Developmental milestones

Skill Development From Birth to Age 5

Skill development during the first five years of your child’s life moves fast. The brain grows rapidly in babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Language blooms, thinking becomes more developed, and social and emotional skills allow more interaction with other people. Explore the information below for details on how skills develop during these early years.
skills milestone age one
Developmental Milestones
From Birth to Age 1

Babies develop skills quickly during the first year, and it can be hard to know if your baby is on track. In the first year, babies develop new ways to think, communicate and solve problems (called cognitive skills). They develop physically and learn to interact with people. If you’re not completely sure what skills are typical for this first year, take a look at this list of developmental milestones.

Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates. If your baby isn’t reaching some of these milestones, don’t panic. But be sure to discuss this with the pediatrician.

Developmental Milestones From Birth to Age 1

Babies develop skills quickly during the first year, and it can be hard to know if your baby is on track. In the first year, babies develop new ways to think, communicate and solve problems (called cognitive skills). They develop physically and learn to interact with people. If you’re not completely sure what skills are typical for this first year, take a look at this list of developmental milestones.

Physical Milestones

  • Makes reflex movements like sucking and startling
  • Has jerky, uncontrolled arm and leg movements

Cognitive Milestones

  • Learns about things by feel, sound, sight, and smell
  • Begins repeating movements to help brain growth and memory

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Starts learning to be comforted by caregivers
  • Begins getting attached to caregivers

Physical Milestones

  • Props up on arms when on belly
  • Holds head up unsupported for a short time
  • Follows an object with eyes from one side to the middle, but not all the way around

Cognitive Milestones

  • Starts paying attention to, watching and recognizing faces
  • Recognizes familiar people at a distance
  • Shows signs of boredom (fussiness) when doing one thing too long
  • Uses eyes and hands together and plans, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Smiles spontaneously
  • Likes to play with people
  • Coos and babbles
  • Develops different cries for different needs (hungry, tired, wet)
  • Responds to love and affection
  • Shows happiness and sadness
  • May imitate facial expressions

Physical Milestones

  • Reaches for and grabs objects
  • Rocks on tummy; may be able to roll from tummy to back
  • Puts weight on legs when feet are flat on the floor
  • Moves things from hand to hand

Cognitive and Language Milestones

  • Is curious about things out of reach and looks at new things
  • Explores things by putting them in mouth
  • Responds to conversation by making sounds
  • Recognizes and responds to own name

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Starts to recognize and react to strangers
  • Tries to get caregivers to play (sticks out tongue, pats toys, etc.)

Physical Milestones

  • Rolls from back to tummy and tummy to back
  • Sits without support
  • Does “push-ups” and starts trying to move forward

Cognitive and Language Milestones

  • Practices turn-taking when “talking” with caregivers
  • Jabbers with vowel sound combinations (eh, ah, oh) and starts using sounds like b and m
  • Starts testing cause and effect, such as seeing what happens when shaking a toy

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Is interested in looking in the mirror
  • Uses sounds to express happiness, sadness and anger

Physical Milestones

  • Gets into and out of a sitting position
  • Starts scooting, creeping or crawling
  • May stand with support
  • Picks up small objects using thumb and fingers (pincer grasp)
  • Follows a falling object with eyes
  • Looks for hidden object, but only if he sees you hide it
  • Plays peekaboo and patty-cake
  • Starts to understand no
  • Makes vowel-consonant sounds (mama, baba)
  • Points and copies other gestures

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Begins having stranger anxiety
  • May be upset when separated from caregivers
  • Has favorite objects or toys

Physical Milestones

  • Walks holding on to hands or furniture
  • May stand alone
  • May take a few steps alone
  • Can let go of items without help
  • Points

Cognitive and Language Milestones

  • Finds hidden objects
  • Looks at or points to a picture when you name it
  • Bangs, throws and shakes things to see what happens
  • Explores everyday objects, both in correct ways (using a cup to drink) and incorrect ways (puts a toy in a cup)
  • Follows one-step directions
  • Tries to repeat words

Social and Emotional Milestones

  • Uses inflection and pauses to make sounds that sound like talking
  • Uses simple words like mama or uh-oh
  • Plays favorites with people
  • Responds to name
  • Is a little fearful of new things
  • Uses gestures or sounds to get your attention

Physical Milestones

Milestones for 1-year-olds include gross motor skills using big muscles to move the whole body—and fine motor skills—using smaller muscles for little things.

