Is My Child’s Development on Track?

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on May 16, 2013

in Healthy Living

growthIf a group of parents gather with their kids, you’re bound to hear comments about development. Whether you’re at the park, play group, or story time you may glance around at the other children and wonder if your baby is on track.One mom says, “My son is sitting up already,” then you hear “Can you believe my girl is walking and not even a year old?” You may be impressed and complimentary, or you may roll your eyes. These comments about development can get tiresome if you feel your child is behind. The truth is, every child develops at his own pace, and McLane Children’s Scott & White pediatrician Dr. Michael Okogbo explains just how a child grows and develops over time.


Growth refers to physical measures, while development refers to gaining functional skills during childhood.

Dr. Okogbo and other health professionals track the growth of your infant at well child visits. They look for early signs of health and progression.

“During the first several months of life, weight gain serves as an important indicator of the child’s general well being,” says Dr. Okogbo

Some important measures of infant growth include:

  • The newborn average weight at birth is 7.7lb (3.5kg), length 20inch (50cm), and head circumference 14inch (35cm).
  • Newborns gain 30gm an day in the first three months of life, and about 10-20gm per day for the rest of the first year.
  • Infants double their birth weight by six months of age and triple their birth weight by 12 months of life.

These are good indicators to see if your child is growing properly in the first year of life. As your child gets older, you will continue to attend yearly well-child visits, and your doctor will be able to assess the continued growth of your child.

During this period of childhood growth, it is important that you keep an eye on your child. If you are concerned, Dr. Okogbo suggests taking your child to see a pediatrician to ease any of your worries.

“The pediatrician would make an assessment as to whether there is cause for concern,” he says. The doctor can see your child’s growth over time, answer any questions you have, and even perform developmental screenings, if needed.


As your child grows, he will begin to develop functional skills. You may cheer when your child first lifts his head, and the excitement continues as he sits up, learns to crawl, and takes his first step.

These major milestones are part of growing up, and will happen naturally as your child gets comfortable and aware of his body and the world around him.

Dr. Okogbo outlines five areas of development, and explains that some children may have an isolated delay in one particular area. For example, your child may be ahead in gross motor skills but lacking in social development.

As a parent, it is important to be aware and attentive, but to avoid putting too much pressure on your small child. Dr. Okogbo says your child may need a little encouragement, but in time he will catch up with his peers and you might never notice a problem later.

The Five Areas of Development

As your child grows, you will notice development in five main categories. For a list of developmental milestones by age, click here.

Five areas of development include:

  1. Gross motor—Major body movements
  2. Fine motor/adaptive—Involving the small muscles of the body
  3. Personal/social—Interacting  with others
  4. Language—Communicating and verbalizing
  5. Cognitive—Brain skills allowing us to think, remember and learn

Gross Motor Skills

Motor development starts with the head and moves down the body. Dr. Okogbo says this is in line with the maturation of the brain. “There has to be neck control before sitting can be achieved,” he explains. Gross motor skills can be easily observed on a play structure or other area where children can have room to move around.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills require the small muscles of the body to work together. Cutting a paper with scissors doesn’t come easy the first time around, and these muscles require practice and repetition. You can do fine motor activities with your child to help him develop in this area and focus on small tasks like coloring, buttoning, or tying his shoes.

Personal/Social Skills

As your child develops and goes out into the world, you will see signs of interaction. During the early stages of development, you will notice your baby responding to your voice or recognizing your face. As he grows, he will play alongside other children. This is called parallel play, and is a common step before your child actually plays with or engages with his playmate. In time, they will pretend together and start to form bonds and positive associations with others.

Language Skills

Although your child may not say his first word for a long time, his language understanding begins early on. You will start to notice a difference in the way he cries, and you will hear his voice develop as he babbles and strings together sounds. It is always fun to hear their first word, and soon after your child’s language will expand dramatically.

Cognitive Skills

The brain is behind most of these developmental skills, but cognitive skills specifically focus on how a child thinks, remembers and learns. You will see your child’s mind and understanding grow over time. It starts with simple games like peek-a-boo, and soon your child will recognize shapes, colors and categories.

“Environmental factors like parental attitudes and actions, socio-demographic factors, and cultural and societal influences can negatively impact development such as skills acquisition in cognitive and language abilities,” says Dr. Okogbo.

Guidelines for Development

Parents have a large role in assisting with the development of their child. If you feel your child is behind in some of these areas, contact your doctor.

“The children we are most concerned about are those with delays across developmental spectrum,” says Dr. Okogbo. “This is termed global developmental delay. These are the children more at risk not to catch up with their peers and these require early and aggressive intervention.”

Remember, these steps are just guidelines and each child progresses differently. For more information about developmental milestones, click here for a general list of some of the things your child may be doing at different ages.

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