Developmental milestones for children are the behaviors, skills and knowledge that most children in a specified age group acquire and build on over time. Though these targets of achievement are reasonably standardized, a child does not necessarily reach all the milestones within a particular period of time. Therefore, not meeting some milestones by a particular age does not necessarily mean that a child is developing abnormally.


For example, some children may walk at nine months while others may not walk until 14 months of age. However, for infants, meeting developmental milestones "on time" is often more important than for older children because an infant's skills depend very much on the development of the child's central nervous system and other psychological processes. Therefore, not being "on target" at this age could be a sign of a problem.

​What follows are just some of the markers that indicate the typical development of children. The age ranges are approximate. The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses that if a parent thinks a child may be developing abnormally, nothing can be confirmed until the child undergoes one or more proven tests that are accepted by medical and developmental specialists.The academy suggests that a child's overall development be tested at nine,18, 24 or 30 months. To test for autism, it suggests screening children at 18 or 24 months.

​From Birth to Four Months

​By the time children are two months old, most coo and gurgle. Also, they turn their head when they hear a sound. They also smile at people and look at faces. And if they are upset, they may try to soothe themselves by sucking their hands or putting them in their mouth.

​Also at two months, children follow people and objects with their eyes and recognize people at a distance. When someones plays with them, they may cry or get fidgety when the playing stops. Further, at this age, children like being touched, stroked or kissed.

​They reach for toys because their hand-eye coordination is beginning to develop. They can hold a toy and shake it. If lying on their stomach, they can hold their head up.

​At four months, most children enjoy playing with people and mimicking facial expressions such as smiling and frowning. They may try to imitate the sounds they hear. They have a variety of crying sounds for different moods such as for being tired, hurting or being sad.

​Six Months to 18 Months

​By six months of age, children like to look at a in a mirror whether or not it's their face they see. If someone speaks to them, they may respond by making sounds. They respond when their name is spoken. They babble using vowel syllables such as "la" and "da." Soon they start using multiple syllables such as "ma-ma" and "di-di." They observe nearby objects.

​Also by the time they are six months old, they can sit without anyone holding them up and roll over from front to back and from back to front. (also on p. 52, early childhood) They can distinguish the faces of friends and family from strangers. They can support themselves on their hands and outstretched arms while holding their head up. They can point with their finger, understand "no" and use their thumb and forefinger to pick up things.They use a stationary object to pull themselves up to a standing position where they can remain for a time if they continue holding on. They crawl.

​By nine months of age, many children hang onto the people they know and may not like being around people they don't know. They also point with their fingers, understand "no," and use their thumb and forefinger to pick up things.

​Typical one-year-olds don't like being around strangers, have favorite people and objects and cry when a parent leaves. Children of this age can shake their head to say "no" and wave goodbye. When making sounds, the pitch of their voice goes up and down. They may try to repeat what someone says. They can put things in a container and take them out of it. They know the use of simple things. For example, they know that is toothbrush is for brushing teeth and a cup is for drinking.

​18 Months to Two Years

​At 18 months, many children point to things that interest them, and they point when they want someone else to look at something. During play, children like to hand their playthings to others. They may have temper tantrums. They scribble. They can follow simple commands such as 'come here" or "stop" without the adult having to use hand gestures. They can walk up and down steps, drink from a cup and eat with a spoon.

​At two years of age, children begin to show independence, including negative behavior such as doing what an adult has asked them not to do. Also, they mimic adults and older children. With practice, when a picture or item is named, they can point it out.

​At two, children speak in short sentences of two to four words. If they hear adults speaking, they may try to repeat some of the words. They can stack four or more blocks atop each other. They can kick and throw a ball. They can run. They climb onto and off furniture.

​Three Years to Five Years

​At three years of age, children are becoming more emotionally complex as proven by the fact that they perform kind acts for their friends and are concerned about them when they cry. If they are separated from their parents, they won't cry. They know whether they are a boy or a girl and accept their gender. If they don't accept it or are confused by it, this is possibly a sign that they are having problems with their sexual identity.

​They can dress and undress themselves. When they speak, people outside their inner circle can understand what they say. They can turn the pages of a book, work puzzles that have three or four pieces, turn a door handle and screw and unscrew jar lids. They can ride a tricycle and have no trouble climbing stairs.

​At the age of four, most children like playing make-believe games. They also like to play with other children. They use identifying words such as "Mom" and "Dad." They use "he" and "she." They can say their first and last name. Children at this age are beginning to learn the names of colors and numbers. They can use scissors, and they can draw a picture of a person, even though it has little detail. They can hop and stand on one foot briefly. Sometimes they can catch a ball when someone bounces it to them.

​By the age of five, many children enjoy singing, dancing and acting. They also want to make and keep friends and know the difference between what's real and what's pretend. They can say their name and address. They can explain simple things using complete sentences. They can count 10 or more objects, and they can draw a picture of a person with fairly good details. They swing and climb.

​What To Do If You Think a Child Is Not Developing Normally

​Parents and caregivers who are concerned about how a child speaks, thinks, moves, learns or plays should see a pediatrician. If the pediatrician thinks further examination is warranted, she will refer the child to a specialist in children's development. Families that have little money for healthcare should also contact local and state agencies that work with young children and ask them what services are available to them.

​It's important to notice how a child is developing because the earlier any developmental delay is discovered and treated, the better it is for the future of the child.

Nancy D. Richardson

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