Baby Builders' Developmental Milestones

by Jenna Zervas, MSPT

The first year of life is an exciting and challenging time in your baby's life. He will go through many changes physically, emotionally and mentally. The skills he will learn in the first year of life will set the stage for his future.

"Developmental psychologist have long recognized that perceptual-motor development in infancy [is] the foundation of all mental life." "Child Development", 1993

We want to help you give your child the best possible developmental start. Below is a list of developmental milestones for gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and speech/language development that are typically seen during a baby's first year. Please keep in mind there is a wide range of "normal" in many of these skills. If you have concerns about your infant's development, we urge you to consult your baby's physician.

Newborn

Gross Motor Skills:
• No controlled movement
• Arms and legs are bent
• Hands are fisted and brought to mouth
• Continually moving arms out to the side of the body
• Head is not in the middle, but turned to one side or the other
• Can turn head side to side with great difficulty when lying on stomach
• Stands on legs briefly when held upright

Fine Motor Skills:
• Grasps anything that touches the palm of his hand (reflexive)

Speech/Language:
• Cries at loud noises
• Listens to speech

1 Month

Gross Motor Skills:
• Still no controlled movement
• Arms and legs are still bent, but not as much as a newborn
• Slightly improved head lifting when lying on stomach
• Head lags significantly when pulled up to sitting
• Stepping movement seen when held in standing

Fine Motor Skills:
• Continues to have the reflexive grasping of hands

Speech/Language:
• Cries at loud noises
• Listens to speech

2 Months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Baby appears more floppy than in previous months
• Arms and legs not in the bent position anymore
• Head is more often seen turned to one side or the other
• Able to lift head slightly when lying on stomach
• Uncontrolled reaching/ batting at objects
• Eyes beginning to follow moving object
• Head still lags when pulled to sit, but infant trying to lift head
• Baby no longer stands or steps when held upright

Fine Motor Skills:
• Continues to have the reflexive grasping of hands

Speech/Language:
• Cries at loud noises
• Listens to speech

3 months

Gross Motor Skills:

• Head is in the middle with the chin tucked down when lying on back
• Controlled reaching for toys
• Brings toys to middle of body
• Frog leg position when lying on back
• Props self on forearms while lying on stomach
• Able to lift head and chest up when lying on stomach
• Turns head to one side when pulled to sitting
• No trunk control in sitting, needs full support
• Bears weight through the legs with stiff knees when held in standing
• Toes are curled when in standing

Fine Motor Skills:
• Holds a toy that is placed in his hand with the 4th and 5th fingers
• Can't reach out and pick up a toy, but will swipe at it

Speech/Language:
• Begins cooing
• Recognizes mom's voice
• Enjoys noisy toys

4 months


Gross Motor Skills:
• Head control is greatly improved
• Brings knees to hands when lying on back
• Log rolls from back to side lying
• Props self on forearms and lifts head and chest up while lying on stomach
• Accidentally rolls over from stomach to back
• Able to sit propped up with pillows
• Able to stand while being held at the hands instead of the chest

Fine Motor Skills:
• Grasps objects placed in front of him
• Grasps objects by raking them against his body or other hand
• Uses a four finger squeeze grasp without the thumb or palm to hold a toy
• No fine grasping of small objects

Speech/Language:
• Cooing, squealing and gurgling sounds
• Can repeat some sounds
• Recognizes mom's voice
• Uses smile to indicate contentment or pleasure
• Enjoys noisy toys

5 Months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Brings feet to hands and to mouth while lying on back
• Pushes up to extended arms while lying on stomach
• Pushes up and reaches for toys while lying on stomach
• Likes to play on side
• Rolls from back to stomach and back again
• Begins to sit alone and props with extended arms
• No head lag when pulled from back to sitting
• Begins bouncing when in standing

Fine Motor Skills:
• Reaches for toys and brings them to the middle of the body
• Uses fingers and the palm (no thumb) to hold objects
• No fine grasping of small objects

Speech/Language:
• Laughs, coos, and gurgles for attention
• Responds to "no"
• Notices new sounds (e.g. appliances, music, etc)
• Responds to changes in tone of voice
• Uses sounds to express emotions and wants

6 Months


Gross Motor Skills:
• Rolls easily from front to back to front
• Lifts head off the floor while lying on back
• Plays with feet while lying on back
• Kicks arms and legs while lying on stomach ("swimming")
• Shifts weight from one arm to the next to reach toys while lying on stomach
• Sits by himself without using arms for support
• Bounces frequently in standing
• Holds onto person by himself in standing

