Physical development milestones: infants and young children (2023)

Healthy babies are born with fully developed systems that enable their bodies to function, such as: B. the ability to suck, swallow and breathe. To support the best possible physical development, all babies need the attentive care of loving adults, an appropriate diet, and an appropriate, nurturing environment. The physical development of infants and small children takes place rapidly in the first years of a child's life. It is important for caregivers to understand the different stages of physical development in infants and young children so that they can appropriately respond to children's needs.

Babies are born to explore the world around them. While each child masters many of the stages of physical development on their own schedule, babies often strive to progress from these innate skills to additional movements of the mouth, eyes, and body as they search for people and objects to bring them comfort make or interest. . 🇧🇷 They keep practicing their skills and building a form of physical movement step by step as they get closer to the desired objects. Through constant observation and frequent family conversations, you'll learn what babies are capable of, what they're learning, and where they need your support.

Babies develop physically from the top down, beginning with the head and neck. At birth, a child has great difficulty keeping its head upright because the neck muscles are not strong enough to support it. As babies and toddlers grow, their determination to master movement, balance, and fine and gross motor skills remains strong. Rolling and crawling happen as babies develop the ability to use their large muscle groups. Grasping and lifting objects with your fingers is part of small muscle building.

There is no exact age by which all children should be able to grasp objects or hold their heads up unaided. Physical development occurs in all children at different times, depending on many factors, such as: B. the unique characteristics of the child, the values ​​and culture of the family, and access to available resources. However, many infants and young children experience developmental milestones within similar periods of growth. The information in the table below is a complete list of physical developmental milestones that children typically develop during infancy and early childhood. A summary of this information for parents is available in an easy-to-use checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Application section.

All children develop at different rates, so remember that the milestones above are simply the average age at which specific skills are observed.

In order for a baby or child to grow and develop, certain conditions must be in place. The basic physical needs of a young child include:

  • Diet (nutritious and age-appropriate)
  • Shelter (protection from harm)
  • friendliness
  • clean air and environment
  • health and dental care
  • activity and rest

We also know that the way we were raised is important in understanding how and in what contexts children develop. The values ​​and beliefs of our family and culture contribute to our knowledge of growth and development.

Culture affects the way we view and interpret behavior and development.

Understanding the practices, beliefs, and values ​​of the families you support can help you understand how culture shapes so many parts of infant and young child development. Without this understanding, it is difficult to interpret the infant or young child's behavior and development. For example, you may believe that it is important to help children become independent and start using their fine motor skills to support themselves. However, a family may not consider independence as important because they believe that there is more value in relying on each other.

(Video) Physical Developmental Milestones CDC

Other influences on the growth and physical development of infants and young children are:

  • Pregnancy care and development, including heredity and genetic makeup, family growth patterns, drug and alcohol exposure, and childbirth experience
  • Prematurity (birth before 38 weeks of development) and low birth weight can lead to breathing difficulties, vision problems, feeding and digestive problems.
  • Temperament or other ways an infant or toddler approaches and interacts with their world
  • Family composition, lifestyle, level of education and housing situation
  • Maturation, or genetic or biological development, reflecting a growth pattern from conception through adolescence
  • Developmental delays or disabilities, including health and medical problems

Check the brochurePhysical development of infants and young childrenSee the Learning Activities section below for more information on important physical development milestones and variations in the rate of physical development in infants and young children.

The role of the brain in physical development.

You can easily watch babies make movements with their bodies and refine their motor skills. Thanks to advances in research and technology, we can now also see how the brain changes and grows as children develop. At birth, the brain is 25% the size of an adult and by the age of 5 it has reached 90% of the adult size. The interactions and experiences of infants and young children help them make sense of the world and make connections between different parts of the brain.

These supportive experiences and connections help improve coordination and strengthen muscles. As babies repeat and practice different movements, such as For example, turning their head, turning, or reaching for an object, they establish and maintain connections between brain cells. Essentially, the brain is busy understanding the environment and learning from experiences.

It is important that infants and young children have time for these new experiences and to explore the world around them with a trusted and loving caregiver. Repeatedly encountering experiences with trusted caregivers allows children to feel safe and secure and focus on testing, developing and mastering new skills. The safe space you create for their exploration ensures their brain can focus on learning, developing and making connections. Without caring, responsive adults to help them feel safe, infants and young children instinctively focus on survival. This type of stress on a child's brain can make them less engaged in exploration and experimentation. As a result, they have fewer opportunities to make and strengthen connections in the brain that fuel their growth and skill development.

