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Baby Care: Baby (Birth – 2 years) – Infant Development & Parenting Tips


Raising a baby, especially for the first time, is exciting and challenging. This is a time for developing the bonds that will last a lifetime, providing your child with the inner resources to build self-esteem and the ability to relate positively with others. It’s also the time for parents to discover who this new person is. Every child is unique, and parents must learn to understand, respect, support, and encourage their characteristics and abilities.

Download Our Ages & Stages Chart: Birth to 2 Years Old

Moving Onwards (Encouraging Development):

Play Activities

Birth-18 months

Almost all neuron (nerve cells) are present at birth but most are not connected in networks. The connecting process (synapse formation) is rapid during this year, with brain activity becoming closer to an adult than newborn by 12 months. Areas of greatest growth are sensorimotor, visual cortex and later the frontal lobes. Play reflects the development of brain areas. This is what Piaget called “practice play.”

Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell: These are the ways babies learn about the world. This is why the best infant toys are usually brightly colored noisemakers. They soon graduate from mobiles (try a musical one for extra interest) and mirrors (which they find fascinating) to grasping and holding. Toys they can manipulate with pleasing effects–activity quilts with different textures: attachments that squeak or jingle; rattles; activity bars: softballs to drop and retrieve–begin to teach them dexterity and the concept of cause-and-effect.

As babies team to sit up, crawl, stand and then walk, the possibilities quickly expand They’re ready to experiment with nesting cups, activity boxes, stacking rings, large blocks, and a little later with shape-sorters. These toys help develop fine motor skills and reach relationships among objects. Cloth or board books, especially intriguing with pictures of faces or familiar objects, let then, practice object-recognition and instill basic ideas of language. Babies and toddlers also love bathtub toys because they delight in all kinds of water play such as filling, emptying, and splashing. And as soon as they’re up on their feet, they’re ready to roll with push-pull toys.

A word of caution: Be sure any toy for a child in this age group has no small pieces that can be removed or broken off and swallowed, no sharp edges or points, and is made of non-toxic materials.

Toys and materials for play and learning for babies including plush toys, stacking and nesting toys, blocks, musical toys, cloth and board books and more can be purchased on Amazon.com.

Recommended Books for Parents

Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth To Age 5 Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth To Age 5  The most up-to-date, expert advice for mothers, fathers and care providers from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This essential resource is the one guide pediatricians routinely recommend and parents can safely trust, covering everything from preparing for childbirth to toilet training to nurturing your child’s self-esteem.  amazon-button

What to Expect the First Year: Second Edition What to Expect the First Year: Second Edition  The comprehensive month-by-month guide that clearly explains everything parents need to know about the first year with a new baby.  Featuring a practical, illustrated Baby Care Primer, a First Aid Guide, and Best-Odds Recipes.  With special sections on the older sibling; selecting the right physician; seasonal concerns and traveling with baby; managing childhood illnesses; and nurturing the adopted baby, the low-birthweight infant, and the baby with specific problems.  amazon-button

Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby's First Year Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year   This easy-to-use yet comprehensive how-to manual provides answers and explanations to the questions and concerns of new parents. From baby-care basics to month-by-month development to common illnesses to health and safety, this book covers it all. There’s also a wealth of tips and advice for couples coping with the many changes to daily life that come with parenthood, as well as full-color photography and graphics throughout the book.  amazon-button

Brain Rules for Baby Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five  What’s the single most important thing you can do during pregnancy? What does watching TV do to a child’s brain? What’s the best way to handle temper tantrums? Scientists know.  Bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practice. Through fascinating and funny stories, the author, a developmental molecular biologist and dad, unravels how a child’s brain develops – and what you can do to optimize it.  amazon-button

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night  There are two schools of thought for encouraging babies to sleep through the night: the hotly debated Ferber technique of letting the baby “cry it out,” or the grin-and-bear-it solution of getting up from dusk to dawn as often as necessary. If you don’t believe in letting your baby cry it out, but desperately want to sleep, there is now a third option, presented by Elizabeth Pantley based on her research.  Pantley’s successful solution has been tested and proven effective by scores of mothers and their babies from across the United States, Canada, and Europe.  amazon-button

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers  This book is an essential guide to breastfeeding that every new and expectant mom should own-a comprehensive resource that takes the mystery out of basic breastfeeding dynamics. Understanding the seven natural laws of breastfeeding will help you avoid and overcome challenges such as low milk production, breast refusal, weaning difficulties, and every other obstacle that can keep you from enjoying breastfeeding your baby.  amazon-button

The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year  An indispensable handbook on all aspects of fatherhood during the first 12 months, by the author of The Expectant Father.  The essential handbook for all things first-year father is now fully updated and revised. Not only will new dads get a month-by-month guide to their baby’s development, men reading The New Father will learn how they change, grow, and develop over the first twelve months of fatherhood.  amazon-button

Baby Play (Gymboree) Baby Play (Gymboree)  All new parents are eager to help their baby discover the world around them, and BABY PLAY was designed to help parents engage their infant in activities that will encourage developmental skills. From the first month home through the twelfth, BABY PLAY offers doctor-approved, age-appropriate activities that stimulate discovery, begin communication, and nurture parental bonding.  amazon-button

Videos on Infant Development

Developmental Milestones:

PhysicalLanguageIntellectual - CognitiveSocial - Emotional

Birth to Six Months

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Lifts head and chest when on stomach
  • Rolls from back to side or side to back
  • Rolls completely over from back or stomach
  • Sits with support
  • Holds head erect
  • Can raise him/herself up on forearms (while on tummy) and hold head up
  • Rolls from back to tummy (by 4-6 months)

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Reaches for objects
  • Holds objects for short periods of time before dropping them
  • Touches and pats bottle
  • Usually responds to objects or faces as they move
  • Plays with fingers, hands and toes
  • Holds and manipulates objects; sucks on everything!

