Know These Important Childhood Developmental Milestones

Every child develops at their own pace, but developmental milestones are one way that pediatricians and parents can anticipate upcoming skills and ensure each child is developing in a timely manner.

What Are Developmental Milestones?

A developmental milestone is the expected level of gross and fine motor skills, mental and emotional skills, cognition skills, and social skills. These will build on each other over time to accomplish greater strength, coordination, and comprehension. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of age-appropriate developmental milestones that many pediatricians use as a guideline in tracking developmental progress. These are not an absolute standard–in fact, they were revised in 2022! Many children eventually develop normally, even if they are “behind” in certain areas. 

While developmental milestones aren’t something to stress over, they can help determine necessary care and therapy if a milestone is missed or delayed. A pediatrician noting these delays can qualify your child for beneficial therapy or healthcare procedures that will benefit their quality of life. 

Why Should Parents Know Developmental Milestones?

Because most pediatricians only observe children at their well visits, months or a year can go by before a pediatrician gets an update on your child. Even with routine well visits, pediatricians rely on the parent’s subjective report of the child’s daily habits.

Parents and guardians, then, need to know what to expect in the age range (or upcoming age range) of their child so they can give an accurate report. Many pediatricians’ offices will provide a handout of these milestones.  

You must be honest at the pediatrician’s office. The pediatrician is on your child’s side! Even if your child isn’t meeting developmental milestones, the pediatrician is the one who can help, so sharing honestly can only benefit your child. 

2 Months

By two months old, babies should be able to:

  • Look at your face and be happy to see you
  • Make other sounds than crying and be startled by loud noises. They should w
  • Watch you move around the room and look at toys for several seconds at a time
  • Hold their head up when lying on their tummy
  • Move both arms and legs
  • Open and close their hands

4 Months

At four months, babies can:

  • Smile, chuckle, and make cooing sounds
  • Look at their hands with interest
  • Recognize that a bottle or breast means food
  • Hold their head up
  • Put their hands in their mouth
  • Use their arms to swing at toys
  • Hold themselves up on their forearms while on their tummy

6 Months

Your 6-month-old should be:

  • Laughing
  • Looking at himself in a mirror
  • Recognizing familiar people
  • Squealing
  • Taking turns with you making sounds
  • Blowing “raspberries.”
  • Reaching for toys and put them in their mouths
  • Rolling from tummy to back
  • Pushing up on straight arms when on their tummy
  • Sitting (leaning on hands for support if necessary)

9 Months

At 9 months, your baby:

  • May be shy or fearful of strangers and react when you leave by crying or reaching for you
  • Will laugh at peek-a-boo
  • Show various facial expressions (like happy, sad, mad)
  • Will respond to their name
  • Will say repeated sounds like “mama” or “baba”
  • Will lift their arms to be picked up
  • Will look for objects dropped out of sight, bang objects together, and transfer objects from one hand to another
  • Can get into a sitting position and sit unsupported

12 Months

At a year old, babies:

  • Play pat-a-cake
  • Wave “bye”
  • Say “mama” and “dada”
  • Understand “no”
  • Put things in a container
  • Look for objects you hide under a blanket as a game
  • Pull to stand
  • Cruise alongside furniture
  • Pick up food between their thumb and pointer finger
  • Drink from a cup with help. 

15 Months

Around 15 months, toddlers:

  • Love to copy what other children do
  • Show you their toys
  • Clap
  • Stack objects
  • Show physical affection to toys and loved one
  • Say one or two other words, like “da” for dog
  • Look at objects when you name them
  • Follow simple directions (“give me the toy”)
  • Point to someone or something for help
  • Taking steps on their own
  • Feeding themselves

18 Months

Toddlers at 18 months:

  • Point at interesting things
  • Play away from you
  • Look at books
  • Know how to help you dress them
  • Try to say more words
  • Follow one-step directions
  • Copy your chores and mannerisms
  • Walk on their own
  • Climb on and off a couch
  • Scribble
  • Try to use utensils 

2 Years

At 2 years, toddlers:

  • Pay more attention to social situations by acting sad when others cry or look to see your reaction to a new situation
  • Point to familiar objects in a book
  • Say two words together (“more milk”)
  • Point to two body parts
  • Gesture more often by blowing kisses or nodding yes
  • Interested in knobs and switches
  • Playing with more than one toy at a time
  • Running
  • Kicking a ball
  • Walking up steps
  • Eating with a spoon

30 Months

At 2.5 years, toddlers:

  • egin to play with other children instead of beside them
  • Follow a simple routine (“it’s time to clean up”)
  • Like to get your attention to watch them
  • Say about 50 words, using a noun and verb together like “doggie run”
  • Tell you the names of objects in books
  • Say “I,” “me,” and “we.”
  • Begin to play imaginatively
  • Use simple problem-solving skills
  • Follow two-step instructions like “shut the door and take off your coat”
  • Identify at least one color
  • Begin to use their hands to twist things
  • Take off some clothes independently
  • Jump with both feet
  • Turn pages in a book

3 Years

3-year-olds can:

  • Self-soothe within 10 minutes of childcare drop-off
  • Play with other children
  • Have simple conversations
  • Ask “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions
  • Identify an action in a book like running or jumping
  • Say their first name
  • Talk well enough for other adults to understand them
  • Draw a circle
  • String large beads on a string
  • Use a fork
  • Put on some clothes independently
  • Avoid touching objects like a hot stove when instructed

4 Years

Young children:

  • Pretend to be something else during play, like a superhero or ballerina
  • Comfort a sad friend
  • Avoid dangerous situations like jumping from a tree
  • Like to help
  • Can change behavior based on their surroundings (home vs. school).
  • Their sentences are four or more words long, ask simple questions, and can tell you something about their day.
  • They can name colors
  • Tell what comes next in a story,
  • Draw a person with three or more body parts
  • Catch a large ball
  • Serve their food
  • Unbutton buttons
  • Hold their utensil and pencils in a pencil grasp.

5 Years

Children at this age can:

  • Play games with simple rules
  • Act or dance
  • Do simple chores
  • Tell simple stories
  • Answer simple questions
  • Keep a conversation going with up to four exchanges
  • Recognize simple rhymes.
  • Count to 10
  • Recognize some written numbers and letters
  • Write some letters in their name
  • Pay attention for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Use words about time like “yesterday” or “afternoon”
  • Button some buttons
  • Hop on one foot.

Developmental milestones should be used as a tool to help you and your pediatrician evaluate your child’s development. Some children develop faster than others, and some develop quicker in some areas and not others–like a socially aware child who is a late walker. 

If you have concerns about your child’s development, speak with your pediatrician! They can best assist you.

At Crestwood Preschool Academy, we have a well-rounded curriculum for every age group that helps them meet their developmental milestones. We provide many opportunities throughout the day for children to develop fine and gross motor skills, cognitive skills, and social and emotional skills.