Guidelines for Key Developmental Milestones

As children grow they develop many kinds of different abilities: managing physical coordination, interacting with others, communicating, learning, playing, getting along with others, and dealing with feelings. Well-child checkups are the time to for you to talk to your child’s doctor about how your child is doing developmentally, and ways that you can support your child so he or she can develop self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and many other good traits. You can also talk to the doctor about healthy habits that you can help your child develop at each stage of life – from nutrition, to exercise, to balancing activities, school, and social life.

Here are just a few key milestones to watch for as your child grows.The early milestones are listed so they go along with the timing of the wellness visits you schedule with your child’s doctor. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. For example, if a child does not roll over from tummy to back until a month later than the guidelines say, it is often not a cause for concern. This guide is meant to be a helpful tool to help you talk about your child’s growth with the doctor during wellness visits.

At birth

  • Knows parents’ or caregivers’ voices
  • Turns head to breast or bottle
  • Communicates through body language, fussing or crying

1 month

  • Brings hands to eyes and mouth
  • Reacts to sounds
  • Calms down when rocked or sung to

2 months

  • Starts to smile
  • Holds head up
  • Starts to focus on close objects
  • Coos and makes gurgling sounds

4 months

  • Has different cries for different feelings (hungry, cranky, uncomfortable)
  • Starts rolling over from tummy to back
  • Reaches for toys with one hand
  • Laughs

6 months

  • Rolls over from back to tummy and from tummy to back
  • Starts to sit unassisted
  • Answers to own name
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Answers to sounds by making sounds

9 months

  • Crawls
  • Starts to pull on things to stand up
  • Points to things using fingers
  • Throws and shake toys
  • Understands “no”
  • Waves “bye bye”
  • Plays “peek-a-boo”

12 months

  • Cries when Mom or Dad leaves
  • Gets nervous around strangers
  • Says “mama,” “dada”
  • Starts to take some steps while holding on to furniture
  • Has at least 1 tooth

15 months

  • Drinks from a cup
  • Scribbles
  • Walks well
  • Points to 1 or 2 body parts

18 months

  • Tries walking up stairs, running
  • Climbs onto chairs, furniture
  • Points to show others something
  • Can self-feed with a spoon

2 years

  • Kicks a ball
  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Has about 16 teeth
  • Understands two-step instructions (“Close the door and take your mittens off”)
  • Copies others, mostly adults and other children

3 years

  • Has all 20 baby teeth
  • Pretends with dolls, animals and other people
  • Asks questions
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 or 3 sentences
  • Uses the toilet during the day (may need a pull-up at night)

4 to 6 years

  • Can catch a bounced ball (most of the time)
  • Tells stories
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Sings a remembered song or poem (like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “The Wheels on the Bus”)
  • Understands the idea of counting

6 to 8 years

  • Dresses self
  • Pays more attention to friendship and teamwork
  • Learns to express feelings
  • Wants to do well in school

9 to 11 years (Pre-teen)

  • Becomes more independent from family
  • Forms stronger friendships with peers
  • Becomes more aware of his or her body
  • Faces more challenges at school, with schoolwork
  • Sees others’ points of view

12-14 years (Young teens)

  • Focuses on self, going back and forth between balance and confidence
  • Becomes moody
  • Feels stressed about challenging schoolwork
  • Develops a stronger sense of right and wrong
  • May be left feeling alone or even depressed by peer pressure
  • Is very aware of body and puberty

15-17 (Teenagers)

  • Develops more interest in the opposite sex
  • Shows more independence from parents, but less conflict than in earlier teens
  • Spends more time with friends
  • Develops a stronger sense of right and wrong
  • Shows concern for schoolwork and plans for the future

18 – 21 (Transitioning to adulthood)

  • Thinks about the future and sets future goals
  • Has a sexual identity and may be sexually active
  • Is developing a sense of the world and where he or she can make a difference
  • Is independent: may be away at college/military/working, and has a more adult lifestyle