Gross Motor Skills

Most 1-year-olds can:

  • Sit without leaning on anything or being held up
  • Belly crawl, scoot or creep on hands and knees
  • Pull to standing and move, holding on to furniture

Between 12 and 24 months, children typically can:

  • Stand-alone and walk, holding on to your hands
  • Stick out their arms, legs and feet to help get dressed and undressed
  • Walk without help
  • Begin walking up stairs

Fine Motor Skills

As they approach age 2, children are typically able to:

  • Drink from a sippy cup (or regular cup with help)
  • Use a spoon—clumsily—to eat
  • Pick up objects like Cheerios or raisins with thumb and one finger (known as “pincer grasp”)
  • Point, poke and maybe even pinch
  • Put things into a bucket and take them out again
  • Scribble with a thick crayon or marker

Cognitive and Language Milestones

Your child’s cognitive milestones are the ways he learns to think, explore, learn and solve new problems. A child between 12 and 24 months will typically:
  • Know the use of everyday objects, such as a spoon, a toothbrush or phone
  • Start following simple directions such as “blow me a kiss” or “sit down”
  • Start simple pretend play, like feeding a stuffed animal
  • Point to his own head, eyes, ears, nose or mouth
  • Make the connection between a word you say and a picture in a book
  • Show a reaction to familiar songs and stories
  • Start testing cause and effect, such as what happens when he throws his cup on the floor

Language Milestones

Language at this age is not only about the sounds your child makes. It’s also about how ell your child understands what you say to him. And it’s about how he tells you what he wants and needs. Sometime between 12 and 24 months, a child can typically:
  • Babble in a way that sounds like talking and try to “talk” with you
  • Recognize family members’ names and the words for common items (cup, ball, shoe)
  • Raise his arms when he wants to be picked up, point at things he wants and shake his head no
  • Understand basic commands like stop
  • Say no, mama and several other words
  • Express happiness, sadness and frustration with different sounds or cries

Social and Emotional Milestones

One-year-olds have limited social interactions with other children. But your child may learn many social skills and ways to express emotion this year. Most 1-year-olds can do these things:
  • Smile and laugh in reaction to somebody else or when playing
  • Feel comfortable exploring the room when a caregiver is nearby
  • Show affection to familiar people
  • Have mild temper tantrums when frustrated
  • Be nervous around new people and clingy with caregivers

Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates. If your baby isn’t reaching some of these milestones, don’t panic. But be sure to discuss this with the pediatrician. You can talk together about whether to consider an early intervention evaluation.

Developmental Milestones
Typical 2-Year-Olds

Once your child is 2 years old, she’s officially a toddler! And it can be hard not to compare your child with other toddling tots.

If you’re not completely sure what skills are typical at this age, check out these developmental milestones. You’ll get a better idea of which skills are typically expected of a 2-year-old.

Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates. If your baby isn’t reaching some of these milestones, don’t panic. But be sure to discuss this with the pediatrician.

Developmental Milestones for Typical 2-Year-Olds

Once your child is 2 years old, she’s officially a toddler! And it can be hard not to compare your child with other toddling tots.
If you’re not completely sure what skills are typical at this age, check out these developmental milestones. You’ll get a better idea of which skills are typically expected of a 2-year-old.

Physical Milestones

This year, children may not only grow  by leaps and bounds, but also learn  to leap and bound! Expect to see big things happening with the big muscles (gross motor skills), as well as development in small muscle movement (fine motor skills).
Most 2-year-olds learn to do things like these by the end of their third year:

Gross Motor Skills

  • Walk, run and start learning to jump with both feet
  • Pull or carry toys while walking
  • Throw and kick a ball; try to catch with both hands
  • Stand on tiptoes and balance on one foot
  • Climb on furniture and playground equipment
  • Walk up stairs, holding on to the railing; may alternate feet

Fine Motor Skills

  • Start brushing own teeth and hair
  • May pull pants up and down
  • Turn on the faucet and wash hands
  • Build a block tower of at least four blocks
  • Start practicing snaps and zipping up (if you start the zip)
  • Hold utensils and crayons with fingers instead of a fist, although the grasp still may not be quite right

Cognitive Milestones

Kids start thinking in new ways, learning new skills and finding new techniques to solve problems. By the end of this year, kids typically:
  • Enjoy more complicated pretend play, like pretending that a box is a spaceship or assigning people characters when playing
  • Remember and talk about things that happened in the past, using phrases like “the other day” or “a long time ago”
  • Do three- to four-piece puzzles
  • Group toys by type, size or color
  • Recite favorite books and nursery rhymes with you
  • May follow two-step directions, such as “take off your coat and hang it up”

