The First Year: Development, Milestones, and Activities to Try

Babies are constantly growing, changing, and learning new skills. Their progression often follows a common sequence as they move from one developmental milestone to the next. Even though the development of young children follows this path, each baby grows and learns at their unique pace. 

Use the information here as a guide for gauging your baby’s needs, understanding their development, and encouraging new experiences they might be ready to try at different ages and stages.


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Your 3-Month-Old

General Development: Three-month-olds are emerging from the newborn phase, which can bring some exciting developments. They are discovering their hands and fingers and are becoming aware of their surroundings. Babies at this age may sleep as many as 16 or 17 hours per day, including both naps and nighttime rest, and often do not yet have a regular sleep schedule. Three-month-olds:

Communication & Cognitive

  • Pay close attention to faces and especially watch mouth movements.

  • Follow objects that move around them.

  • Recognize objects and people that are familiar to them.

  • Begin to babble.

  • Turn their head in the direction of a sound. 

Social Emotional Skills

  • Become more expressive with their faces and bodies.

  • Smile at familiar people and voices.

  • Enjoy playful attention and may cry when the playing is over.

Movement

  • Are able to raise their heads up while laying on their stomachs. 

  • Grasp and shake toys with their hands. 

  • Reach for objects that are above them.

  • Are able to bring their hands to their mouth. 

  • Can open and shut their hands.

Activities to Try

  • At this age, your baby loves to hear your voice. Talk softly and sing as you rock and hold your baby. 

  • They also are attracted to hearing interesting sounds, seeing colorful objects, and watching objects move around them. Use toys that hang above your baby to stimulate their senses and encourage their play. 

  • Babies at this age are learning about their world. Share toys and blankets of different textures along with non-breakable, safe mirrors for them to explore.  


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Your 6-Month-Old

General Development: Six-month-olds continue to become more interactive seemingly on a daily basis. They show a greater awareness of their environment and the people around them. Babies at this age require 12-16 total hours of sleep per day, including both nap and nighttime rest. For many babies, this age is the beginning of a more regular and routine sleep pattern. Six-month-olds:

Communication

  • Make sounds in response to sounds they hear and as a way to convey their feelings.

  • Babble with a variety of vowel sounds and some consonant sounds such as “m” or “b.”

  • Enjoy “talking” by taking turns making sounds with a caregiver.

Social Emotional Skills

  • Recognize familiar faces.

  • Enjoy looking at themselves in a mirror.

  • Show joyful emotions with giggles, facial expressions, and body movements.

  • Begin to interact playfully with others, especially parents and familiar caregivers. 

Movement

  • Roll over from front to back and back to front. 

  • Show progress toward sitting without support.

  • When held in a standing position, can support weight on their legs and might bounce.

  • Rock back and forth in a crawling position and may begin to move forward or backward.

Cognitive

  • Are curious about objects around them and reach for things.

  • Often look around.

  • Move things to their mouth.

  • Begin to move items between their hands. 

Activities to Try

  • Read to your baby often. Books that have colorful pictures are great to capture their attention. 

  • Talk with them by responding to their sounds. This allows your baby to hear words in context and learn the cadence of conversations. 

  • Use tummy time or time on their stomach while awake to strengthen muscles that are important for sitting, crawling, and moving. Use rattles, sounds, and your child’s name to capture their attention and encourage their curiosity about the world around them. 


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Your 9-Month-Old

General Development: Nine-month-olds are discovering their voice and beginning to engage more and more with things around them. They can move their bodies in new and different ways, and this often requires an added level of attention from caregivers. Babies at this age require 12-16 total hours of sleep per day, including both nap and nighttime rest. Nine-month-olds:

Communication

  • Understand what it means when someone says “no.”

  • Points to people and things.

  • Often babbles with different sounds, especially “mamama” and “bababa.”

Social Emotional Skills

  • Often cling to familiar adults and caregivers.

  • Display anxiety around strangers.

