As a new parent, it seems we are always looking forward to discovering what our little one will do next. We watch anxiously for that first smile or giggle, the first cooing sounds or when she starts to crawl. That excitement however, can quickly turn to worry or concern when our baby doesn’t pick up a skill as quickly as a friend or family member’s baby.

“I always tell parents there is a range for children,” said Veronica Linares MD, FAAP and internist/pediatrician with Adventist Medical Group. “Babies can hit a milestone anywhere between three or six months after it’s expected and still be developing normally.”

Most milestone lists are really just estimates of when a baby may start doing something. A few of those milestones include:

Two Months

  • Coo
  • Turn heads toward sound
  • Briefly lift head and chest up during tummy time

Four Months

  • Start to roll over
  • Shake a toy
  • Bring hands to mouth
  • Hold head steady without help

Six Months

  • Recognize familiar faces
  • Pass things in both hands
  • Put vowel sounds together
  • Imitate conversations with adults

Nine Months

  • Start to crawl or cruise
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Master pincer grasp for small objects
  • Sit without support

One Year

  • Say first words
  • Wave bye-bye
  • Respond to simple commands
  • Help with dressing

“Let your pediatrician know about any concerns or questions you have,” reminded Dr. Linares. “But try to stay focused on interacting and engaging with your baby instead of milestone checklists. Babies learn best from the way parents do things. Spend time reading, talking, singing and loving them.”

Here are a few simple ways you can help your baby develop, at any age:

  • Read books. It’s never too early to read to your baby. Studies have shown that the more babies are exposed to words and books, the more prepared they are to learn to read as they grow.
  • Have a conversation. Babies learn so much by just hearing us talk – from the way words sound to watching our mouths form the words. Your conversation can be as simple as describing what you see or what you are doing, from the color of the trees, flowers and houses on an afternoon walk to describing the colors of laundry you are folding.
  • Sing songs or recite nursery rhymes. Familiar songs and rhymes can help calm babies and boost their brains. Research has shown songs and rhymes can help expand a baby’s memory and offer a wider exposure to language, sounds and rhythms, which ultimately helps prepare little ones to interact with others and read.
  • Visit your local library. Libraries are a great place to introduce a love of language and reading. Many libraries have programs just for babies that give them a chance to hear age-appropriate books and songs, see other babies, and not to mention offer parents the opportunity to socialize with other adults.