Language Milestones

By the end of the third year, children usually understand much of what you say to them. They’re also talking more. At this age, most children can do these things:
  • Understand the words for familiar people, everyday objects and body parts
  • Use a variety of single words by 18 months and speak in sentences of two to four words by 24 months (may combine nouns and verbs, like “mommy eat”); have a vocabulary of 200+ words by 36 months
  • Repeat words she hears
  • Start asking “what’s that?” and “why?”
  • Begin using plurals (dogs) and basic pronouns (me, you)

Social and Emotional Milestones

Two-year-olds start to be more independent and more interested in other kids. But not having the words to express themselves can be frustrating. By the end of this year, kids will likely do things like this:
  • Mimic what other kids and adults do and say, as well as how they say it
  • Be happy to play near, if not with, other kids
  • Start to realize she can do things without your help
  • Disobey more than before, doing things she’s told not to do, just to test what happens
  • Have tantrums when frustrated
  • Show increasing separation anxiety by 18 months, which typically eases considerably by 24 months; become increasingly independent and aware of herself as her own person between 24 and 36 months

Keep in mind that kids develop at different paces. If your child is late to do a few of these things, don’t panic. But if she isn’t meeting many of these milestones as she approaches age 3, consider talking to her doctor about an evaluation to see if early intervention could help develop her skills.

skills milestone age two
Developmental Milestones for Typical 3 year olds small
Developmental Milestones
Typical 3-Year-Olds

It can be hard not to compare your 3-year-old with other kids—or to listen when other people tell you what they think he should be doing at this age. If you’re not completely sure what skills are typical for 3-year-olds, check out these developmental milestones.
You’ll get a better idea of which skills are typically expected to develop this year. You’ll also learn whether there are possible developmental trouble spots to discuss with the pediatrician.

Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates. If your baby isn’t reaching some of these milestones, don’t panic. But be sure to discuss this with the pediatrician.

Developmental Milestones for Typical 3-Year-Olds

It can be hard not to compare your 3-year-old with other kids—or to listen when other people tell you what they think he should be doing at this age. If you’re not completely sure what skills are typical for 3-year-olds, check out these developmental milestones.
You’ll get a better idea of which skills are typically expected to develop this year. You’ll also learn whether there are possible developmental trouble spots to discuss with the pediatrician.
Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates. If your baby isn’t reaching some of these milestones, don’t panic. But be sure to discuss this with the pediatrician.

Physical Milestones

This year children are working to get better at the gross and fine motor skills they developed as 2-year-olds. They start doing some new things, too. Most 3-year-olds learn to do things like these by the time they’re 4:

Gross Motor Skills

  • Run and walk without tripping over own feet
  • Jump, hop and stand on one foot
  • Walk backwards and climb stairs one foot after the other
  • Kick and throw a small ball; catch a bigger ball most of the time
  • Climb
  • Start pedaling a tricycle or bike

Fine Motor Skills

  • Draw a circle with a crayon, pencil or marker
  • Play with toys with small moving parts and buttons
  • Turn the pages of a book one at a time
  • Build with Mega Bloks and create towers of six or more blocks
  • Work door handles and twist-on bottle tops

Cognitive Milestones

This year, children start learning new things about the world. They often think of creative approaches to tasks and activities. By the end of this year, typical cognitive milestones include being able to do things like:
  • Name the eight colors in a crayon box (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, brown, black)
  • Recite numbers to 10 and start counting groups of things
  • Start understanding time in terms of morning, night and days of the week
  • Remember and retell favorite stories
  • Understand and talk about things that are the “same” and “different”
  • Follow simple three-step directions (“Brush your teeth, wash your face and put on your pajamas.”)

