Child Development Milestones From Birth Through Age 18

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Norton Children’s Medical Group

Our pediatricians track and guide your child through each stage of their development. 
Our pediatrician offices are conveniently located across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Book your appointment directly by choosing a location or provider.

A child’s developmental milestones, such as speaking their first word or taking their first step, can be an exciting time for parents, and these moments also serve as important clues that their child’s development is on track.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developmental milestones are actions or behaviors that at least 75% of children can do by a certain age. The way a child speaks, plays, moves, learns and acts provides important indicators about their development.

The CDC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, updated their checklist of developmental milestones in 2022. These guidelines help parents identify stages of child development to aid in early identification of autism and developmental delays. The four categories used in all age groups are social/emotional, language/communication, cognitive and movement/physical development. The pediatricians with Norton Children’s Medical Group, track your child’s development milestones with each appointment.

During your child’s regular well-child check ups with the pediatrician, the provider will ask the parent about the child’s milestones and observe the child play and talk during the exam. However, parents know their child best and should bring up any concerns, such as missing milestones or a loss of skills. These guidelines can help with consistency if your child sees more than one provider, clinic, health system or you move. They also help pediatricians identify and refer children with developmental delays.

Newborn to 2 months

  • Ability to look at parents’ faces
  • Alertness/startle to sounds
  • Ability to move all four extremities
  • Muscle tone
  • Reflexes such as root, suck, startle (moro), tonic neck, grasp, Babinski (involving toes) and step

2 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Looks at your face
    • Smiles when being spoken to or smiled at
    • Appears happy to see you
    • Calms down upon hearing your voice or being picked up
  • Language/communication
    • Reacts to loud noises
    • Makes noises besides crying
  • Cognitive
    • Looks at a toy for a few seconds
    • Tracks your movement with their eyes
  • Movement/physical development
    • Opens and closes hands
    • Moves legs and arms
    • Holds up head during tummy time

4 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Giggles when you try to make them laugh
    • Smiles to get your attention
    • Looks at you, makes noises and movements to get your attention
  • Language/communication
    • Makes cooing sounds
    • Responds with a sound when you talk to them
    • Looks in the direction of your voice
  • Cognitive
    • Opens mouth when hungry or during feeding time
    • Looks at hands
  • Movement/physical development
    • Holds up head without support while being held
    • Holds a toy if put in their hand
    • Uses arms to swing at toys
    • Puts hands around mouth
    • Pushes up to their forearms or elbows during tummy time

6 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Laughs
    • Looks at self in mirror
    • Recognizes familiar people
  • Language/communication
    • Makes squealing sounds
    • Takes turns making noises with you
    • Sticks out tongue and blows (“raspberry” noises)
  • Cognitive
    • Shuts mouth to indicate they are done eating
    • Reaches for a desired toy
    • Puts items in mouth
  • Movement/physical development
    • Uses hands for support while sitting
    • Rolls from tummy onto back
    • Pushes up onto hands during tummy time

9 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Smiles or laughs during peek-a-boo
    • Makes several facial expressions (happy, surprised, sad, angry)
    • Looks, reaches or cries when you leave
    • Knows their name (looks when it is said)
    • Is shy or fearful around strangers
  • Language/communication
    • Makes various babbling noises
    • Lifts up arms when wants picked up
  • Cognitive
    • Bangs items together
    • Looks for items if they drop them
  • Movement/physical development
    • Sits up independently and without support
    • Uses fingers to bring food closer
    • Moves items from one hand to another

12 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Plays games with you, such as pat-a-cake
  • Language/communication
    • Says “mama” or “dada” or another special name for a parent
    • Understands the word “no”
    • Waves “bye-bye”
  • Cognitive
    • Looks for items if you hide them
    • Can place an item in a container, such as a toy in a cup
  • Movement/physical development
    • Pulls up to stand
    • Walks with support of furniture
    • Can pick up items with thumb and pointer finger
    • Drinks from a cup that is held

15 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Shows affection with hugs, kisses or cuddles
    • Hugs toys
    • Claps with excitement
    • Mimics other children when playing
    • Shows an object or toy they like
  • Language/communication
    • Tries to say one or two words to describe objects
    • Points to ask for an item or for help
    • Looks at a familiar object when it is named
    • Follows simple directions given with words and gestures
  • Cognitive
    • Tries to use items correctly, such as a phone, book or cup
    • Stacks at least two small objects, such as blocks
  • Movement/physical development
    • Uses fingers to feed self some food
    • Walks a few steps

18 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Points to show something interesting
    • Looks at a few pages in a book
    • Extends hands to be washed
    • Helps while being dressed, such as lifting foot
    • Moves away but checks to see if you are nearby
  • Language/communication
    • Tries to say three or more words
    • Follows simple directions
  • Cognitive
    • Plays with toys
    • Copies someone doing chores, such as sweeping
  • Movement/physical development
    • Walks independently
    • Drinks from a cup
    • Feeds self with fingers
    • Attempts to use eating utensils
    • Climbs on a couch or chair
    • Draws scribbles

