Baby's developmental leaps
Parents often say that their darlings change suddenly – out of the blue. And there's a lot of truth to that, because a baby's development is erratic due to so-called developmental leaps. What are they, how to survive them, and what do they involve? We'll tell you everything in our guide!
A developmental leap – what is it?
Developmental leaps are moments in your baby's early life in which there's sudden development – first and foremost mental development – but it's also accompanied by increased physical skills. New neuronal links are formed in the brain, thanks to which your littlie looks at the world differently to what they did before. The new perspective leads to gathering new information, which their little brain must process; this can be overwhelming – hence the whining and crying. Developmental leaps are thought to be a baby's natural way of maturing and developing the nervous system.
How can you prepare for your darling's developmental leaps?
As a developmental leap approaches, they won't feel great – they may be slightly more likely to whine and cry. Is it possible to prepare for this time, which isn't easy for both the child and the parent? Knowing that such leaps are natural and that every baby who's developing correctly goes through them will definitely help. So you should even be happy when a developmental leap is approaching, because this means that your baby will soon have new skills. You can neither prevent nor accelerate developmental leaps. It's key to prepare for what's coming – for your child spending more time in your arms than usual, waking more often at night, and not necessarily wanting to eat. If you get ready for this and realise that these are natural in the development process, it'll be easier for you to survive. It's also recommended that you use various forms of rocking – from carrying in a sling to sitting with your littlie on a medicine ball or simply rocking them. This works well for most children, because it soothes them by stimulating the vestibular system. Rockers are amazing during this period, especially those that imitate the natural, side-to-side motion of the parents' arms. Our LUMI and LULI rockers offer this very function.
How to recognise a developmental leap
Your baby is irritated, has trouble sleeping and has lost their appetite? And in addition, they also need more cuddles and cry often? It's quite likely that they're going through a developmental leap. The author of the first definition of "developmental leap" – Frans Plooij – lists three main symptoms that can be used to recognise if your littlie is going into a phase of sudden development: they're crying often, have a greater need for physical contact with loved ones, and get irritated quicker. And then there are also trouble falling asleep and frequent waking at night, increased sensitivity to stimuli and a lack of appetite. Sometimes, your littlie may "forget" some skills they acquired previously – it's almost as if they're going backwards. This is perfectly normal – this is how they're preparing for a new dose of thrills, and the "forgotten" skills will come back together with new ones.
Developmental leaps – what should you remember?
Don't forget that developmental leaps don't last forever and vary in duration. It's assumed that every new leap is longer but less intense. The shortest ones usually last about a week, with the longest going for six to seven weeks. The most important thing to remember is that developmental leaps are not an ongoing and unchanging phase in your child's life. Even paediatricians don't know how many there are and when they occur. There are usually seven leaps in the first year of life, but they're also seen in subsequent years. So don't treat the breakdown of the next stages as firm, inflexible data, but rather as an indication of what to look for.
Developmental leaps in the first year of life
First developmental leap: week 5 (month 2) of life
The first developmental leap is closely associated with the emotions your darling is starting to react to the world surrounding them with. Your baby's sight starts to follow items and stop on faces. Your child shows excessive sensitivity to stimuli, and that's why you should ensure they have peace and quiet. During this time, it's easy for your littlie to get overstimulated, and that's why you should limit excitement – avoid toys that play music, are too colourful, and offer too many melodies or functions. This is also the time when the sound of a newborn crying may now be accompanied by the first tears, but it's also when you may see the first smile.
Second developmental leap: week 7 (month 2) of life
The second developmental leap takes place between the seventh and ninth week of your child's life. This is a time when your littlie is starting to notice regular behaviour in others – simply the normal routine of a day. That's why it's important to fill your darling's day with ongoing, repetitive rituals: time for a nap, feeding, bath, etc. This anchors your baby in reality and ensures they feel safe. The second developmental leap is also when your child will discover their own hands. You'll be able to see your youngster paying close attention to them, playing with them, touching different things, and reaching for toys. This helps develop your baby's fine motor skills, and such movements become increasingly precise.