Language Milestones

By the end of the year, 3-year-olds typically have a lot to say. They also understand more of what you say—but may not always follow your directions. Kids this age typically use language like this:
  • Use the basic rules of grammar, but make mistakes with words that don’t follow the rules, like saying “mouses” instead of “mice”
  • Speak well enough that most strangers can understand what they’re saying
  • Use five or six words in a sentence and have a two- to three-sentence conversation
  • Tell you their name, the name of at least one friend and the names of most common objects
  • Understand words like “in,” “on,” “behind” and “next”
  • Ask “wh” questions, like “why,” to get more information about things

Social and Emotional Milestones

Three-year-olds are an interesting mix of independent, playful and fearful. By the end of their fourth year, most 3-year-olds do these things:
  • Be interested—although hesitant—about going new places and trying new things
  • Start to play with children (as opposed to only playing side-by-side)
  • Start being able to comfort and show concern for an unhappy friend without prompting
  • Take turns while playing (even if they don’t like to)
  • Play “real life” with toys like play kitchens
  • Start finding simple ways to solve arguments and disagreements
  • Show (but maybe not name) a variety of emotions beyond happy, sad and mad

Remember that kids develop at different rates. If your child is late to do a few of these things, don’t panic. If your 3-year-old isn’t able to do many of these things as he approaches age 4, consider talking to his doctor about an evaluation to look at your child’s skills.

Developmental Milestones
Typical 4-Year-Olds

What are the typical skills for 4-year-olds? This year most children develop many new skills very quickly. Check out these typical 4-year-old developmental milestones to know what you might be seen by the end of this year. It will also help you know whether there are trouble spots to talk to the pediatrician about.

Developmental Milestones for Typical 4-Year-Olds

What are the typical skills for 4-year-olds? This year most children develop many new skills very quickly. Check out these typical 4-year-old developmental milestones to know what you might be seen by the end of this year. It will also help you know whether there are trouble spots to talk to the pediatrician about.

Physical Milestones

Children can put on close to five pounds and grow four inches this year. Eyesight continues to get better, too, so coordination improves. By the end of this year, most children can do these things:

Gross Motor Skills

  • Control movement more easily; start, stop, turn and go around obstacles while running
  • Log roll, do somersaults, skip and trot
  • Get dressed with minimal help (zippers, snaps and buttons may still be a little hard)
  • Throw and bounce a ball
  • Jump over objects and climb playground ladders
  • Pedal and steer a tricycle or bike

Fine Motor Skills

  • Draw or copy basic shapes and crosses (this is a milestone known as “being able to cross the midline”)
  • Write some letters
  • Begin to use scissors purposefully
  • Stack a tower at least 10 blocks high
  • String beads or O-shaped cereal to make necklaces
  • Pinch and shape clay or play-dough into recognizable objects

Cognitive Milestones

This year, children’s ability to think and learn goes beyond the basics of the world around them. They start thinking about and understanding things they can’t see or touch; you might notice your child starts to become “an idea man.” Most children are developing skills to:
  • Understand the difference between real and make-believe
  • Understand that pictures and symbols stand for real things
  • Explore relationships between ideas, using words like if and when to express them
  • Start thinking in logical steps, which means seeing the “how-tos” and consequences of things
  • Get abstract ideas like “bigger,” “less,” “later,” “ago” and “soon”
  • Put things in order such as from biggest to smallest, shortest to tallest
  • Stick with an activity for 10 to 15 minutes

Language Milestones

Language development tends to explode this year. This may include developing a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words and using complicated sentences that combine more than one thought. Kids start asking who, what, why, when and where questions—and maybe even can answer some too. By the end of this year, most children can do these things:
  • Sing silly songs, make up goofy words and start rhyming
  • Follow simple, unrelated directions (“Go find your shoes and pick up that toy.”)
  • Change speech patterns depending on who he’s having a conversation with, such as speaking in short sentences to a younger sibling
  • Pronounce most sounds correctly, but still have trouble with s, w and r sounds
  • Ask for the definition of unfamiliar words
  • Make up stories and talk about what he’s thinking
  • Argue, even though the argument might not be logical

Social and Emotional Milestones

Your child may be starting to develop his own unique personality. He may be more able to get along with peers and work out things that bother him through play. Most children can also:
  • Share, cooperate, be helpful and take turns
  • Start acting a little bossy and start tattling
  • Enjoy telling silly jokes and find other things funny
  • Begin telling small lies to get out of trouble, even though he knows it’s wrong
  • Do or say things he shouldn’t to see what the reaction will be
  • Have imaginary friends and play the same imaginary games over and over

Remember: Kids develop at different paces. Your child may gain some skills later than other kids or have some skills that are advanced for his age. If your child isn’t meeting many of these milestones, consider speaking with his doctor to see if an evaluation to look at his skills is recommended. There are a number of ways you, your child’s doctor and even his preschool can work together to help boost his skills.

Developmental Milestones Typical 4 Year Olds