How your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves offers important clues about your child’s development. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age.


Important Milestones


Baby by 2 Months


What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Begins to smile at people 
  • Can briefly calm herself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand) 
  • Tries to look at parent 
  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds 
  • Turns head toward sounds
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • 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 
Movement/Physical Development
  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy 
  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs 

Baby by 4 Months


What most babies do by this age:

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 
  • Begins to babble 
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears 
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • 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 
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 


Baby by 6 Months


What most babies do by this age:

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 
  • 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”) 
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 
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


Baby by 9 Months


What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • May be afraid of strangers 
  • May be clingy with familiar adults 
  • Has favorite toys 
  • Understands “no” 
  • Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa” 
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others 
  • Uses fingers to point at things 
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • 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 
Movement/Physical Development
  • Stands, holding on 
  • Can get into sitting position 
  • Sits without support 
  • Pulls to stand 
  • Crawls

Child by 1 Year


What most children do by this age:

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” 
  • 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 
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” 
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


Child by 18 Months


What most babies do by this age:

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

Child by 2 Years


What most children do by this age:

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 
  • 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 
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 
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​

Child by 3 Years


What most children do by this age:

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

Child by 4 Years


What most children do by this age:

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 
  • 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
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 
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


 Child by 5 Years


What most children do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • 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 (for example, may visit a next-door neighbor by himself [adult supervision is still needed]) 
  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative
  • 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)
  • 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/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

Adapted from CARING FOR YOUR BABY AND YOUNG CHILD: BIRTH TO AGE 5, Fifth Edition, edited by Steven Shelov and Tanya Remer Altmann © 1991, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2009 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and BRIGHT FUTURES: GUIDELINES FOR HEALTH SUPERVISION OF INFANTS, CHILDREN, AND ADOLESCENTS, Third Edition, edited by Joseph Hagan, Jr., Judith S. Shaw, and Paula M. Duncan, 2008, Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.