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Developmental Milestones – Age by Age

You may think that routine visits to your child’s doctor is sufficient in tracking their development. However, knowing the basic developmental milestones for children is important so you can recognize any issues as they occur.

All children develop at different rates. Developmental milestones are merely guidelines to gage a child’s development, not define it. If your child is falling a bit behind for their age, it may simply be a minor delay which is common for most children.

 

However, your instincts cannot be ignored. If you feel that your child is not displaying skills they should be at their age, do not hesitate to contact a medical professional.

 

Developmental milestones are typically organized into the following 5 categories:

 

  1. Gross Motor Development
  2. Fine Motor Development
  3. Language Development
  4. Cognitive Development
  5. Social Development

 

Gross Motor Development

 

Gross motor movements refer to those made with the large muscles of the body – the arms, legs, abdomen, feet, etc. Apart from watching your newborn begin to move and use their bodies, paying particular attention to activities such as ball play (rolling, kicking, throwing and catching a ball) or how they navigate steps and stairs, will help you gage the development of their gross motor skills.

 

0-3 Months

The first large muscle movements your little one will be able to perform is to lift their head and hold it up as well as roll over from front to back and from back to front.

 

4-8 Months

During this age, your baby will begin to sit with support and soon be able to do so independently. At this time, they may be crawling forward on their belly.

 

9-12 Months

Around this age your child will pull themselves into a standing position and begin “cruising”, a term that refers to when a baby motors around the room holding on to furniture. These activities are a precursor to walking, which may also happen during this age. They may also begin to play with balls and should be capable of rolling one.

 

12-24 Months

Between the ages of 12 and 24 months, your child will learn to walk and eventually run – it won’t be graceful and may look rather clumsy. They may also begin experimenting with the act of jumping and begin by jumping with both feet.

 

2 Years Old

By the age of 2, your (not so) little one is walking, running more smoothly and climbing on and off furniture. They are able to pick up and carry toys – which means they are also capable of cleaning up their toys (and don’t let them tell you any different!).

 

3 Years Old

It is the age of 3 that your child begins to develop a sense of body awareness. Body awareness refers to knowing where your body parts are without looking at them. This ability is going to help them develop skills such as using playground equipment and pedaling a tricycle. You may even see your little one walking on their tiptoes – so now they are capable of cleaning up AND being quiet!

 

4 Years Old

I like to think of 4 years old as the Golden Age of Gross Motor Play – they can kick, throw and catch a ball, stop easily and change directions while running and jump over objects. Playground equipment is a breeze and they may be ready for a real bike with training wheels.

 

5 Years Old

By the age of 5, children are able to jump sideways and use moving toys such as scooters and bikes. They also have enough upper body strength to get up without using their hands.

 

Fine Motor Development

 

Since gross motor development refers to larger muscles, fine motor movements are those made through the coordination of the small muscles of the hand and fingers. From grabbing toys to holding a pencil, the movement of your little one’s hands will become more refined as they grow and develop.

 

0-3 Months

Beginning in their early days, infants will try to use their hands to reach and grasp objects. It’s likely that during this time they will not be successful – they are simply practicing their hand-eye coordination.Baby with a toy

 

4-8 Months

After all that practice, your baby will be able to reach and grab objects with success! During this time, they will also begin to transfer items from one hand to another.

 

9-12 Months

During this age they will begin to use what is called a “pincer grasp” by grabbing at things with their finger and thumb. They will be able to clasp their hands by interlacing their fingers and they may begin to play with toys such as blocks.

 

12-24 Months

Those objects being picked up are now being released and your child may find great delight into dropping items into a jar or bucket. If given a crayon or pen they will likely grasp it with their whole fist and create scribbles. Those blocks may become a block tower and they should be able to turn the pages of a book.

 

2 Years Old

By now your child has developed a “digital grasp”, which is just a fancy way of describing a grasp where the fingers are pointed downward toward the bottom of the pencil or crayon. Which these writing implements they will begin to scribble in a circular motion and draw vertical lines.

 

3 Years Old

Your child’s grasp has evolved into a modified tripod grasp, which looks more like the way an adult holds a pen or pencil – the bottom of the pencil is held by the thumb, pointer and middle fingers by the pads of the fingers. At this age they should be able to use scissors to cut across a piece of paper (it may not look pretty) and string small beads onto a shoelace.

 

4 Years Old

The modified tripod grasp changes to THE tripod grasp where the pencil is still held by the same 3 fingers but your child uses their fingertips instead of the pads of their fingers. They are able to print either their whole or most of their first name and their drawings may begin to look like more recognizable figures.

 

5 Years Old

By the time your child begins school, they will likely have refined their grasp on writing implements and be able to draw simple letters. Because their dexterity is so well developed by this age, they should be able to tie their own shoes.

 

Language Development

 

Language development in children involves more than just the words they say. Beginning in infancy, children learn how to communicate with others through sounds and actions. This early stage of communication is the precursor to speech and language.

 

0-3 Months

From birth until about 3 months old, your little one will turn their head toward sounds and make their own noises by babbles, crying and cooing.

 

4-8 Months

By this age they are not only turning their attention toward voices but they are beginning to differentiate between different voices. They are also starting to intentionally make noises to get your attention.

 

9-12 Months

Your child is able to recognize their name and will respond to it by turning their head or looking at you. During this time, they develop about 1-5 “words” or approximations of words. They also understand frequently used phrases such as “All done” and “Bye bye”.

 

12-24 Months

Once they reach a year old, your child will begin to follow simple instructions such as “Get shoes” and “Come here”. They can put 2 words together and understand more words than they can say.