Six to 12 Months

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Progresses from sitting steady when supported to sitting without support
  • Crawls on hands and knees
  • Pulls to standing position
  • Walks with help
  • Stands alone
  • Learns to crawl, stand up and walk
  • Sits without support (by 8 months)
  • Begins to cruise and eventually walk
  • Develops eye-hand coordination

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Reaches for small objects
  • Places objects in a container
  • Picks up medium and large objects
  • Changes objects from one hand to another
  • Plays with two toys; one in each hand
  • Points with fingers
  • Transfers toys from hand to hand
  • Sees almost everything with good vision
  • Develops eye-hand coordination

12 to 18 Months

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Stands alone
  • Walks without support; starting and stopping with control
  • Walks backward with a pull toy
  • Runs stiffly
  • Squats down to pick up object and stands up
  • Climbs up stairs; creeps down backwards one at a time
  • Climbs out of crib and playpen
  • Can throw a ball
  • Walks well
  • Can walk while holding an object

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Turns several pages of a book at one time
  • Scribbles on paper with crayon
  • Releases ball with slight thrust
  • Picks up small objects between thumb and forefinger
  • Can open a small box
  • Holds a spoon with a fist
  • Feeds self with fingers
  • Holds and drinks from a cup
  • Picks up small objects with pointer finger and thumb
  • Can build a tower of cubes
  • Turns pages in a book

Birth to 6 Months

  • Vocalization with intonation
  • Responds to his name
  • Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
  • Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones

Six to 12 Months

  • Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
  • Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
  • Practices inflection
  • Is aware of the social value of speech

12 to 18 Months

  • Has vocabulary of approximately 5-20 words
  • Vocabulary made up chiefly of nouns
  • Some echolalia (repeating a word or phrase over and over)
  • Much jargon with emotional content
  • Is able to follow simple commands

Birth to Six Months

  • Listens attentively to sounds and voices (by 1 month)
  • Cries deliberately for assistance (by 1 month)
  • Coordinates eye movements (by 2 months)
  • Discovers hands and feet as an extension of self (by 3 months)
  • Likes to repeat enjoyable acts (by 4 months)
  • Recognizes and responds to name (by 5 months)
  • Studies objects intently (by 6 months)
  • Recognizes and responds to own name
  • Discriminates between familiar and unfamiliar faces
  • Demonstrates happiness and unhappiness with sounds
  • Demonstrates memory by waiting while feeding is prepared and stopping crying when a person enters the room
  • Looks forward to feeding by sight

Six to 12 Months

  • Anticipates events (by 7 months)
  • Finds hidden objects (by 10 months)
  • Can point to body parts
  • Puts nesting toys together correctly
  • Develops expectations about familiar events
  • Waves bye-bye
  • Follows simple directions
  • Searches for an object that has disappeared
  • Pours objects out of a container and puts each back in
  • Imitates actions of others
  • Understands basic cause and effect relationships (touching hot stove burns hand)
  • Enjoys the repetition of events
  • Enjoys picture book for a short period of time
  • Assembles simple nesting toys

12 to 18 Months

  • Identifies family members in photographs
  • Enjoys cause and effect relationship
  • Is able to make choices between clear alternatives
  • Begins to solve problems
  • Remembers more
  • Learns by exploring
  • Responds to simple directions
  • Points to familiar objects upon request
  • Remembers where things are in different areas of the house (room)
  • Hunts for a hidden toy
  • Shows brief interest in a picture book
  • Gives a mechanical toy to the caregiver to activate
  • Places a large round shape in a form board

Birth to Six Months

  • Expresses affection
  • Shows interest in human faces
  • Has a sense of humor
  • Becomes excited when played with
  • Stares at strangers
  • Smiles at familiar faces
  • Develops attachment to the primary caregiver
  • Becomes trusting when needs are met; fretful when needs are not met
  • Shows displeasure when loses contact with a person
  • Smiles and babbles at people and toys
  • Reacts to discomfort and pain
  • Recognizes parent’s voice
  • Makes eye contact
  • Shows affection by looking, waving, kicking and smiling
  • Shows feelings of security when held or talked to
  • Expresses delight
  • May form attachment to one special object
  • Laughs when tickled
  • Builds trust when cries are answered
  • May begin to cling to the primary caregiver

Six to 12 Months

  • Becomes more emotionally attached to the caregiver
  • Protests at separation from mother
  • Shows some negative reaction to strangers
  • Seeks approval; doesn’t want disapproval
  • Plays simple games with adults
  • Enjoys being the center of attention
  • Enjoys communicating with others
  • Smiles, pats and plays with their image in a mirror
  • Expresses pleasure and displeasure
  • Enjoys being with other children
  • Has an increased drive for independence
  • Expresses anger more dramatically
  • Has a fear of strangers
  • Is aware of social approval or disapproval
  • Performs for others
  • Has pride in personal accomplishments

12 to 18 Months

  • Is self-centered, demanding, stubborn and self-assertive
  • Imitates adults
  • Is inconsistent in expressing emotions
  • May become upset when adults place limitations on activities
  • Expresses anger
  • Engages in parallel play
  • Rolls ball to adult
  • Likes to show off for an audience
  • Shows fear of strangers
  • Is unable to share
  • Responds to simple instructions
  • Takes pride in accomplishments
  • Increases negativism
  • May show fear of storms and animals
  • Is easily distracted
  • Prefers to keep caregiver in sight while exploring the environment
  • Demands personal attention
  • May reveal stubbornness
  • Unable to share
  • Responds to simple requests