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Baby & Child Development

Our dedicated development page will look at:

Guidelines for Baby & Child Development

Dr Ellie Canon says: “Guidelines for your baby or child’s development use certain ages as milestones for when your child may pick up new skills and abilities.

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Guidelines for Baby & Child Development

Dr Ellie Canon says: “Guidelines for your baby or child’s development use certain ages as milestones for when your child may pick up new skills and abilities. However, there is no such thing as normal when it comes to child development and children may develop certain skills later or earlier than others.
Keeping an eye on your little one’s development against certain milestones can provide a useful guide to the progress they are making. There may also be a number of appointments with health professionals during this time to help you ensure that your child is developing as expected. There are a number of things that you can do to help your child’s development throughout the different stages of their early years.”

This content was written by healthcare professional Dr Ellie Canon in 2015. She was paid for her time but does not endorse CALPOL® Products

Development Milestones

2 months old

  • As well as paying attention to faces and following things with their eyes, your little one will begin to recognise you as parents. Talking to your baby will help them become used to your voice.
  • Some babies will begin to smile and respond to sounds during this time. They will also begin to be startled by loud noises, which is a healthy part of their development. If your child does not respond to loud sounds, speak to their doctor.
  • Will be able to hold their head up, and when laying on their front, your little one will try to push up their head.
  • During this time, a health professional (usually a health visitor) will carry out a review of your little one’s health and development, and they will start their vaccination programme.

4 months old

  • By this age your little will like to interact and play with people, and smile spontaneously at them, and recognise things from a distance.
  • They may also try to copy movements and expressions, and begin babbling. As well as copying movement they may try to start using their hands and eyes together by following things and then reaching for them, such as toys which they may shake and swing.
  • Your child will also start to cry in slightly different ways to show what they want e.g. food, or if they are tired.
  • Cognitively, they will begin responding to affection and may try and show you how they are feeling such as smiling and laughing if they are happy.
  • Physically, they should be able to fully hold up their head without your support, and begin pushing down with their legs when feet are on a hard surface.

6 months old

  • At this age, most babies know familiar faces and enjoy playing with parents, often responding to other people’s emotions.
  • They will try to respond to sounds, and babbling may develop into attempts at vowels  and consonants.
  • They will be more curious, looking at things, reaching for things and bringing them to their mouth.
  • Physically they will be rolling, sitting, and may even try standing and bouncing.

9 months old

  • Your child may become clingy to you and people they know, and may show preference for certain toys.
  • They will develop their language, making more sounds and understanding ‘no’.
  • Cognitively they will become more aware, noticing things like leaves falling off trees, things you may hide, and wanting to play games like peek-a-boo.
  • Physically they will become more able with their hands, trying to pick up small things with their thumb and finger, and passing items between hands (but will still want to put things in their mouth!).
  • Standing, sitting, and crawling will become easier.

12 months old

  • Being able to recognise familiar people by this point means your child may be shy or nervous around people they don’t recognise, and get upset when they are not around mum or dad.
  • They will also become more confident in asking for what they want, by handing you an item when they want to play or repeating actions for attention. In understanding how to ask for things, they will also recognise when they are asked things.
  • Physically they may put their limbs out to help with dressing, and also adopt simple gestures like nodding and waving.
  • When talking their words may begin to sound more like formed speech, including them saying small words in full.
  • At this age your child is absorbing and learning very quickly, they will be able to copy gestures, find and use items, and identify people more.
  • They may start to take first steps without holding on as they approach their first birthday – cameras at the ready!

18 months old

  • By 18 months, as well as enjoying playing pretend games, your child will enjoy playing with others more, but will still be wary of people they don’t know.
  • They will become more adventurous but still need the reassurance of a parent of care giver.
  • Speech will have developed, and they will be able to say several small words, and recognise everyday objects like spoons or phones.
  • At this age, your child will also become more adept with their hands, pointing at body parts and starting to draw or scribble.
  • Physically they will be walking more confidently, may try to go upstairs (or they may even run), and will try drinking from cups and eating with a spoon.

2 years

  • Your little one will get excited when seeing other children and begin to show more independence.
  • They will try to string together short sentences and repeat words they hear.
  • Cognitively, they will begin identifying and being able to sort colours and shapes.
  • When playing, they will be able to balance blocks to build towers and may show preference for a certain hand.
  • Your little one will also begin running, kicking, climbing, and generally exploring and playing in a more physical way as they get used to their body.

3 years

  • Your child may develop affection for their friends at this stage, and in general show a wide range of emotions.
  • They will also be more self-aware in terms of language – knowing their name, age, how to say ‘I’ and ‘me’, and also be able to name friends.
  • They will also converse and play in a more developed way, understanding how to use buttons and turn things, and climbing and running more.

4 years

  • At four your child will enjoy being around others, playing and cooperating with other children and wanting to play group games.
  • Their speech will continue to improve, they will be able to use ‘he’ and ‘she’ and recite songs or rhymes.
  • The concept of time and numbers will begin to form for them, and their dexterity will improve through pouring or cutting.

5 years

  • Your little one will be able to identify real things from make-believe, speak more clearly, and be using objects like cutlery and the toilet with more confidence.


Growth Charts

A growth chart is used by health professionals to measure your child’s growth and development over a period of time. Their height and weight is put on a chart and compared against children of the same age.

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Growth Charts

A growth chart is used by health professionals to measure your child’s growth and development over a period of time. Their height and weight is put on a chart and compared against children of the same age. The standard line on a growth chart is the average of many children, but it is important to remember that all little ones develop at different rates therefore their growth chart won't look the same as another baby's chart.

In the UK, it is mainly health visitors who use growth charts as part of routine reviews that check your child’s development. If you have any concerns at all regarding how your little one is growing, share your concerns with your health visitor or family doctor.


Dr Ellie Cannon

Dr Ellie Cannon is a practicing NHS GP, and works on public health campaigns including childhood health programmes. She is a mum of two, and has written a popular book on parenting 'Keep Calm, The New Mum's manual', which considers the physical and mental health of parents alongside baby care. 
This HCP does not endorse Calpol. 

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