Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Infant Milestones

Dear Jocelyn,
What are some important upcoming developmental milestones for my child (currently 1 year old)? At what point should he understand the concept of "no"? Are there any educational activities I can do with him to encourage his psychological development?
     -First-time Mom

Dear First,
I'm glad you asked this question - it gave me an opportunity to pull out my old developmental psychology textbooks! Here are a few sample milestones your child should reach by the first year of life:

-Your child should be able to understand the basic meaning of the word "no." He might not like it, but he should understand it.
-He should be trying to imitate sounds and attempt to speak.
-He should be using his larger muscles in play (throwing things, picking up larger objects, etc.).
-He should be able to understand basic commands and questions ("Do you want a cracker?").

As a disclaimer, I must say that children reach milestones at different times.  Even if your son is slow to walk or talk, it is not a problem.  The ages at which children can do certain abilities are averages - meaning some children are faster and some are slower.  I would only recommend seeing your pediatrician if your child does not reach any milestones appropriate for his age. 

You asked what you can do to encourage his psychological development - the best thing you can do at this point is love him. Thankfully, one-year-old babies are not easily psychologically damaged. When we do see infants showing signs of psychological damage, it is due to neglect. These babies are left for hours at a time, not changed or cared for, and not loved. These sad cases result in listless, apathetic infants. The good news is that I can tell you are a loving mother. How? You took the time to write an advice columnist about your son. The only thing you need to concern yourself with is not letting anxiety overrun you. Children can sense emotions, even the ones we think we hide. So if you want a normal and healthy child, relax and show him how much you love him. This will give him the security to explore, develop friendships, and eventually leave the nest.

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