months old, your infant can grip your finger or an object that you place in his hand. By 6 months, your baby will begin to explore with his fingers, reaching and grabbing for objects and trying to figure out exactly how his hands work. As your child reaches the end of his first year, he will engage in slightly more sophisticated movements, such as picking up smaller-sized objects using his thumb and other fingers.

Gross Motor Development

Whether you have concerns about your little one eventually getting up and around, observing her growing array of gross motor abilities can give you key information on how she is physically developing. Gross motor development includes the use of large muscle groups through skills such as balance, flexibility, coordination and strength. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website, the first-year major gross motor milestones to look for typically include your baby raising her head and lifting her chest while lying on her stomach by 3 months old, rolling over and sitting unassisted by 7 months, crawling between 8 and 12 months, and walking sometime around 12 months.

Social and Emotional Development

While you might not think of your baby as an entirely social creature, he is developing the basic skills that he will refine over the coming years. These abilities tie closely with emotional development, as one area largely depends on the other. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that during the first year, you should observe a steady progression of social interaction-type abilities and actions that start at a real social smile around month 3, engaging in early social play by 7 months and showing preferences for certain people (such as yourself, grandma or a sibling) by the end of the first year. Emotionally, your infant is far from ready to understand, identify or control her feelings. That said, she's a champ at expressing her feelings and by the end of infancy can respond to or imitate other people's emotions.

Cognitive Development

As your infant physically grows, so does her mental ability. Cognitive milestones may not seem as pronounced as the motor ones, but you are sure to observe her growing mental processing as time goes by. Healthy Children notes that by 7 months old, your baby has the cognitive ability to find a partially hidden item and grab at an object he knows is out of reach. By 12 months, you may see him exploring his toys or other objects in a variety of ways, such as touching, shaking or chewing on them. Additionally, by the close of the first year, your child may begin to use objects in an appropriate manner such as dialing his toy phone instead of just throwing it.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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