Third developmental leap: week 11 (month 3) of life
At approximately three months of life, the third developmental leap occurs. If your child is irritable during this period, this is mainly because they're starting to notice nuances in the world around them. The world becomes overwhelming. Your baby also becomes livelier, and can hold an item in their hand and put it in their mouth – this way of discovering the world now becomes more attractive. Your youngster will also happily test out their new-found limits of their voice, so you'll hear lots of sounds you hadn't heard before, such as squeals, shouts and coos. At the same time, your baby's head is stabilising, and they're starting to gain confidence rolling over from their back to their tummy and vice versa.
Fourth developmental leap: week 14 (month 4) of life
Between weeks 14 and 19 of life is when you'll see the fourth developmental leap. This is a time when your littlie is discovering cause and effect, which is simply that one thing results from another. This means they're learning to predict future events ("if I hit the drum, it makes a noise"), and this is a very important aspect of understanding the world. At the same time, your baby will be getting better at communicating their needs using gestures, and reacting to distinctive words, such as their name or repetitive sounds made by the parents. When it comes to physical development, you'll see intensified efforts at learning to sit up. During this time, it's good to practice cause-and-effect relationships with your child, such as turning on electronic toys, connecting items, as well as hiding and revealing toys using a cloth nappy.
Fifth developmental leap: week 22 (month 6) of life
The fifth/sixth month of your little one's life is a time when they're starting to discover the fascinating world of interpersonal relationships. You'll notice your child getting more fearful and shy – this is a result of their observation of people being divided into groups, for example, "familiar person" versus "stranger". From then on, they won't treat everyone the same, and the parents (particularly mum) will receive special treatment, which of course can also be somewhat of a nuisance. This is because your baby starts feeling separation anxiety and may burst out crying as soon as their parent leaves their view. It's also a time of experimenting – porridge will learn to fly, your ears will be tugged on, and rattles will be thrown all over the room. Such behaviours teach your darling to relate to the environment. During this stage, fun with intriguing, interactive toys will be ideal. Such toys include rattles, shiny and rustling paper, plastic mirrors, etc. That's why a great place for development will be educational mats that offer an extensive range of functions that your child needs in this period, such as our 4SMART mat. Your littlie's physical development will also change – they'll start to pull themselves along the floor on their tummy and get around in their own way. Fine motor skills are also developing: grip and manual skills are improving – your child is able to grasp items with their thumb and index finger, and hit items against each other or throw them into boxes.
Sixth developmental leap: week 33 (month 9) of life
During this period, your baby will start strongly demanding affection (especially from mum, whom they'll get increasingly jealous over) – they'll want to be carried, cuddled and entertained. But at the same time, they'll be able to show affection to pets or by cuddling soft toys. This is also a time of turbulent development of intelligence. In these weeks, your child will be discovering cataloguing, types and kinds. They'll notice similarities and differences, for example, they'll associate a dog on a picture with your pet dog, and a different colour of a ball doesn't mean that they'll notice something vastly different. To support your baby in this stage of development, it's good to read books and discover the world together.
Seventh developmental leap: week 41 (month 11 of life)
Your youngster's first year of life is slowly ending. It's a time when they're discovering sequences, meaning they're learning that life is made up of stages – for example, demolishing and building, hiding and discovering. They're able to notice associations between events – if they see you hide something, they'll be able to find it. They start to communicate verbally more – your toddler will start saying simple words and will use increasingly precise gestures to demand food and toys. They simply know what they want. And they know what they don't want even more, and aren't shy about letting you know this, saying "no!" loudly and emphatically. Respect their opinion, as your littlie expect this. Different types of sorting toys, which require lots of precision and patience, start becoming more interesting.