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Supporting the physical development of all students

Physical development, including gross and fine motor skills, engages infants and young children as they practice learned skills and attempt to develop new ones. Healthy physical development depends on proper nutrition, brain development, central nervous system development, muscle development, bone development, and the interactions and experiences infants and young children receive. All children develop at their own pace, but recognizing the signs of potential developmental delays in childhood allows for more effective early intervention than not recognizing the delays until later in childhood. Here are some characteristics of potential physical problems and developmental delays from various sources:

Signs of Impaired Physical Development: Babies and Toddlers

For 2 months

  • Unresponsive or startled by loud noises
  • It does not visually follow the movement of objects.
  • don't smile at others
  • Cannot raise head while lying on stomach

at 3 months

  • don't look at the hands
  • Cannot hold or support head well
  • don't smile at people
  • Don't follow the movement by turning your head.

at 4 months

  • Doesn't coo or make any noise
  • Do not put objects in mouth
  • Occasionally does not press down with legs when feet are placed on a firm surface
  • Has difficulty moving his eyes in all directions
  • Squints most of the time (flicks his eyes normally occasionally for the first few months)
  • does not pay attention to faces or seems very afraid of new faces or surroundings
  • difficulty sucking
  • Shows no interest in the toys in front of him.

at 6 months

  • No weight gain or length gain
  • Does not respond to noises and voices.
  • Do not put objects in mouth
  • It doesn't roll front to back.
  • Stiff extremities (arms, legs) with tight muscles
  • Weak limbs (arms, legs) or body looks limp like a rag doll
  • Do not use your hands to grasp or hold objects.
  • Objects cannot be reached
  • Shows no affection for significant others.
  • Don't make vowels like "ah", "eh" and "oh"

at 9 months

  • Cannot support weight with supported legs
  • Don't sit with help
  • don't babble
  • Does not respond to own name
  • Doesn't seem to recognize familiar people.
  • Toys are not passed from one hand to another
  • Lose the skills you once had

at 12 months

  • I can't stay with help
  • Don't look for the things you hide
  • Don't say single words like "dad" or "mommy" or imitate their sounds

at 15 months

  • Do not imitate gestures such as waving, clapping, or nodding
  • Don't point to communicate needs or ideas.
  • Don't crawl and don't feel alone
  • Do not pick up small items
  • Lose the skills you once had
  • Play board games like pat-a-cake
  • Doesn't say "Mom" or "Dad" when asking about a father
  • Cannot support himself with some foods.
  • Don't look for hidden objects
  • Lose the skills you once had

at 18 months

  • I cant walk
  • Don't know what familiar things are for (brush, spoon, cup)
  • Do not imitate sounds or gestures.
  • don't play with toys
  • does not feed itself
  • Does not have at least three words and does not learn new words
  • Lose the skills you once had
  • Doesn't seem to care if caregiver leaves or comes back

at 24 months

  • not physically active
  • No scribbling or stacking blocks
  • Show no interest in playing with toys.
  • Particularly sensitive or avoid a variety of textures
  • Don't go without support
  • Does not use 2-word phrases (e.g. "drink milk")
  • Don't follow simple instructions
  • Lose the skills you once had

at 30 months

  • Shows no interest in other children.
  • Don't use simple gestures
  • Unable to use a spoon to eat
  • Unable to perform simple tasks such as opening a door
  • not physically active
  • Losing skills you once had

at 36 months

  • mean or inactive
  • do not feed
  • Do not help with dressing and undressing
  • He has no interest in playing with other children or with different toys.
  • Drools or speaks very slurred
  • don't speak in sentences
  • doesn't make eye contact
  • Don't play believe or believe
  • Lose the skills you once had

Delays in physical development can affect more than gross and fine motor skills. For example, a baby's inability to smile at their parents or raise their arms to be picked up can affect their social and emotional development in terms of relationship building. Recognizing some of the delays listed above can be critical to a child's development. The connections in a baby's brain are most adaptable during the first three years of life. These connections, also called neural circuits, are the basis of learning, behavior and health. Over time, these connections become more difficult to change. Early intervention can help children improve their skills and learn new skills.

If you have concerns about the physical development of an infant or young child, be sure to speak with your child's coach, trainer, administrator, and/or parent. They may want to discuss their concerns with the child's doctor. Early intervention can help children improve their skills and learn new skills. For early intervention contact information for your state or territory, go to:

(Video) Baby's physical milestones

For more information, including what to say when contacting Early Intervention and how to get support for your family, visit:



How can you ensure you are providing age-appropriate experiences to support the physical development of infants and young children? Please take a moment to read and review the guidelines on the following SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators, formerly known as the National Association for Sport and Physical Education or NASPE) page:

Then try one or more of the following activities with the infant or young child in your care:

  • When a baby is awake and active, offer tummy time: place the baby on the floor on their tummy while you interact with the baby. Provide the child with stimulating, high-contrast toys or pictures. Because choking is quick and silent, remember never to leave a child unattended while upside down, even for a second.
  • Hold a baby or dance to music with a child. Kids can also wave colorful scarves in the air, dance, or play maracas while the music plays.
  • Encourage imitation of gestures and other movement experiences that allow infants and young children to use their bodies to interact and play.
  • Let the kids try kicking, catching, rolling and bouncing balls.
  • Encourage the children to doodle on the paper with crayons.

Incorporate daily physical play into your daily routine. Babies and toddlers love to be active!

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