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Child Development

The first years of a child's life are very important for the child's development and health. In order for children to develop healthily, they must have their social, emotional, and educational needs met. Children also need safe homes, proper nutrition, exercise, and rest, and a nurturing family to ensure their proper development. It is crucial for parents to be aware of the developmental milestones in their child's life to know what behaviors are typical and what are atypical.

 

Serve and Return

Responsive relationships are an integral part to a child's development and well-being. "Serve and return" interaction shapes a baby's brain architecture by stimulating the baby's senses. Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child has created a website with key concepts to help parents better understand how to use Serve and Return to ensure their child's proper development. You can watch their video on Serve and Return here:

 

Developmental Milestones

From birth to five years, your child should reach developmental milestones in play, speech, learning, movement, and activity. The best way to know if your child is hitting his or her milestones is by educating yourself on what they are, and keeping track of them. For more information on what to look for and what to do if you're concerned, see the CDC website's on development.

Important Milestones at Two Months

Social and Emotional

  • Begins to smile at people
  • Tries to look at parent
  • Can briefly calm him/herself

Cognitive

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

Language/Communication

  • Coos and makes gurgling sounds
  • Turns head toward sounds

Movement/Physical Development

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

 

Important Milestones at Four Months

Social and Emotional

  • 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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Lets you know if she 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

Language/Communication

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

Movement/Physical Development

  • 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

 

Important Milestones at Six Months

Social and Emotional

  • 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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • 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

Language/Communication

  • 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”)

Movement/Physical Development

  • 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

 

Important Milestones at Nine Months

Social and Emotional

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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

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

Language/Communication

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

Movement/Physical Development

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

 

Important Milestones at One Year

Social and Emotional

  • Is shy or nervous with strangers
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Has favorite 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”

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • 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”

Language/Communication

  • 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

Movement/Physical Development

  • 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

 

Important Milestones at 18 Months

Social and Emotional

  • 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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • 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”

Language/Communication

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

Movement/Physical Development

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

 

Important Milestones at Two Years

Social and Emotional

  • Copies others, especially adults and older children
  • Gets excited when with other children
  • Shows more and more independence
  • Shows defiant behavior (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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • 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

Language/Communication

  • 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

Movement/Physical Development

  • 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

 

Important Milestones at Three Years

Social and Emotional

  • 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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • 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

Language/Communication

  • 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

Movement/Physical Development

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

 

Important Milestones at Four Years

Social and Emotional

  • 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

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Names some colors 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

Language/Communication

  • 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

Movement/Physical Development

  • 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

 

Important Milestones at Five Years

Social and Emotional

  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Shows more independence (for example, may visit a next-door neighbor by himself [adult supervision is still needed])
  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • 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

Language/Communication

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

Movement/Physical Development

  • 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