From their first smile and initial mumbles of baby talk to their first wobbly steps, a child’s “firsts” are such an exciting time for parents. However, important developmental milestones include more than just the moments you can snap a photo of or document in a baby book — and they don’t stop once your child is walking and talking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines developmental milestones as things that 75 percent of children of a certain age can do. Last year, the CDC updated these milestones to include more specific social and emotional milestones, as well as speech and language milestones and has extended it to include 15-month-olds and 30-month-olds.
C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital says that although each milestone has an age level attached to it, “the actual age when a normally developing child reaches that milestone can vary quite a bit. Every child is unique!”
It can be easy to become anxious when comparing your child’s progress to other kids around them, but remember that these guidelines are just that — guidelines. Read on to learn about the updated milestones for your child’s age group, and learn what you can do to give your child the best possible start.
By 2 months, babies should be smiling and looking at you when you talk to them, be able to watch you as you move and focus on people or toys for several seconds. Most babies at this age calm down when they are picked up or spoken to. They should also be able to make sounds other than crying.
When it comes to movement, developmental milestones for this age include holding their head up when they’re on their tummy, moving both arms and legs, and briefly opening their tiny hands.
At a few months, babies begin to smile on their own, chuckle and move or make sounds to get mommy and daddy’s attention. These sounds can include baby talk and responding to you when you talk to them. By 4 months, babies can also turn their head to the sound of your voice, look at their own hands with interest and open their mouth when they’re hungry.
Four-month-olds can hold their head steady without support, hold toys, bring their hands to their mouth (hello, thumb suckers!) and push up onto their elbows or forearms during tummy time.
Is your 6-month-old putting things in their mouth, reaching for toys or clamping their mouth shut to refuse food? The CDC says they should be doing all of that by this age, as well as rolling from their tummy to their back and leaning on their arms and hands to support themselves when sitting. At this age, social milestones include laughing and recognizing familiar faces, and the language milestones are pretty adorable: taking turns making sounds with you, sticking out their tongue and blowing raspberries, giggling and squealing.
By 9 months, your growing baby may become shy around strangers and upset when you leave, but they’ll also smile and laugh when you play peek-a-boo and begin showing a wide range of facial expressions.
Your baby should be able to sit by themselves, move things from one hand to another, and begin to bang two objects together in their little fists.
9 months-1 year
By your child’s first birthday they’ll be able to do all sorts of things, like wave goodbye, say “mama” and “dada,” pull themselves up to stand and walk while holding on to furniture. Play time can include playing games like pat-a-cake, or having your child retrieve an object that they watch you hide, such as a stuffed animal under a blanket.
Hopefully, mealtimes will be a bit easier, too. Your child should be able to pick up small bites between their thumb and index finger, and drink from a cup without a lid when you bring it to their mouth.
Can your little one clap, hug, snuggle or copy others during playtime? At 15 months, children can follow guided directions and gestures, such as holding out one hand and asking for a toy that you point to with the other hand. They can stack and set down small objects during playtime, begin feeding themselves and taking a few steps on their own.
This exciting time in your child’s life is full of curiosity and gaining independence. Children at this age will begin to move away from parents during play time, scribble with crayons, try using utensils and climb on and off furniture without help.
Important language milestones include saying a few words other than mom or dad’s names, and following simple directions without any gestures (i.e. “Give me the toy, please”).
18 months-2 years
By 2 years old, children should begin to run and try going up and down stairs with support. They can recognize familiar names and words and identify them. It’s likely your child will enjoy playing with other children and begin to show some defiant behavior associated with their toddler years.
Welcome to the toddler stages! At this stage, children will know about 50 words, be able to follow simple routines (like bath time or clean up routines), begin to identify colors and play pretend.
30 months-3 years
Prepare yourself: this is the era of the “why?” questions. Your big 3-year-old should be able to say their name, begin talking coherently and ask all the “who, what, where, why and when” questions. They can do basic craft activities, use a fork and put on a coat or jacket.
By this age, most children will ask to play with other kids and know how to comfort sad or crying friends. They can remember what part comes next in their favorite story, hold a crayon or pencil between two fingers and unbutton a few buttons without help.
At around 5 years old, most kids can take turns, sing and dance and do simple household chores. They can count to 10, keep conversation going and identify some letters of the alphabet.
How to support your child’s development
A study by the CDC showed that these simple parenting practices can improve children’s development in social, behavioral, cognitive and social skills:
- Show your child warmth and sensitivity.
- Have predictable routines, household rules
- Allow your child to take the lead. Respond to their actions in a predictable way.
- Read books and talk with your child, regardless of their age or cognition.
What to do if your child is falling behind
Remember that these milestones are not harsh deadlines. But, if you have concerns about your child’s developmental progress, the CDC urges parents to raise their concerns with their child’s pediatrician.
“As a parent, you know your child best. If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem with your child’s development, talk with your child’s doctor and share your concerns. Don’t wait,” per the CDC’s website.
Eighty percent of a child’s brain is formed by age 3, which is why professionals at C.S Mott’s Children’s Hospital say that even mild developmental delays require early intervention. For assistance in building early-learning skills and finding health and education services, concerned parents can reach out to Early On Michigan.
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