Early Childhood

Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones are physical skills or behaviors that children exhibit as they grow and develop. For each milestone, there is an age by which most children have shown that skill. It is important to remember that each child will develop in their own unique way and at their own speed. You may notice that your child has achieved all of these milestones by typical ages, but it is not unusual for a child to develop some skills earlier than typical and other skills later than typical. A delay in one or only a few skills does not mean that your child has a developmental or a global delay. However, if you have concerns about your child’s development, you are encouraged to speak with a school psychologist, your child’s doctor, or other early childhood professional.

This page provides a sampling of the many milestones that infants and young children will reach. There are many resources available with more milestone information. One helpful resource is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Developmental Milestone page. Here you will find additional age ranges, more milestones, and video or photo examples of most skills or behaviors. This site also contains resources for tracking your child’s development, information about when to be concerned about your child’s development, and what to do if you are concerned.

2 months

By 2 months, most babies do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Begin to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance

  • Begin to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Coo, make gurgling sounds

  • Turn head toward sounds

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Begin to smile at people

  • Try to look at parent

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • When feeding, able to do at least 2 sucks in a row before pausing to breathe

  • Have a rooting reflex where he/she will turn toward the breast or bottle when the side of his/her mouth is stroked

  • Bring hands to mouth

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Hold up head and begin to push up when lying on tummy

  • Make smoother movements with arms and legs

4 months

By 4 months, most babies do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Use hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it

  • Follow things with eyes from side to side, look back and forth between two objects

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Begin to babble

  • Cry in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Like to play with people and might cry when playing stops

  • Copy some movements and facial expressions (example: smiling or frowning)

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • When eating, sucking, swallowing, and breathing are well coordinated

  • When eating, able to do about 20 sucks before stopping to breathe

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Hold head steady, unsupported

  • Push down on legs when feet are on a hard surface

6 months

By 6 months, most babies do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Show curiosity about things and try to get things that are out of reach

  • Begin to pass things from one hand to the other

  • Repeat arm or leg movements to cause an action to occur again

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Respond to sounds by making sounds, like taking turns making sounds

  • Laugh out loud

  • String vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”)

  • Briefly stop activity when name is called

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Respond to other people’s emotions and often seem happy

  • Comfort self (sucks hand or thumb)

  • Express desire to be picked up, initiate social contact

  • Like to look at self in a mirror, may smile or pat own image in mirror

  • Interact differently with caregivers than with strangers

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Begin to eat small amounts of thin, pureed foods such as infant cereal or pureed fruit from a spoon

  • Start to suck or bite on a baby cookie

  • Use some up and down chewing movements

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Roll over in both directions (front to back, back to front)

  • Rock back and forth while in crawling position

  • Sit by him/herself for at least 5 seconds with hips supported

  • When standing, support weight on legs and might bounce

9 months

By 9 months, most babies do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Watch the path of something as it falls

  • Look for things he/she sees you hide, find things that are partially hidden

  • Move to get desired items (toy) and persist in efforts

  • Play peek-a-boo

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Understand “no” (briefly stop activity when told “no”)

  • Copy sounds and gestures of others

  • Make a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa”

  • Use fingers to point at things

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • May be afraid of strangers

  • May be clingy with familiar persons, extend arms to familiar persons

  • Express affection

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Eat ground or junior baby foods or mashed table foods, close lips to remove food from spoon

  • Hold or support bottle to drink

  • Begin to drink from a cup held for him/her but may lose a lot of liquid, take large mouthfuls, and have trouble coordinating drinking and breathing (cough/choke)

  • Sleep through the night

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Pick up things like cereals between thumb and index (pointer) finger

  • Stand alone while holding onto something, pull to stand

  • Get into a sitting position and sit without support

  • Crawl

12 months

By 12 months, most babies do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Find hidden things easily, such as a toy hidden under a blanket

  • Look at the right picture or thing when it is named

  • Start to use things correctly; for example, drinks from ac up, brushes hair

  • Let items go from his/her grasp without help

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Follow simple spoken commands, like “pick up the toy” or “give daddy the ball”

