Parents Should Watch For These Developmental Milestones

Some children are early walkers, talkers, or readers. Some children want to do everything like their big siblings while others like to just watch. 

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 Is a Developmental Milestone?

A developmental milestone is the approximately expected level of gross and fine motor skills, mental and emotional skills, cognition skills, and social skills for the age of the child. 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 be helpful in determining 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 Parents Should Know Developmental Milestones

Because most children only see their pediatricians at well visits, months or even a year can go by before a pediatrician examines and observes your child. Even then, the pediatrician relies heavily on the parent’s subjective report because they can only observe so much in a 30-minute appointment.

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. They should make other sounds than crying and be startled by loud noises. They should watch you move around the room and look at toys for several seconds at a time. They can hold their head up when lying on their tummy, move both arms and legs, and open and close their hands.

4 Months

At four months, babies can smile, chuckle, and make cooing sounds. They will look at their hands with interest and recognize that a bottle or breast means food. They can hold their head up, put their hands in their mouth, use their arms to swing at toys, and hold themselves up on their forearms while on their tummy.

6 Months

Your 6-month-old should be laughing, love looking at himself in a mirror, and recognize familiar people. They can squeal, take turns with you making sounds, and blow “raspberries.” They can reach for toys and put them in their mouths, roll from tummy to back, push up on straight arms when on their tummy, and can sit (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. They will laugh at peek-a-boo, show various facial expressions (like happy, sad, mad), and respond to their name. They will say repeated sounds like “mama” or “baba” and lift their arms to be picked up. They will look for objects dropped out of sight, bang objects together, and transfer objects from one hand to another. They 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,” and understand “no”–even if they don’t listen! They like to put things in a container and look for objects you hide under a blanket as a game. They will pull to stand, cruise alongside furniture, pick up food between their thumb and pointer finger, and 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, and show physical affection to toys and loved ones. They may say one or two other words, like “da” for dog. They will look at objects when you name them, follow simple directions (“give me the toy”), and point to someone or something for help. They may be stacking steps on their own and feeding themselves.

18 Months

Toddlers at 18 months point at interesting things, play away from you, look at books, and know how to help you dress them. They try to say more words and follow one-step directions. They copy your chores and mannerisms. They walk on their own, climb on and off a couch, scribble, and 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. They can point to familiar objects in a book, say two words together (“more milk”), point to two body parts, and gesture more often by blowing kisses or nodding yes. They are interested in knobs and switches, playing with more than one toy at a time, running, kicking a ball, walking up steps, and eating with a spoon.

30 Months

At 2.5 years, toddlers begin to play with other children instead of beside them. They can follow a simple routine (“it’s time to clean up”) and like to get your attention to watch them. They can say about 50 words, using a noun and verb together like “doggie run.” They can tell you the names of objects in books and say “I,” “me,” and “we.” 

They begin to play imaginatively and use simple problem-solving skills. They can follow two-step instructions like “shut the door and take off your coat.” They can identify at least one color. They begin to use their hands to twist things, take off some clothes independently, jump with both feet and turn pages in a book.

3 Years

3-year-olds can self-soothe within 10 minutes of childcare drop-off, and play with other children. You can begin to have simple conversations, and they ask “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions. They can identify an action in a book like running or jumping. They say their first name and talk well enough for other adults to understand them. 

They can draw a circle, string large beads on a string, use a fork, and put on some clothes independently. They 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. They comfort a sad friend, avoid dangerous situations like jumping from a tree, like to help, and 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, and draw a person with three or more body parts. They can catch a large ball, serve their food, unbutton buttons, and hold their utensil and pencils in a pencil grasp. 

5 Years

Children at this age can play games with simple rules, act or dance, and do simple chores. They can tell simple stories, answer simple questions, keep a conversation going with up to four exchanges, and recognize simple rhymes.

They can count to 10, recognize some written numbers and letters, and write some letters in their name. They can pay attention for 5 to 10 minutes, use words about time like “yesterday” or “afternoon,” button some buttons, and 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 Penguin Crossing 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.