Fine Motor Skills:
• Transfers objects from one hand to the other
• Uses fingers and the palm (no thumb) to hold objects
• Attempts to grasp small objects using several fingers and a bent thumb

Speech/Language:
• Begins to babble
• Laughs, coos, gurgles, and babbles for attention
• Responds to "no"
• Notices new sounds (e.g. appliances, music, etc)
• Responds to changes in tone of voice
• Uses sounds and babbling to express emotions and wants

7 Months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Does not like to be on back
• Begins to pivot on stomach and belly crawl
• Pushes up to hands and knees while lying on stomach
• Likes to play in side lying
• Likes to sit
• Plays freely with arms as balance improves in sitting
• Pulls up to standing using arms with legs straight
• Stands on the balls of his feet
• Bounces lightly in standing

Fine Motor Skills:
• Holds objects with fingers and thumb
• Wrist is straight when holding objects
• Grasps small objects using bent fingers and thumb to rake into the palm

Speech/Language:
• Laughs, coos, gurgles, and babbles often
• May begin to imitate speech sounds (mamamama)
• Responds to "no"
• Begins to respond to his name and some simple words
• Uses babbling and gestures to express emotions and wants

8 months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Enjoys sitting
• Reaches for toys easily in sitting
• Begins to creep on hands and knees
• Able to kneel at a small table without support
• Pulls self to standing primarily using the arms
• Has difficulty getting down from standing position
• Begins to cruise around furniture sideways using both hands

Fine Motor Skills:
• Holds objects with fingers and thumb
• Wrist is flexed when holding objects
• Grasps small objects between thumb and bent index finger

Speech/Language:
• Responds to name
• Uses syllables ba, da, and ka
• Imitates sounds
• Listens when spoken to

9 Months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Uses a variety of leg positions in sitting
• Can side sit
• Moves from sitting to hands and knees
• Creeps often
• Pulls to standing using both arms and legs
• Unable to get down from standing without falling
• Cruising with 2 hands and body semi-turned in direction of movement
• Beginning to walk with one hand held

Fine Motor Skills:
• Holds objects between thumb and finger tips
• Able to grasp small objects with thumb and index fingertips

Speech/Language:
• Responds to name
• Begins to recognize common words (e.g., "mom", "bottle", etc.)
• Imitates sounds

10 months


Gross Motor Skills:
• Able to reach in all directions in sitting
• Beginning to kneel with one leg up and one down (half kneel)
• Pulls to standing using the half kneel position
• Stands to play while holding onto furniture
• Can lower body from standing to sitting
• Cruises with one hand on table
• Walks with one hand held, not shifting weight yet

Fine Motor Skills:
• Wrist is extended when grasping
• Able to grasp small objects with thumb and index fingertips

Speech/Language:
• Shouts for attention
• Babbling in own language
• Begins to respond to requests like "come here"
• May have 1-2 word like "mama" and "Dada"

11 Months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Sits with legs straight out (long sitting)
• Plays in the kneeling position
• Stable in half kneeling position
• Begins to shift weight from one leg to the next when walking with 1 hand held
• Stands alone
• Able to squat and return to standing while holding onto table

Fine Motor Skills:
• Holds objects between thumb and first 2 fingers
• Wrist is extended when holding objects
• Able to grasp small objects with thumb and index fingertips

Speech/Language:
• Shouts for attention
• Babbling in own language

  • Responds to requests like "come here"
  • May have 1-2 word like "mama" and "Dada"

12 Months

Gross Motor Skills:
• Stands alone
• Begins to pick up legs when standing
• May try to walk alone
• Can not carry objects when walking
• No arm swing when walking

Fine Motor Skills:
• Holds objects between thumb and first 2 fingers
• Wrist is extended when holding objects
• Able to grasp small objects with fingertips and fingernails

Speech/Language:
• Has 2-3+ word vocabulary
• Imitates familiar words
• Recognizes words as symbols

Jenna Zervas, MSPT, attended America's leading physical therapy school, Washington University in St. Louis, and graduated in 1995 with a Masters of Science degree in Physical Therapy. Jenna soon began work as a pediatric physical therapist at St. John's Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While at St. John's she pioneered the hospital's pediatric therapy program in their inpatient, outpatient, and pediatric and neonatal Intensive Care Units. Alongside a group of neonatologists and developmental pediatricians, Jenna helped form a neonatal follow-up clinic for St. Johns. Together with Kimberly Beach, Jenna produced Baby Builders, a developmental exercise program to help parents and care-givers properly exercise their infants. Jenna has been a guest of the Center for Disease Control and has been featured on Television, radio, and newspaper. She currently resides with her husband Chris in Missouri. They have four children, Zoe, Elle and Kit and Nash.

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