The early years of a child's life are crucial, since it is one of the most important phases for his physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development.
Throughout the first year, the baby grows and changes at an astounding pace. He starts getting in touch with people, developing new habits, etc., stages that help stimulate his intelligence. Even though he is still a baby, the shaping of his personality begins at this point, that is, parents can start guessing some personality traits their child will have as an adult through certain patterns observed during babyhood.
The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.
Key stages of development
The newborn will keep on developing new abilities and skills on different levels as he grows:
- Physical level: Gross motor control (walking, sitting down, holding his head up...) and fine motor control (scratching himself, holding a glass...).
- Cognitive level: Although the baby has not started talking yet and cannot understand a word you say, he can actually catch your emotions and attitudes. Besides, his observation and listening capacities help him learn about essential aspects such as trust, time, relationships...
- Linguistic level: While some babies can speak at an early stage, others are able to just make little noises and need a longer period of time till they are able to articulate a word clearly. Stimulating and getting your baby to talk from the very beginning by saying clear words is crucial. Also, encouraging their learning is strongly advisable.
- Social level: The environment in which your baby grows up is material to an adequate development. Physical contact (e.g. caressing, kissing, or hugging him), emotional support, and all the love relatives may provide him with may encourage the development of social skills, and help him learn how to interact with the world around him eventually.
Baby development occurs in stages, which means major changes will take place at some point, while in other phases no great progress may be observed.
It is crucial not to become too startled or concerned in phases in which the baby is not developing so quickly, as the truth is, he is actually acquiring new abilities, though this process may not be so noticeable.
Normal growth and development patterns
You are advised not to compare the baby's development pattern with that of siblings, cousins, or the children of other people. Each baby has a different growth pattern, and you should not force him to walk or talk if you find he is not comfortable with that yet.
Putting pressure on him may turn out to be counter-productive, since for example if you force a child to start walking when he is actually not ready to do so and he ends up falling off, he may become afraid of that and try again after a long period of time. Each baby's growth pattern is different.
There exists a tool called growth chart that is used to compare different measurements, such as weight, height, or head circumference. They use the average base units of children in similar conditions, which is to say, of the same age and gender.
By comparing your baby's measurements with these average figures, one can create a chart that may be very helpful in order for the doctor to determine whether your baby is following a normal, healthy development pattern.
However, as we have mentioned earlier, parents should not be too stressed out or even become obsessed with the baby's percentiles, as it is not a rigid mathematical calculation. What really matters is that the baby develops as expected over time, without reaching very extreme values in terms of weight and height.
Babies and their senses
Since childbirth, and as the weeks go by, a baby's brain is continuously trying to comprehend every new sensation, such as lights, textures, smells, colors... which surround him after leaving his mother's belly.
The more advanced your baby's development is, the more often he will use his senses to learn everything he may need about the outside world.
He will use his sense of touch to identify and get to know the shape and texture of things. Up until he is 7 months old, the touch capacity of his fingers and hands will not be enough, and that is the reason why he may use his mouth, too.
By putting a toy in the mouth, babies can discover a wide range of things. This is because a baby's mouth has tens of thousands of nerve endings that will help him understand all about each new object.
As a baby's sense of sight develops, eye-hand coordination keeps on improving. By the time he is around 5 months old, his sense of sight would have developed enough as to comprehend the concepts of closeness/distance.
Every daily activity contributes to a better development of a baby's senses. For instance, giving your baby a bath will show him the difference between cold/warmth, or humidity/dryness. During the feeding time, it is also very important for him to develop not only his sense of taste, but also the sense of smell.
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