  • Use simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye,” and copy gestures

  • Say “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”

  • Try to say words that you say

  • Point to five or more familiar persons, animals, or toys when asked

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Is shy or nervous with strangers, cry when mom or dad leaves

  • Show fear in some situations

  • Imitate facial expressions, actions, and sounds

  • Hand you a book when he/she wants to hear a story, bring toys to share with caregiver

  • Repeat sounds or actions that cause positive attention or a positive response from others

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Start to feed self with finger foods

  • Start to hold a spoon during meals (but may not feed self with it)

  • Bite and chew food by himself/herself

  • Drink from sippy cup independently

  • Put out arm or leg to help with dressing

  • Cooperate with hand washing

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Get into a sitting position without help

  • Pull to a stand and walk while holding onto furniture (“cruising”)

  • Walk three or more steps with help

  • Hold crayon in a fist and may begin to scribble

18 months

By 18 months, most babies do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Show interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed it

  • Manage three or more toys by setting one aside when given a new toy

  • Know what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon

  • Point to one or more body parts when asked

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Point to show someone what he/she wants

  • Say and shake head “no”

  • Use at least 5 words

  • Speech can be understood about 25% of the time

  • Follow directions about placing an item “in” and “on” another

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Show affection to familiar people, attempt to comfort others

  • May have temper tantrums

  • Like to hand things to others as play

  • Play simple pretend, such as feeding a doll

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Fuss when diaper needs to be changed

  • Try to wash his/her own hands and face

  • Help undress him/herself

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Use one hand consistently in most activities

  • Drink from a cup

  • Eat with a spoon

  • Scribble on his/her own

  • Walk alone, pull toys while walking

  • Creep backwards down steps

2 years

By 2 years, most children do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Play simple make-believe games

  • Find things even when hidden under two or three covers

  • Follow two-step instructions, such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet”

  • Name items in a picture book such as cat, bird, or dog

  • Insert shapes into matching slots

  • Complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Know names of familiar people and body parts

  • Ask for some items by name

  • Say phrases or sentences with 2 to 4 words

  • Speech can be easily understood 50-75% of the time

  • Point to things or pictures when they are named, point to things in a book

  • Follow simple instructions

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Copy others, especially adults and other children

  • Get excited with other children

  • Engage mainly in parallel play (playing side-by-side, watching, copying), but begin to include other children, such as in chase games

  • Show defiant behavior (doing what he/she has been told not to do)

  • Ask for help when having trouble

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Remove loose clothing such as jacket or shirt without help

  • Put on simple clothing by him/herself

  • Use spoon without help

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Build tower of 4 or more blocks

  • Make or copy straight lines and circles

  • Walk up and down stairs while holding on

  • Climb onto and down from furniture without help

  • Kick a ball

  • Throw a ball overhand

3 years

By 3 years, most children do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Stack rings on peg in order of size

  • Work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts

  • Match simple shapes such as circle, square, and triangle

  • Match objects by color, shape, and size

  • Complete puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces

  • Count to 5

  • Understand what is meant by “one,” “two,” “one more,” and “all”

  • Copy a circle with pencil or crayon

  • Turn book pages one at a time

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Use about 500 words and can name most familiar things

  • Speech can be easily understood 75-100% of the time

  • Say first name, age, and sex (boy or girl)

  • Say words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)

  • Begin to ask questions; ask “what,” “where,” and “why” questions, ask yes/no questions (“It fast?”)

  • Answer “who” and “whose” questions

  • Understand words like “in,” “on,” and “under”

  • Understand negation (“Which one is not on the table?)

  • Follow instructions with 2 or 3 steps

  • Carry on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Separate easily from mom and dad

  • Prefer to play with others than by himself/herself, engage in interactive play, and use toys imaginatively

  • Look at people when speaking with them, usually make eye contact with familiar people

  • Show a wide range of emotions and recognize when another person is happy or sad

  • Understand the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”

  • Change activities when requested

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Dress and undress self

  • Ask to use potty, have daytime control of toileting needs with occasional accidents

  • Sit on toilet for at least 1 minutes with supervision

  • Wash and dry hands and face.