  • Have favorite blankets, stuffed animals, and toys. 

Movement

  • Are able to crawl.

  • Sit without support.

  • Use furniture to pull themselves up to stand.

Cognitive

  • Move things from one hand to the other hand with ease.

  • Watch objects as they fall.

  • Look for items they see you hide, but are not always able to find them. 

Activities to Try

  • Engage with your child as they point and babble. Use their cues as a springboard for ways to respond. If they point to something, you might tell them the word for what they are pointing at and then talk about it. If they are babbling, you might mimic their sounds or add in other conversation. As they hear you talk, they begin to learn more and more about how to communicate. 

  • Utilize your child’s favorite comforting object to help them through transitions. Whether simply going in the car or visiting a new person or place, these items can help to ease your child into the change by providing a sense of control and familiarity.  

  • To encourage your child to move and develop their coordination, place objects around them on the floor and on furniture that they have to crawl or stretch to get. Celebrate their efforts as they move around.  

  • Use your child’s growing understanding of cause and effect. Drop a ball into a bucket or other container over and over again. You might then dump the ball out of the bucket. See if your child looks for the ball or wants to try dropping the ball or emptying the bucket on their own. 


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Your 12-Month-Old

General Development: Twelve-month-olds are constantly on the go. Their curiosity is boundless. Even seemingly mundane objects and experiences feel exciting and new. Children at this age require 12-14 total hours of sleep per day, including both nap and nighttime rest. Twelve-month-olds:

Communication

  • Can shake their head “no” or wave “bye-bye.”

  • Use a variety of sounds and tones to mimic conversation.

  • Experiment and play with different sounds on their own and with others. Children often learn the “b” and “d” sounds first. 

  • May be able to say “mama,” “dada,” and simple expressions like “uh oh” or “up.”

  • Recognize their own names when said aloud.

Social Emotional Skills

  • Act shy or nervous around people they do not know well and often get upset when their mom or dad leaves.

  • Have favorite people and things.

  • Like to choose a story and have it read to them.

  • Enjoy playing Peek-a-Boo and Pat-a-Cake.

  • Giggle and act in ways that capture the attention of their parents and other caregivers.

Movement

  • Can get to a seated position without help.

  • Can cruise by walking and holding on to furniture and may be able to walk on their own. 

  • Begin to practice standing on their own. 

  • Put items in their mouth as a way to learn. 

  • Grasp objects such as small pieces of food.

Cognitive

  • Are very curious about objects they see; they explore by touching, shaking, turning, and banging. 

  • Mimic gestures and expressions. 

  • Start to use items correctly such as brushing their hair with a hairbrush. 

  • Can find an item after watching you hide it. 

Activities to Try

  • When you are sitting with your baby and have their attention, articulate different sounds. Try “ba ba ba” or “da da da” or “moo moo moo.” See if they can mimic the sounds. Celebrate every attempt.  

  • Introduce your child to interactive songs. You might sing, do hand motions, or dance moves for Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, Pat-a-Cake, or Skidamarink Dinky Dink. Babies this age love to hear these songs over and over again. You might even consider using these songs when you need to hold their attention while changing a diaper, applying sunscreen, or waiting in a line.

  • Rather than feeding your child all of their food, spread out some small pieces of safe foods for your child to pick up and eat on their own. Though it may take longer and be a bit messier, it builds their coordination and fosters independence. 

  • Take out some pots, pans, wooden spoons, and tupperware that your child can explore safely. They might enjoy experimenting by banging things together or putting items inside of containers. This can be a great way to engage your child while you work in the kitchen.

The First Year: References and Resources for Further Reading

Healthy Children (from the American Academy of Pediatrics): Developmental Milestones (3 months)

CDC Important Milestones: Your Child By Six Months

CDC Important Milestones: Your Child By Nine Months

CDC Important Milestones: Your Child By 1 Year 

Healthy Children (from the American Academy of Pediatrics): Baby

American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Child Sleep Guidelines