Know the Important Developmental Milestones In a Child

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The joy of a newborn baby to parent is boundless and the most cherished moment of life. As the baby comes to family; all the attention, time & efforts are all for the new joy of life. That first tooth, first smiles, the first side turn, first sound, first sitting position, first crawl, first baby steps, the first word is all the fruits of happiness and accomplishments for parents. In fact, the child is the sum of their total existence.

Slowly the child completes all her growth milestones as per age and time. However, some kids show remarkable to a slight delay in these growth milestones and lag behind as compared to kids of their age. Parents (especially for the first child) however kind of ignore or wait, thinking that might be the child is slow now, however, will cover up as he grows.

In India, it is observed that there is a huge lack of awareness or ignorance when it comes to the assessment of child’s early growth and development parameters. It is only when the child enters school or day care centers; the parents are given feedback by the teachers and attendants about the delayed development or behavioral issues of a child. Still, the pediatrician or consulting doctor mostly assure parents to wait and watch and don’t really bother to assess the basic developmental milestones of a child. It is only when after a long wait like when the child is between 5 yrs to 6 yrs; the parent is referred to Developmental Paediatrician or Paediatric Neuropsychologist. That too in metro cities still by age 5 yrs or 6yrs maximum the parent is still guided; in other urban cities and rural areas, the situation is even worst; sometimes no guidance at all.

Parents generally pay attention towards child height, weight, immunization, eating habits and illness. However, we kind of overlook or ignore the most important parameter that is the growth or developmental milestones.  Every child develops at their own pace, however, the developmental milestones give an insight to parents of what to expect as a child grows older.

Parents know their child best. If the child is showing delay or not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if the parent notices some problem or delay in the development and growth parameters; do visit your child’s doctor or developmental pediatrician and share your observation. Don’t wait & watch. If a developmental delay is not found early; it makes difficult for the child to learn in school, socialization among peer groups and appropriate behaviors in a social environment. The way a child plays, speaks, acts, behaves, moves gives an insight into his/her development. Developmental milestones are set of things that most children can do by a certain age.

Let’s have a look and check all the important developmental milestones in a child starting from as early as 2 months of age to 5 years of age:

Social and Emotional Development:

For a child to understand others feelings and emotions; control his / her behaviours and feelings; get along and build relationships with parents, siblings, friends, and others; it is very important to develop social-emotional skills as per age. For this; they need to develop the basic skills like cooperation, following directions, demonstrating self-control and paying attention.

2 Month old:

  • Begins to smile at people
  • Can briefly calm herself

(bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)

  • Tries to look at the parent.

4 Month old:

  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops
  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning

6 Month old:

  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
  • Likes to play with others, especially parents
  • Responds to other people’s emotions and often seems happy
  • Likes to look at self in a mirror

9 Month old:

  • May be afraid of strangers
  • May be clingy with familiar adults
  • Has favourite toys

1 Year old:

  • Is shy or nervous with strangers
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Has favourite things and people
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”

1 Year 6 Month old:

  • Likes to hand things to others as play
  • May have temper tantrums
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • Shows affection to familiar people
  • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • May cling to caregivers in new situations
  • Points to show others something interesting
  • Explores alone but with parent close by

2 Year old:

  • Copies others, especially adults and older children
  • Gets excited when with other children
  • Shows more and more independence
  • Shows defiant behaviour (doing what he has been told not to)
  • Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games

3 Year old:

  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Dresses and undresses self

4 Year old:

  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Plays “Mom” and “Dad”
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than by himself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Often can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Talks about what she likes and what she is interested in

5 Year old:

  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Shows more independence

(may visit a next-door neighbour by himself [adult supervision is still needed])

  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative

Language and Communication Development:

All the different ways a child communicates and understands indicate Language and Communication development. Development of speech indicates fine motor skill development and a reflection of cognitive development.

2 Month old:

  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds
  • Turns head toward sounds
  • Baby raising head and chest when lying on stomach

4 Month old:

  • Begins to babble
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

6 Month old:

  • Responds to sounds by making sounds
  • Strings vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”) and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds
  • Responds to own name
  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure
  • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with “m,” “b”)

9 Month old:

  • Understands “no”
  • Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others
  • Uses fingers to point at things

1 Year old:

  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye”
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
  • Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
  • Tries to say words you say

1 Year 6 Month old:

  • Says several single words
  • Says and shakes head “no”
  • Points to show someone what he wants

2 Year old:       

  • Points to things or pictures when they are named
  • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Points to things in a book

3 Year old:

  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences

4 Year old:

  • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • Tells stories
  • Can say first and last name

5 Year old:

  • Speaks very clearly
  • Tells a simple story using full sentences
  • Uses future tense; for example, “Grandma will be here.”
  • Says name and address

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving) Development:

How a child perceives, thinks and gains an understanding of his or her world through the interaction of genetic and learned factors is referred as cognitive development. Information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory are the areas of cognitive development

2 Month old:

  • Pays attention to faces
  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance
  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change

4 Month old:

  • Lets you know if he is happy or sad
  • Responds to affection
  • Reaches for toy with one hand
  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it
  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
  • Watches faces closely
  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance

6 Month old:

  • Looks around at things nearby
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other

9 Month old:

  • Watches the path of something as it falls
  • Looks for things she sees you hide
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Puts things in his mouth
  • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other
  • Picks up things like cereal o’s between thumb and index finger

1 Year old:

  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named
  • Copies gestures
  • Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair
  • Bangs two things together
  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
  • Lets things go without help
  • Pokes with index (pointer) finger
  • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”

1 Year 6 Month old:

  • Knows what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon
  • Points to get the attention of others
  • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
  • Points to one body part
  • Scribbles on his own
  • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say “sit down”

2 Year old:

  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Begins to sort shapes and colours
  • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Might use one hand more than the other
  • Follows two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”
  • Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog

3 Year old:

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

4 Year old:

  • Names some colours and some numbers
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Starts to understand time
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Understands the idea of “same” and “different”
  • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Plays board or card games
  • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book

5 Year old:

  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can draw a person with at least 6 body parts
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food

Movement and Physical Development

Development of fundamental movement skills that improve coordination, locomotion, control, balance, and manipulation of body is known as Movement and Physical Development.

2 Month old:

  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy
  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs

4 Month old:

  • Holds head steady, unsupported
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface
  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back
  • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys
  • Brings hands to mouth
  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows

6 Month old:

  • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
  • Begins to sit without support
  • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce
  • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward

9 Month old:

  • Stands, holding on
  • Can get into sitting position
  • Sits without support
  • Pulls to stand
  • Crawls

1 Year old:

  • Gets to a sitting position without help
  • Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”)
  • May take a few steps without holding on
  • May stand alone

1 Year 6 Month old:

  • Walks alone
  • May walk up steps and run
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Can help undress herself
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Eats with a spoon

2 Year old:

  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Kicks a ball
  • Begins to run
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture without help
  • Walks up and down stairs holding on
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Makes or copies straight lines and circles

3 Year old:

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

4 Year old:

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Pours, cuts with supervision and mashes own food

5 Year old:

  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hops; may be able to skip
  • Can do a somersault
  • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Can use the toilet on her own
  • Swings and climbs

Do Not Miss Reading: Warning Signs Of a Child Developmental Delay

Source and Reference:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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About Naaz Shaikh 6 Articles
An educationist by profession and heart, Naaz Shaikh is an enthusiastic mother exploring all corners of child development. Currently, she is working with an NGO with a focus on upliftment & development of underprivileged kids.