Gear up to ride the parental roller coaster–or maybe it’s more of a teeter-totter. As new parents, we anxiously wait for our little rockstars to nail those milestone moments. But as much as we wish for that first smile, those first steps, and all those other firsts that baby masters, we then wish that some of the stages they go through could last longer, and complain that they grow up too fast. Preparation is key to making the most of babyhood. If you know what to expect (more or less), you won’t miss out on celebrating your little one’s amazing achievements.
Check out our quick guide for the typical age infants begin certain developmental skills and transition to toddlers. Keep in mind that every kid is unique, meaning they will do what they’re going to do when they’re ready to do it. Your baby genius won’t follow a textbook. There is a wide range of normal. Early talkers may be late walkers. If you’re concerned your LO is doing something way sooner than expected or seems delayed, always check with your pediatrician.
Little Smiley Face
A parent’s heart grows in size like you see in the cartoons when their baby locks eyes and gives them that first toothless grin. In those early days, you might get excited as you see those sweet lips curl up in a smile, then you hear (or smell) the reason for the expression. It was just gas. Then, one day, somewhere between six and eight weeks, when they’re awake, listening to or gazing at you, they’ll smile a genuine, happy face meant just for you. You’ll melt, and they’ll know they’ve got you wrapped around their little pinky.
There’s just something golden about baby belly laughter. It’s completely contagious. Fess up, how many viral videos have you watched of babies laughing out loud? You don’t even know them, and you still can’t help but smile. When that’s YOUR mini-me, it’s like hitting the new parent jackpot. It’s hard to know what will set it off. It could be your dog doing the zoomies, a game of peek-a-boo, or a silly face you make. Just know that somewhere around three or four months old most babies learn to laugh, and you can’t get enough. Giggle fests with your little comedian are the best.
On A Roll
You’ll spend a lot of time on the floor during your peanut’s first year. Putting them down on a playmat lets them take in the world around them, and practice stretching and strengthening their arms and legs. When they can hold their head up on their own, they can practice tummy time. As they develop their skills, they’ll start rocking from side to side. Then, suddenly one day, they’ll roll all the way over. This might happen as early as four months old, and by six months, they typically roll over in both directions. You know what that means? You’d better step up your babyproofing if you haven’t already done so. (See Baby Home Safety Checklist for some quick tips.) You’re going to be amazed at how quickly and far your little rolly polly can make tracks.
Meet the Baby Sitter
At four months old on average, babies can hold their head steady without support, and by six months, they start to sit up with assistance. The timing is right when the neck, upper body, and back muscles are more fully developed which means, some get the hang of it sooner and others later. Getting an activity center for your “baby sitter” helps keep them entertained and practice relating to the world in the upright position. Then, sometime between six months and twelve months, they’ll figure out how to maneuver into the sitting position on their own.
On the Move
Rolling over and sitting up are the building blocks to crawling. When your little explorer figures out how to raise themselves up on their hands and knees, they’ll practice rocking back and forth. When this happens, they may actually start to move backward before mastering the forward movement. By seven to ten months old, most babies creep and crawl. Some babies do a commando-type crawl, dragging themselves along the floor by their arms, some scoot on their bums. Some kiddos completely skip the crawling stage and go straight to walking. Any which way they get from one place to the other, they’ll be thrilled with the newfound freedom. Keeping up officially becomes a challenge. If you need to give yourself a break and keep LO entertained and contained, now’s a good time to make use of a play yard, and block off areas around the house or stairs with baby gates to make sure baby is safe.
Look Who’s Talking
From the start, your tiny human is learning to communicate. They’re sponges, absorbing what they sense from their surroundings. Talking to your little one will help strengthen your bond, and teach them how to identify with the people, places, and things they come into contact with. In the first few months, they’ll express themselves through sound and get used to hearing their own voices. At three to four months they may put consonants and vowels together, make eye contact with you, and babble.
At five to seven months, they may start playing with their tone and volume. They’ll mimic you and give you raspberries, which you’ll both find amusing. They’ll cough, giggle, and could start communicating more deliberately by pointing, clapping, or waving.
Out of the Mouth of Babes
Here comes the baby talk. Between eight and eleven months, baby’s babble gets more meaningful, and they might ask for something by pointing, or looking at someone and then the thing they want. You might hear those glorious first words ma-ma or da-da.
Around their first birthday is typically when tots begin to say their first words. By then, they have learned to recognize their name, what your tone means, and can respond to simple requests like “Put that down, please.” How quickly they build their vocabulary varies, but one thing that helps strengthen their language skills is for you to keep convos going. While you’re changing their diaper, you can explain what you’re doing. Give them the names of the objects you’re holding. Sing the alphabet song when you’re doing a simple task. Teach them how to chat by asking a question, then pausing while you look at them as if you’re waiting for their answer. In the beginning, they might just watch you or smile, but you can acknowledge their response and keep talking.
Usually, around seven to twelve months babies start pulling themselves up to stand. They’ll find something to use as support, like your pants leg, your hand, or a piece of furniture. This means your cutie is ready for cruise control. Standing on their own may only last for a few seconds before they have to stabilize themselves, or plunk down on the floor.
The Reason They’re Called Toddlers
Once they’ve gotten a solid sense of balance and those key muscles have grown strong enough, they’ll start taking baby steps. Literally. First, they’ll need your help. They love holding onto your fingers and taking you for a walk. When the time is right for your little mover and shaker, they’ll let go and toddle on their own. Some babies walk before they’re one year old, but many others master this skill between twelve and fifteen months. The race is on, and ready or not, you’re it!
Seeing your LO experience their firsts is a thrill ride for moms and dads. You’re their biggest cheerleader. Just remember, there’s what’s “typical,” and there’s your own baby’s pace. As exciting as it is to watch them discover their world, if we had to pick one piece of advice to leave you with, we’d say don’t rush it. You won’t ever get these moments back, and when you’re snapping pics at their first birthday, you’ll be shocked at how much they learned in such a short time, and how fast it went. Capture the milestones, yes, but make sure to enjoy all the in-betweens.