Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Developmental Milestones: Birth to Age 3

Most parents can't help but have questions about their child's development. In the age of social media, parents have constant access to the "achievements" of other children, through pictures, videos and "posts".

shutterstock_8526361Most parents can't help but have questions about their child's development. In the age of social media, parents have constant access to the "achievements" of other children, through pictures, videos and "posts". However, new parents might feel overwhelmed by all of the conflicting information. Your friend has a baby who is already walking at 9 months, but on the other hand, your aunt commented that your cousin did not walk until he was 17 months and now he's a collegiate runner. Meanwhile videos are popping up everywhere showing babies talking before they are walking, but your baby's first and second birthdays came and went without any clear words.  Even pediatricians can vary their opinions on when to expect specific developments and when to be concerned. How in the world is anyone supposed to make sense of this information and know what's really "typical"?

Developmental milestone lists can serve as a guide for when different skills, such as walking and talking, will begin to emerge. The 5 main areas of development:

Cognitive: This domain includes problem solving, thinking, and reasoning skills.

Physical: This domain is broken down into gross motor and fine motor skills.

Social/Emotional: This domain includes skills that involve developing a sense of self, controlling emotions and forming relationships with others.

Self-help: This domain refers to everyday living skills, such as dressing, feeding and toileting.

[This website] has a comprehensive list of developmental milestones arranged according to age. It's important to note that there is a wide range for what is considered "normal." For example, a typically developing baby may begin to take his first steps at 9 months or even as late as 15 months. For young children, development is interdependent, so that their acquisition of skills in one area affects their skill development in another area. It is all connected.

Let's take a look at some important milestones and some activities that you can incorporate into your daily routines with your child.

Infancy 0-12 months: A Chatterbox in the Making

By 5-7 months, most babies will respond to their own names. Their vision has developed to 20/20 and they are able to recognize familiar people and smile at them. By 6-9 months, most babies wave at others; they may be so enamored with this skill they wave in response to every person they see. By 6 months they are grabbing objects. Watch out as you pass anything in their arms' reach, including mom's hair and earrings. Babbling really starts to blossom from 6-9 months; most babies start making consonant chains, such as "dada" or "baba." From 6-11.5 months most babies say "mama" or "dada" nonspecifically and start "talking" in an inflection similar to adults, such as raising their tone at the end of a sentence, as if asking a question. By 12 months, most babies have one word they say with meaning and enjoy babbling monologues when left alone in their cribs.

Suggested Activity:

Talk, talk, talk and sing. Narrate your actions as you go about your daily routine and comment on what you and your baby are doing. You can start engaging in interactive "conversations" and simple games like "Peek-a-Boo," and "Pat-a-Cake." These activities will promote your child's developing expressive language skills.

Early toddler-hood 12-18 months: Look! Look! Look! and Monkey See, Monkey Do

By 12-14 months, most children develop a point, a very important first form of communication. Their point can direct an adult's attention and also act as a request for items just out of reach. Children first start pointing to items of interest in their immediate environment and then begin to point to things that catch their interest further and further away. Also during the 12-14 month period, most children begin to imitate simple adult actions, such as drinking from cup or talking on the phone. Imitation is an important milestone; it is a cornerstone skill that will help develop a series of complex skills in all areas of development. By 15 months, most children are walking, some running quickly after that. Also by this time, most children understand "no" and begin to test their parents' limits (and patience) during meals and naps, refusing to sleep or throwing their food on the floor. Although most people have heard of the "terrible twos," but most children's independent spirit develops from 12-15 months. Most children try to do things on their own, like putting on their clothes or feeding themselves. By 18 months they are able to pull off simple clothing, like socks and shoes, even when out for a walk on a crisp fall day.

Suggested Activity:

Get out and about, but don't have a destination in mind. As children are becoming more mobile and developing their walking skills, try to move at their pace. Exploring the neighborhood or local park will allow for plenty of time for your child to exercise and also give ample opportunity to experience new sights and sounds.

18-24 months ToddlerhoodMe, Me, Me

By 18 months many children's sense of self is strongly developing. Most children start to use their own names to refer to themselves. They have learned to refuse things by shaking their heads or saying "No." From 18-24 months, most children start to desire control of others, dictating where people sit, stand or who they can hug. They may test limits, fight or resist in order to get their way. They get easily frustrated. During this time, most children show jealousy when attention is diverted to other people. By 24 months, most children have become expert imitators and will mimic everything they see, from their parents to the family dog. Children at this age can start to perform simple household chores, like throwing things away or carrying their own plates. Children 24 months old demand a lot of attention and can often display dependent behavior, clinging to one parent or another. So even though most children are developing a strong sense of self, they also desire to be cared for at times as if they were still young babies.

Suggested Activity:

Give out jobs.  Children at this age love to feel powerful and in control.  Have them carry the towel to the bath and name them "Towel Carrier." Or they can get everyone's shoes when going out. Label the jobs you give them throughout the day. Completing these tasks will make them feel special and important.

24-36 months Late-toddlerhood:  Storytellers

By 24 months most children have about 50 words; by the end of the year, the word count will rise to 300-1000. With this new vocabulary comes new ideas, and we can see these ideas develop in their pretend play. By 24-30 months, most children dramatize using a doll and give dialogue to their dolls as they engage in simple make believe. By 30-36 months they play house and assume roles. As children begin to pretend play, they are also creating friendships, assigning roles, accepting others' ideas and engaging in problem solving. From 30-36 months, most children resist change and have difficulty transitioning, especially when coming in from being out on the playground or when waking from a nap. Children 34 months and older begin to relate their experiences and tell long stories, all connected with several "ands." Children this age enjoy reading books and begin looking at books on their own. At the end of this year, most children ask questions, such as "What's that?" or "When we goin'?"

Suggested Activity:

Act out a favorite story after reading it; switch roles with your child and gather props. Even if it is only 3-4 actions from the book, acting out the story will help develop sequencing skills, reading comprehension and pretend play. A child's imaginative thinking is an important skill to develop. Most children will learn all the colors and memorize the alphabet and those are fine skills to teach, but encouraging a creative mind will be invaluable to your child in the years to come.

The milestones listed above are just some of the skills your child will master in the early years. While it's a good idea to check in on your child's development, keep in mind that children develop at different paces. However, trust your instincts. If you suspect a problem, discuss it with your child's pediatrician. For more information, visit Achieve Beyond.


The Clinical Team at Achieve Beyond