Early Child Development Stages
Birth to 12 Months

early child development

Your baby's early child development stages are mostly characterized by uncontrollable and involuntary movements. For about the first 6 months of your baby's life, the child development milestones she will reach consist of a wide variety of reflexes that are part of her innate survival and protective instincts.

Failure for any of these reflexes to fully develop has major negative implications for future motor development. After they are functioning, the child's perceptual-motor, physical fitness, motor fitness, and motor skill development occurs.

You can never start too early playing with your baby! Check out these fun baby games to play with your infant.

Reflexes: Birth - 12 Months

The following reflexes appear at birth and then disappear at various stages within the first year. The period of time within the parentheses is the age at which that particular behavior stops.

  • Sucking reflex (up to 9 months) – Involuntary puckering of the baby's lips in response to anything that touches them.
  • Rooting reflex (up to 9 months) – A light touch on the cheek causes the infant to turn his head toward the touch in search of food.
  • Moro reflex (up to 3 months) – When a newborn is startled or begins to fall, her arms and legs extend outward with her hands open and fingers spread.
  • Palmar grasp reflex (up to 4 months) – When something touches the baby's palm, the fingers (not the thumb) reflexively close to grasp the object.
  • Tonic neck reflex (up to 5 months) – If the baby's neck is turned to the side or falls forward or backward, his arms and legs either flex or extend in response to the movement.
  • Babkin reflex (up to 3 months) – Applying pressure to both of the baby's palms at the same time will cause her to do one or all of the following – open her mouth, close her eyes, flex her neck, or tilt her head forward.
  • Babinski reflex (up to 4 months) – Applying pressure to the sole of the infant's foot causes the foot to fan out and the toes to extend.
  • Crawling reflex (up to 4 months) – If the baby is lying on his stomach and pressure is applied to the sole of one of his feet or both feet alternately, he will begin to crawl reflexively by moving his arms and legs.

Following is a list of ages and stages of child development for the rest of the baby's first year. The baby begins to show some voluntary movements, but you'll see that other reflexive behaviors continue to show up before disappearing by the end of the first year.

Please keep in mind that these developmental milestones are only general guidelines for what actions you might expect to see your baby perform. Every child is unique, and they all grow and mature at slightly different paces.

Child Development Milestones

Early Child Development
1 Month

  • Stepping reflex (up to 4 months) – When a baby is held upright with her feet touching a flat surface, the pressure she feels on the bottom of her feet will cause her to respond with crude walking-like movements.
  • Swimming reflex (up to 4 months) – When an infant is held horizontally in the water with his head up or over the surface, he responds by moving his arms and legs rhythmically in a swimming-type motion.
  • Holds head up
  • Moves head from side to side while lying on stomach
  • Makes jerky arm thrusts
  • Brings hands within range of eyes and mouth
  • Keeps hands in tight fists
  • Head flops backward if not supported
  • Focuses 8-12 inches away
  • Eyes wander
  • Prefers black and white or high-contrast patterns
  • Hearing is fully mature
  • Recognizes some sounds
  • Turns toward familiar sounds and voices
  • Prefers soft textures to coarse ones

Early Child Development
2 Months

  • Head and body righting reflex (up to 6 months) – If the baby's head is turned to one side while the baby is on her back, she will roll her body in the same direction. Likewise, if her body is rolled to one side, the baby will turn her head in the same direction to follow her body.
  • Labyrinthine righting reflex (up to 12 months) – If an infant is held in an upright position and then tilted in some direction, the baby responds by moving his head in the opposite direction of his body in an attempt to maintain an upright posture of his head.
  • Holds head and chin up
  • Rolls from side to back

Early Child Development
3 Months

  • Plantar grasp reflex (up to 12 months) – Stroking the baby's toes will cause him to flex his toes like he's trying to grasp an object.
  • Pull-up reflex (up to 12 months) – If an infant is put in an upright sitting position and tipped either backward or forward while holding her hands, she will respond by flexing or extending her arms in an effort to maintain an upright posture.
  • Raises head and chest when lying on stomach
  • Holds chest up with arm support while lying on stomach
  • Sits with support
  • Rolls from back to side and stomach to side
  • 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
  • Swats at dangling objects with hands
  • Grasps and shakes hand toys
  • Watches faces intently
  • Follows moving objects
  • Stares using hands and eyes in coordination
  • Smiles at the sound of your voice
  • Begins to babble and imitate sounds
  • Enjoys playing with other people
  • Imitates some movements and facial expressions

Early Child Development
4 Months

  • Parachute reflex (up to 12 months) – When an infant is held in an upright position and then tilted toward the ground, she will extend her arms and legs reflexively in a protective movement to break the fall. If she's quickly lowered downward while in an upright position, she’ll extend and spread her legs and rotate feet outward to brace for landing.
  • Lifts head when lying on back
  • Initial voluntary efforts
  • Corraling – Reaching with both arms to pull an object in to the body
  • Palmar grasp – Grasping items with the fingers and palm

Early Child Development
5 Months

  • Rolls from back to stomach
  • Sits alone
  • Smooth arm and hand action
  • Reaching and grasping with one hand

Early Child Development
6 Months

  • Stands holding on to object
  • Crawling (body drag)

Early Child Development
7 Months

  • Pulls self to stand
  • Startle reflex – When an infant is startled or begins to fall, his first reaction is to flex his arms and legs.
  • Rolls both ways (front to back / back to front)
  • Sits with and without support of hands
  • Supports total body weight on legs
  • Reaches with one hand 
  • Transfers object from hand to hand
  • Uses raking grasp
  • Develops color vision
  • Distance vision matures
  • Ability to track moving objects improves
  • Responds to name
  • Distinguishes emotions by tone of voice
  • Responds to sound by making sounds
  • Uses voice to express joy and displeasure
  • Finds partially hidden object
  • Explores with hands and mouth
  • Struggles to get objects that are out of reach
  • Enjoys social play
  • Interested in mirror images

Early Child Development
8 Months

  • Rolls from stomach to back
  • Gets into sitting position
  • Creeping (on hands and knees with stomach off ground)
  • Accepts and holds 2 objects with one in each hand
  • Pincer grasp (thumb opposition) – Able to grasp objects with a thumb and finger

Early Child Development
9 Months

  • Sits down
  • Walks with support

Early Child Development
11 Months

  • Stands alone

Early Child Development
12 Months

  • Walks alone
  • Crawls forward on belly by pulling with arms and pushing with legs
  • Gets from sitting to crawling or prone position on stomach
  • Pulls self up to stand
  • Uses pincer grasp
  • Puts objects into and takes them out of container
  • Lets go of objects voluntarily
  • Pokes with index finger
  • Tries to imitate scribbling
  • Responds to simple verbal request
  • Tries to imitate words
  • Explores objects in many different ways like shaking, banging, throwing, dropping
  • Finds hidden objects easily
  • Looks at correct picture when the image is named
  • Begins to use objects correctly like drinking from cup and brushing hair
  • Enjoys imitating people in play
  • Shows specific preferences for certain people and toys
  • Extends arm or leg to help when being dressed

Worried or have concerns about your child's development? Check out the CDC Developmental Milestones page for helpful videos and information.

More child development stages...

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