 

2 Years Old

At two years old, your child is beginning to engage in back and forth conversations but they are easily distracted when listening. They can say 4-5 word statements although the syntax is not perfect. They are beginning to use pronouns such as “he” and “she”.

 

3 Years Old

At this age your little one is still developing their conversational skills and may become distracted with other activities, but they will able to switch between talking to you and playing. Their language has increased to about 4-6 words and they can follow 2 step directions.

 

4 Years Old

Four year olds are masters at telling long stories, whether about something they saw on television or a dream they had. They can use language related to past, present and future and instructions with words like “first”, “after” and “last”.

 

5 Years Old

There is nothing funnier than watching a 5-year old’s reaction when you tell them a joke. At this point they are able to understand simple jokes and humour. They are now using well-formed sentences and appropriate tenses.

 

Cognitive Development

 

Cognitive development refers to a child’s learning skills through attention, memory and thinking.

 

0-3 Months

During infancy, babies learn so much through their senses. This is why infants tend to put EVERYTHING in their mouth – they are simply exploring their environment.

 

4-8 Months

Around 4 months old, your little one will begin to develop hand-eye coordination – the ability to reach and grasp. They continue to learn through their senses and are beginning to understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects.

 

9-12 Months

Once your little one begins to reach the toddler-stage, they will be able to receptively identify objects by pointing at them. They can look for hidden objects and are starting to develop a sense of humour.Cute baby boy (9 month) pointing his finger

 

12-24 Months

Between their first and second birthday, your child will develop a sense of “object permanence” where they know an object still exists even if they can’t see it. They are now learning more through exploration and can identify and match similar objects.

 

2 Years Old

Now, instead of simply matching similar objects, they can match objects to their uses such as a toothbrush for brushing teeth or a spoon for eating soup. They know where things are around your home and where they belong. They also start asking a lot of “what” questions.

 

3 Years Old

By this age, your child should be able to sort objects based on their category (animals, foods, shapes, etc.). They are beginning to learn through cause and effect – they will manipulate or place an action on an object just to see what happens. They are also beginning to independently solve problems.

 

4 Years Old

Ever have your child continuously ask “why” for EVERYTHING? This is typical at this age and it is how they are continuing to learn about their world. They are more observant and can now organize objects by size and shape.

 

5 Years Old

Academically, a 5-year-old can count objects, rote count (counting from 1 to 10, for example) and identify numbers and letters. They also have a longer attention span of approximately 15 minutes.

 

Social Development

 

From your little one’s very first smile to their very first best friend, children experience many social milestones from the time they are born until they start school.

 

0-3 Months

The first tell-tale sign of social development is when your baby begins to smile at people – and I don’t mean that gassy, grunt smile. The real, true smile when they recognize they are looking at another human being.

 

4-8 Months

Once your little one begins to develop hand-eye coordination and other motor skills, they will begin to play with people. They will respond very positively to familiar faces.

 

9-12 Months

By this age your child may begin to demonstrate stranger anxiety and become uncomfortable around people they are not familiar with. They may bring you their favorite book or toy for you to play with or read with them.

 

12-24 Months

At this stage, your child will begin to explore the world on their own but they will make sure you are still close by. They also model behaviours and use them in play, such as feeding a baby doll or talking on the phone.

Little toddler girl playing with doll
Little toddler girl playing with doll

 

2 Years Old

Children at this age engage in “parallel play” in which they play alongside other children. They may briefly join in the play.

 

3 Years Old

Once your toddler reaches the age of 3, they will begin to participate in turn taking activities. They begin to name their friends and show empathy for other children.

 

4 Years Old

“Parallel play” evolves into “cooperative play” in which your child works with other children to accomplish a goal. They may begin to form an attachment to one friend.

 

5 Years Old

At 5 years old, your child will begin to exercise their imaginative and pretend play skills with their peers. They will also be able to distinguish between good and bad behaviour.

 

0-3 Months4-8 Months9-12 Months12-24 Months
Gross MotorRolls over, Lifts head and holds it upSits independently, Crawls forward on bellyStands, “Cruises” along furniture, Rolls a ballWalks, Clumsy run, Jumps with both feet
Fine MotorReaches and grasps, usually unsuccessfullyReaches and grasps successfully, Transfers objects between handsFinger and thumb (pincer) grasp, Stack blocksFull fist grasp, Scribbles, Build block tower
LanguageTurns toward sounds, Cries, coos and babblesResponds to different tones of voice, Makes noises to get attentionResponds to name, 1-5 word approximationsFollows simple instructions, Puts 2 words together
CognitiveLearns through sensesDevelops hand-eye coordinationReceptively identifies objects“Object Permanence” – Objects still exist even when they can’t be seen
SocialSmiles at peopleBegins to play with peopleDevelops stranger anxietyExplores alone with parent nearby
2 Years Old3 Years Old4 Years Old5 Years Old
Climbs furniture, Picks up and carries toysBody awareness, Walks on tiptoesKicks, throws and catches ball, Jumps over objectsJumps sideways, Gets up without using hands
Digital grasp (fingers pointed down on pencil), Circular scribblesTripod grasp with pads of fingers (holds with 3 fingers), Cuts paper with scissorsTripod grasp with fingertips, Prints first name, Draws recognizable picturesPrints simple letters, Ties shoes
4-5 word statements, Uses pronoun4-6 word sentences, Follows 2 step directionsTells long stories, Uses time-related languageUnderstands simple jokes, Uses well-formed sentences.
“What” questions, Can match objects to their usesLearns through cause and effect, Independent problem solvingLearns by observing and asking “why”Longer attention span, Knows academic concepts such as counting, letters and numbers
Plays alongside children (parallel play)Begins to take turns with peersWorks with other children to achieve a goal (cooperative play)Imaginative play with peers

 

 

 

 

 

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