2 years

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Looks at your face for reactions
    • Notices if someone is hurt or upset
  • Language/communication
    • Points to objects in books if you ask where it is on the page
    • Says at least two words together
    • Uses more gestures, such as nodding yes
    • Points to at least two body parts when asked
  • Cognitive
    • Can use both hands to complete a task, such as balancing a cup while taking off the lid
    • Plays with more than one toy at the same time
    • Tries to use switches or buttons on a toy
  • Movement/physical development
    • Runs
    • Eats with a spoon
    • Kicks a ball
    • Walks up a few stairs

30 months

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Follows simple routines, such as picking up toys during “cleanup time”
    • Plays next to or with other children
    • Asks you to watch them do something (“Mama, look!”)
  • Language/communication
    • Can say around 50 words
    • Names objects in a book when asked what something is
    • Pairs nouns and verbs, such as “dog run”
    • Uses subject pronouns such as “I” or “we”
  • Cognitive
    • Plays pretend with toys
    • Knows at least one color
    • Follows directions involving two steps
    • Shows simple problem-solving skills, such as standing on an object to reach something
  • Movement/physical development
    • Jumps with both feet
    • Turns pages of a book
    • Can remove some of their clothing
    • Can twist objects, such as doorknobs

3 years

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Joins other children to play
    • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave them (at day care, etc.)
  • Language/communication
    • Can speak well enough for others to understand
    • Knows and says first name when asked
    • Asks questions involving who, what, where, why?
    • Has a conversation involving at least two back-and-forth exchanges
    • Describes what is happening in a photo or book
  • Cognitive
    • Avoids touching hot objects, such as the stove, when taught
    • Can draw a circle after receiving instructions
  • Movement/physical development
    • Uses a fork
    • Can put on some loose clothing, such as a jacket
    • Can put items on a string, such as beads or macaroni

4 years

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Uses imagination to act like something else during playtime (superhero, dog, etc.)
    • Changes behavior based on the setting, such as a playground versus church
    • Avoids danger, like jumping from tall heights
    • Comforts someone who is hurt or sad
    • Asks to play with friends
    • Enjoys helping with tasks, such as making food
  • Language/communication
    • Speaks sentences with four or more words
    • Repeats words from a song or story
    • Can recall one thing they did during the day
    • Answers simple questions
  • Cognitive
    • Draws a person with several body parts
    • Can say what happens next in a familiar story
    • Names several colors
  • Movement/physical development
    • Holds writing utensil between fingers and thumb
    • Can serve food or drink with supervision
    • Catches a large ball
    • Unbuttons buttons

5 years

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Can complete simple chores, such as clearing their table setting
    • Sings, dances or acts for others
    • Follows rules or takes turns when playing
  • Language/communication
    • Tells a story with at least two events
    • Answers simple questions about a book or story
    • Has a conversation with more than three back-and-forth exchanges
    • Uses or understands simple rhyming words
  • Cognitive
    • Knows how to count to 10
    • Writes some letters of their name
    • Names some numbers between 1 and 5 when pointed at
    • Names some letters when pointed at
    • Uses timing words, such as yesterday or tomorrow
    • Can pay attention for 5 to 10 minutes during activities themself
    • Hops on one foot
    • Buttons a button

  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Shows more independence from family
    • Pays more attention to friendships and cooperation
    • Wants to be liked by friends
    • Starts to think about the future
  • Cognitive
    • Begins to show concern for others, not only themselves
    • Improves in describing events and experiences
    • Rapidly develops mental skills and learning at school
  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Forms closer friendships, especially those of the same sex
    • Becomes more aware of body
    • Experiences peer pressure
  • Cognitive
    • Can more easily see others’ point of view
    • Increased attention span
    • Experiences more academic challenges
  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • Has more concern for body image, self-expression, puberty
    • Navigates self-esteem issues
    • More mood changes
    • More independent and less affectionate toward parents
    • Navigates stress from school or social life
  • Cognitive
    • Increases complex thought and critical thinking skills
    • Improves expression of emotions via naming, talking about them
    • Improves sense of right, wrong and consequences
  • Social/emotional (behavior)
    • More interest in romantic relationships
    • Increased independence from family
    • Increased time spent with friends and social groups
  • Cognitive
    • Shows responsibility via work and study habits
    • Cares about future plans after high school
    • Can justify choices with sense of morals

Benefits of Norton Children’s Medical Group

  • Convenient locations with more than 25 pediatrician offices in Louisville and surrounding areas in Kentucky and Southern Indiana
  • New patients can be seen within 24 hours
  • Same-day sick appointments are available
  • Schedule appointments online, get appointment reminders, communicate with your child’s medical provider, view and request immunization records, refill prescriptions and more through your free Norton MyChart account
  • Night and weekend hours are available
  • Access to Norton Children’s After Hours Care and the after-hours nurse care line
  • Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans accepted

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