Developmental leaps in the second year of life
Developmental leaps after the first year of life
After the first year of life, changes stop becoming so sudden and spectacular. This doesn't mean that you won't notice any new skills. On the contrary – there will be many, but the changes will span over longer periods of time, and moments of malaise may finally be a bit less troublesome. In the second year of life, your toddler will first and foremost improve their speech and gross motor skills, such as walking and running. They'll develop decision-making skills, so you'll no longer be the one always deciding what your little one is doing and where they'll go. This may be a huge breakthrough, especially for you.
Developmental leap in month 15 of life
The first months after your toddler's first birthday are usually spent with them improving their walking skills. At first, they'll be rocking from side to side, but with time, they'll become more confident taking steps. However, this isn't a rule, because walking skills are a very personal matter, and some children don't start walking until approximately two years old. During this period, even children who aren't able to walk independently yet will be particularly active. That's why you need to keep a close eye on them. Fine motor skills are also improving during this time. Your toddler will gain new hand skills – they'll put blocks in the box on their own, and start using a spoon. They'll enjoy taking clothes off and trying to put them on. With each month, your littlie's vocabulary will expand, but still won't include all the words they already understand. Communication will become more precise – gestures will be increasingly accompanied by specific words.
Developmental leap in month 18 of life
Your youngster is more and more capable and loves using their new-found motor skills. They'll be climbing furniture, kicking a ball, using push-along toys and even dancing to music! Your child will lift their hands to help themselves balance while walking. Their sense of balance will improve. They'll become so capable that they'll slowly start bending down to pick toys up without leaning on anything. At this stage, children who have perfected walking will often decide to start running. This may be the moment when you'll start leaving your pushchair at home more and more when going on walks. But at this age, littlies still get tired easily, so it's good to take, for example, a tricycle with you – EASYTWIST and TWIPPER are great options. Your youngster's speech is also improving – they're starting to form their first sentences, in which the most important word is "no" anyway. Don't be afraid of this word – it means that your child sees their own individuality and needs to be recognised as independent. Sometimes "no" can also mean something else, even "yes" – at this age your darling simply doesn't always understand their emotions, not to mention their precise communication.
Developmental leap in month 24 of life
Around the second birthday, your child will improve their ability to move vertically. Your littlie is more and more capable – they have no problem squatting or turning around. Some children even jump and walk on their toes. During this period, they don't walk – they run! It's good to consider how they can have fun while moving, for example, on a balance bike. It's also a time of greater tenderness – your youngster will like feeling that you always have time for them, and that the daily routine is stable. It's important to give lots of cuddles, play and eat meals together during this stage. In this phase, copying is the best fun, so don't be surprised that your pride and joy will grab an imaginary broom or cloth and clean your home with you. Your little one can now let you know about their physiological needs, although not always in time! This is the first step towards getting out of nappies. Remember that toilet training is a very personal matter and some children are ready before others. It's important to approach this with the utmost care so that your littlie feels safe and comfortable. Forcing the matter may be harmful! Sensing their physiology coincides in time with a fascination with their own body – your child will be touching their eyes, nose, ears and lips. They'll be closely watching the relationships between family members and will be able to notice gender differences.
Developmental leaps in the third year of life
The third year of your youngster's life is a time to perfect existing skills. Your child will run, jump and jump over obstacles better and quicker. Their fine motor skills will improve on an almost daily basis, and you'll see this when they test these abilities by grabbing coloured pencils. This is when you can introduce them to colouring in. Their improving manual skills will also make it easier to teach them how to dress and undress. You'll often find their nappy in the corner – your youngster will be transitioning to a potty, because they are now able to control their physiological needs and communicate them to you in time. The third year of life is, after all, a time when your child is starting to get socialised and slowly learn the rules of functioning in a group, for example, in nursery schools. Their increasingly better communication skills and expressing of their needs will help in this.
The above is only a guide – don't forget this! Every child is different and has different predispositions, needs and skills. Quite simply, they all develop at their own pace. That's why you shouldn't worry if something doesn't go according to this plan. Tune in to your youngster's needs. Everything else is just tips.