  • Use fork to stab food

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Build towers of more than 6 blocks

  • Screw and unscrew jar lids or turn door handles

  • String beads or complete simple lacing

  • Scribble with crayons

  • Snip paper with scissors

  • Run easily

  • Walk up and down stairs, one foot on each step

4 years

By 4 years, most children do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Match objects that have the same function (spoon and fork)

  • Draw a person with 2 to 4 body parts

  • Point to basic colors and simple shapes

  • Name some colors, letters, and numbers

  • Understand the idea of counting objects; for example, may count to 2 and point to items while attempting to count)

  • Understand the ideas of same/different, more/less, and heavy/light

  • Remember parts of a story

  • Tell what he/she thinks is going to happen next in a story

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Use about 800 words

  • Speech can be understood nearly 100% of the time

  • Sing a song or say a poem from memory, such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”

  • Tell stories

  • Tell how simple objects are used

  • Know some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”

  • Answer most questions

  • Understand more prepositional words, such as “in front,” “behind,” “up,” “down,” “top,” and “bottom”

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Play pretend and become more and more creative with make-believe play

  • Engage most often in motor-based play and building (going down slide, building towers) but will also participate and copy what other kids are doing

  • Would rather play with other children than alone, share toys

  • Cooperate with other children

  • Talk about what he/she likes and is interested in

  • Sit and attend to an activity for 10-15 minutes

  • Begin to express anger in words rather than physical action

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Manipulate large buttons or snaps

  • Dress self completely (except tie shoes)

  • Return items to where they belong

  • Clean up spills

  • Often want privacy in the bathroom

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Copy simple shapes

  • Cut on a line with scissors

  • Hop and stand on one foot up to 2 seconds

  • Catch a bounced ball most of the time

  • Ride tricycle

  • Gallop

5 years

By 5 years, most children do the following:

Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Draw a person with at least 6 body parts

  • Count 10 or more things

  • Recognize his/her own printed name

  • Name at least 20 letters

  • Print some letters or numbers from memory (without a model to copy from)

  • Copy a triangle and other shapes

  • Identify first, last, and middle

  • Identify “half” and “whole” objects

Language/Communication Milestones

  • Say full name and address

  • Tell a simple story using full sentences

  • Use past, present, and future tenses of regular verbs (cooked, cooks, will cook)

  • Use many irregular verbs and irregular nouns, but sometimes mixes up the correct form (“He falled down”)

  • State similarities between objects (How are juice and milk alike?)

  • Identify rhyming words

  • Understand most of what is heard at home and in school

  • Follow directions with multiple steps (“Change into your pajamas, brush your teeth, and choose a book)

  • Carry on a conversation

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Like to sing, dance, and act

  • Want to please friends and to be like friends

  • Play cooperative games

  • Ask before using another’s belongings

  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative

  • Talk about own feelings

  • Offer help to others

  • Tell what is real and what is make-believe

Adaptive/Self-Help Milestones

  • Use the toilet on his/her own

  • Know which shoe goes on which foot

  • Select own clothing appropriate for the weather

  • Brush teeth without help

  • Put dirty dishes in sink or dishwasher

Movement/Physical Milestones

  • Color within lines

  • Cut a straight line

  • Use a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife (with supervision)

  • Stand on one foot for 10 seconds or longer

  • Hop and may be able to skip

  • Swing and climb

Early intervention is important for children with special needs. Special education preschool services are available from Posey County Special Services for eligible children ages three through five. To be eligible, a child must receive an educational evaluation by Posey County Special Services and meet criteria for having a disability as set forth by the Indiana State Board of Education Special Education Rules. If you have concerns for your child’s development or would like more information on how to refer your child for an evaluation, contact Posey County Special Services.