First Year Developmental Milestones: Learn the Signs…Act Early

Have you ever wondered how your child is growing and developing compared to other children of the same age? It wouldn’t be unusual if you have. Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones, and they have often held a special place in the bragging hearts of grandparents everywhere. There is however another side to developmental milestones. One milestones chartthat is even more valuable to parents.

Although no two children grow at the same rate, experts agree there are “normal” signs of development. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (crawling, walking, etc.). Given the reports that have been published recently about the increased findings of autism in the US, it is not surprising that more and more parents are searching for information to help them identify signs of delayed development. Knowing that early recognition and action have the potential to make a difference, the CDC has incorporated some wonderful information on developmental milestones from the AAP into the Learn the Signs…Act Early pages of their site and provided access to some terrific resources to help if assistance is needed.

Here are the milestones you can monitor for your child’s first year…

By 3 months of age:

Social and Emotional

  • Begins to develop a social smile
  • Enjoys playing with other people and may cry when playing stops
  • Becomes more expressive and communicates more with face and body
  • Imitates some movements and facial expressions

Movementmilestone-3 month old

  • Raises head and chest when lying on stomach
  • Supports upper body with arms when lying on stomach
  • Stretches legs out and kicks when lying on stomach or back
  • Opens and shuts hands
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are placed on a firm surface
  • Brings hand to mouth
  • Takes swipes at dangling objects with hands
  • Grasps and shakes hand toys


  • Watches faces intently
  • Follows moving objects
  • Recognizes familiar objects and people at a distance
  • Starts using hands and eyes in coordination

Hearing and Speech

  • Smiles at the sound of your voice
  • Begins to babble
  • Begins to imitate some sounds
  • Turns head toward direction of sound

By 7 months of age:

Social and Emotional

  • Enjoys social play
  • Interested in mirror images
  • Responds to other people’s expressions of emotion and appears joyful often


  • Finds partially hidden object
  • Explores with hands and mouth
  • Struggles to get objects that are out of reach


  • Responds to own name
  • Begins to respond to “no”
  • Can tell emotions by tone of voice
  • Responds to sound by making sounds
  • Uses voice to express joy and displeasure
  • Babbles chains of sounds


  • Rolls both ways (front to back, back to front)
  • Sits with, and then without, support on hands
  • Supports whole weight on legs
  • Reaches with one hand
  • Transfers object from hand to hand
  • Uses hand to rake objects


  • Develops full color vision
  • Distance vision matures
  • Ability to track moving objects improves

By 12 months of age:

Social and Emotional

  • Shy or anxious with strangers
  • Cries when mother or father leaves
  • Enjoys imitating people in his play
  • Shows specific preferences for certain people and toys
  • Tests parental responses to his actions during feedings
  • Tests parental responses to his behavior
  • May be fearful in some situations
  • Prefers mother and/or regular caregiver over all others
  • Repeats sounds or gestures for attention
  • Finger-feeds himself
  • Extends arm or leg to help when being dressedmilestone-1yr


  • Explores objects in many different ways (shaking, banging, throwing, dropping)
  • Finds hidden objects easily
  • Looks at correct picture when the image is named
  • Imitates gestures
  • Begins to use objects correctly (drinking from cup, brushing hair, dialing phone, listening to receiver)


  • Pays increasing attention to speech
  • Responds to simple verbal requests
  • Responds to “no”
  • Uses simple gestures, such as shaking head for “no”
  • Babbles with inflection (changes in tone)
  • Says “dada” and “mama”
  • Uses exclamations, such as “Oh-oh!”
  • Tries to imitate words


  • Reaches sitting position without assistance
  • Crawls forward on belly
  • Assumes hands-and-knees position
  • Creeps on hands and knees
  • Gets from sitting to crawling or prone (lying on stomach) position
  • Pulls self up to stand
  • Walks holding on to furniture
  • Stands momentarily without support
  • May walk two or three steps without support

Hand and Finger Skills

  • Uses pincer grasp
  • Bangs two objects together
  • Puts objects into container
  • Takes objects out of container
  • Lets objects go voluntarily
  • Pokes with index finger
  • Tries to imitate scribbling

As a parent, you know your child best. If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem you do have resources:

  • call your child’s pediatrician and share your concerns – don’t wait. If you or your child’s doctor think there may be a delay, ask for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child.
  • call your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call. To find the contact for your state, call National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) at 1-800-695-0285 or visit the NICHCY website. *Update. NICHCY was de-funded in 2013, their resources have moved here.
  • there is some great information on the CDC website If You’re Concerned page about “What to Say” when you call and “What to Do” while you’re waiting for help.
  • A page of Links to Useful Sites: Parenting and Family Support; Healthcare Providers that offer testing and intervention resources; Childcare and Early Education resources

Watch for these milestones in your child over time and don’t make any judgements based on a single day. Remember, each child is different and may learn and grow at a different rate. However, if your child cannot do many of the skills listed for his or her age group, you should consult your pediatrician. According to developmental specialists Joyce Powell and Dr Charles Smith, remember to take into account if your child was born sooner than his or her due date and be sure to deduct the number of months early from his or her age. A 5-month-old milestones conclusion2born 2 months early would be expected to show the same skills as a 3-month-old who was born on his or her due date.

Please remember, you are the most important observer of your child’s development. You will know before anyone if there is a delay in reaching any of their key milestones. The good news is, the earlier it’s recognized the more you can do to help your child reach his or her full potential.


Milestone Work Referenced:

  • From CARING FOR YOUR BABY AND YOUNG CHILD: BIRTH TO AGE 5 by Steven Shelov, Robert E. Hannermann, © 1991, 1993, 1998, 2004 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Powell, J. and Smith, C.A. (1994). The 1st year. In *Developmental milestones: A guide for parents*. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service.


10 Responses to “First Year Developmental Milestones: Learn the Signs…Act Early”

  1. I’ll send this along to a good friend who just had a baby, this is great advice!
    .-= Julie@Momspective´s last blog ..I Had Something Funny To Say but Forgot What It Was =-.

  2. Rajee says:

    I love your posts. So informative. Love ur blog too
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    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Thanks Rajee…btw, I had no idea about all the health benefits about Organic Coconut oil. I would have thought it was high in fat…no idea it could be used for weight loss. Thanks for some really helpful information!

  3. Rajee says:

    I am waiting for your new posts about the children with diabetics. Please let me know once it is posted.

    .-= Rajee´s last blog ..Tropical Traditions – America’s Source for Coconut Oil Giveaway =-.

    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Hi Rajee…we don’t currently have anything scheduled to run on children with diabetes. When we do I will definitely let you know. If you have something in particular you’d like to ask, can I suggest you drop by our forums. We’ve got some great experts who should be able to answer any questions you have. Thanks again for your comments

  4. Priscila says:

    This is such a great post! Its easy to get rust about these things until you have another baby! It was good to remember and Im going to pass your blog to my pregnant friends!!! Its wonderful
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    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Hi Priscila,
      Actually we’re already following you…and love your site 🙂 …and thanks for the comments about the post. I hope your friends like it too! 🙂 Stefanie

  5. Loralee says:

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    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Hi Loralee,
      How great are you to say that… btw, we follow you too…and love the picture of the whole Carey gang – all 3 generations – at the top of your site :). Thanks again for passing on such really nice thoughts!


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