5 Stages of Infant Development You Should Focus on for Optimal Long-Term Results

5 Stages of Infant Development You Should Focus on for Optimal Baby Development

If I had to narrow the stages of infant development down to 5 main skills areas, they would be:

  • Large motor skills

  • Fine motor skills

  • Speech and language skills

  • Intellectual skills

  • Social skills

It’s hard to imagine that the tiny lump you carried around, quickly changes to a walking and talking human being that bears no resemblance to the baby you brought home. 


There is a lot of development going on in the first two years of life. And it is your job to encourage and enhance that development to make sure that your baby gets optimal stimulation s/he needs during that period.


Although your baby is unique in every respect, there is a specific development pattern that all babies follow. And they all follow this pattern within a fairly narrow age range.


5 Stages of Infant Development


There are 5 main stages of infant development you should pay particular attention to:

Large motor skills

This involves things like crawling, sitting, standing and walking.  Large motor skills are gradually learned through play and through practice with mom or dad.


I have covered the large motor skill development and what to look out for in this article


You shouldn’t keep a baby strapped to a high chair or carrier all day as this will delay their ability to hold their body upright by themselves or learn to explore their environment through rolling over and creeping around.  Babies crawl sometime after they reach six to seven months of age but some babies can take as long as 10-12 months of age.


For more information about exactly when your child should be mastering the physical stages of infant development, click here


You can practice with your baby by helping him or her get on all fours and by giving them toys to entice them to go and get them.  Help them to walk by grasping both hands while they are upright and giving them someplace to go.  Babies develop at different rates and can take as long as 14-15 months to walk, especially if they are a real contented baby that doesn’t have the desire to walk.


Small Motor Skills

This aspect of development happens when a baby learns to use his or her hands and feet to manipulate things, such as blocks, other toys and their food.  You can help them enhance their small motor skills by giving them games to improve these skills.  You can also give them small food items like cereal or small pieces of vegetables that they can use to pinch their forefinger and thumb in order to grasp the food.


Our section on developmental baby toys specifically covers which toys can be used to advance and improve this development area. Click here for more information


Small motor skills are important for things like dressing oneself, tying one’s shoes and grabbing small things.  These skills are practically absent at birth but develop gradually over the first two years of life so that the child can adeptly grab small items at will.


Speech and language skills

Many parents view speech and language development as one of the most important stages of infant development. Some of the things you can do to help are: You’ll want to talk to your baby as much as possible, play music tapes and allow your baby to be around other babies so that they begin to say simple words by the time they are a year old. 

Expect your child to increase his vocabulary over the course of the next year so that by the time they reach two years of age he often can put two or more words together to get their needs met.

Tips: Monitor your baby’s speech and do what you can to improve his understandable speech skills.  It begins as soon as he is born and can hear the sound of your voice.

I suggest you also read our section on practical ways to development your baby’s speech and language skills


Intellectual skills

This stage of infant development involves skills such as reasoning, intuition and memory.  It is important to keep a baby mentally stimulated so that his or her brain can develop a good set of intellectual skills that will carry him or her for a lifetime.  Things you can immediately do are to read and play music to your child for intellectual stimulation.  Intellectual children’s games are also very beneficial.

I suggest you also ready this section where we cover other ways to encourage intellectual development in more detail


Social skills

The starting point of this stage of infant development involves trust. And babies only become "human" through their social interactions with others.

Your child learns to trust others to provide for his needs - whether bodily or for entertainment, security and so on. Children who experience such security are better able to deal with the world.

Of course, there is also a very close relationship between developing language skills and developing social skills.


Read more about encouraging social skills development by going to this BabyDevelopmentNews-article



Despite trying to simplify the stages of infant development into 5 distinct and separate areas, reality shows that infant development should be viewed in totality. Comprehensive stimulation is therefore advised for a optimally performing child.


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