KNOW THE SIGNS: Developmental Milestones

Can you spot the signs of on-track development in your child? Clues like smiling, waving, listening, and talking at certain ages are what you need to look for.

A Fact Sheet for Every Age

Select an age below to view important milestones

What Most Babies Do at this Age:

Social/Emotional

  • Begins to smile at people
  • Can briefly calm himself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)
  • Tries to look at parent

Language/Communication

  • 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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t respond to loud sounds
  • Doesn’t watch things as they move
  • Doesn’t smile at people
  • Doesn’t bring hands to mouth
  • Can’t hold head up when pushing up when on tummy

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

What Most Babies Do at this Age:

Social/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

Language/Communication

  • 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 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

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t watch things as they move
  • Doesn’t smile at people
  • Can’t hold head steady
  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds
  • Doesn’t bring things to mouth
  • Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface
  • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

What Most Babies Do at this Age:

Social/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

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”)

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t try to get things that are in reach
  • Shows no affection for caregivers
  • Doesn’t respond to sounds around him
  • Has difficulty getting things to mouth
  • Doesn’t make vowel sounds (“ah”, “eh”, “oh”)
  • Doesn’t roll over in either direction
  • Doesn’t laugh or make squealing sounds
  • Seems very stiff, with tight muscles
  • Seems very floppy, like a rag doll

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

What Most Babies Do at this Age:

Social/Emotional

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

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

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

Movement/Physical Development

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t bear weight on legs with support
  • Doesn’t sit with help
  • Doesn’t babble (“mama”, “baba”, “dada”)
  • Doesn’t play any games involving back-and-forth play
  • Doesn’t respond to own name
  • Doesn’t seem to recognize familiar people
  • Doesn’t look where you point
  • Doesn’t transfer toys from one hand to the other

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development at the 9-month visit. Ask your child’s doctor about your child’s developmental screening.

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/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”

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

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t crawl
  • Can’t stand when supported
  • Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide.
  • Doesn’t say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Doesn’t learn gestures like waving or shaking head
  • Doesn’t point to things
  • Loses skills he once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/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

Language/Communication

  • 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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t point to show things to others
  • Can’t walk
  • Doesn’t know what familiar things are for
  • Doesn’t copy others
  • Doesn’t gain new words
  • Doesn’t have at least 6 words
  • Doesn’t notice or mind when a caregiver leaves or returns
  • Loses skills he once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development and autism at the 18-month visit. Ask your child’s doctor about your child’s developmental screening.

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/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

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

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”)
  • Doesn’t know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, spoon
  • Doesn’t copy actions and words
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Doesn’t walk steadily
  • Loses skills she once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development and autism at the 24-month visit. Ask your child’s doctor about your child’s developmental screening.

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/Emotional

  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for a 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

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

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Loses skills he once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your local public school. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/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

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

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Can’t jump in place
  • Has trouble scribbling
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Ignores other children or doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Can’t retell a favorite story
  • Doesn’t follow 3-part commands
  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Speaks unclearly
  • Loses skills he once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your local public school. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/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

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

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

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad)
  • Unusually withdrawn and not active
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Doesn’t respond to people, or responds only superficially
  • Can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Doesn’t play a variety of games and activities
  • Can’t give first and last name
  • Doesn’t use plurals or past tense properly
  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities or experiences
  • Doesn’t draw pictures
  • Can’t brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
  • Loses skills he once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your local public school. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO

What Most Children Do at this Age:

Social/Emotional

  • Forms and maintain friendships
  • Feels accepted by peers
  • Brings friends home to play and is invited to friends’ homes to play
  • Learns self-restraint
  • Copes with teasing or taunting, sticks up for himself or herself
  • Develops the ability to be empathetic
  • Develops feelings of self-esteem (positive and negative)
  • Feels good about their abilities
  • Shows ability to bounce back from disappointments
  • Learns from mistakes and tries again
  • Shares and takes turns
  • Shares feelings and experiences with family members
  • Follows family rules, helps with simple chores

Language/Communication

  • Gains the ability to use humor
  • Begins to learn respect
  • Initiates own ideas and actions
  • Masters skills for success in school (sorting, counting, language)
  • Increases vocabulary

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Develops the ability to understand the needs and rights of others, respects others’ feelings
  • Develops ability to resolve conflict by talking, not fighting
  • Readiness and interest to learn
  • Works hard to learn new skills, and shows pride in showing them off
  • Expresses uniqueness in personality, relating to others, management experiences
  • Has internal control over behaviors, emotions and impulses
  • Becomes independent in decision making
  • Shows awareness in good and bad decisions (conscience)

Movement/Physical Development

  • Notices and cares about body image, feels good about their appearance
  • Learns to care for their body (grooming, bathing, dressing, eating healthy, being active)
  • Has energy
  • Takes pride in learning and mastering new physical skills
  • Shows increase in muscle strength, motor skills and stamina
  • Is aware of and wants to participate in physical activity
  • Develops a sense of responsibility for own health
  • Has positive role models for physical activity

Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor if Your Child:

  • Doesn’t show the ability or interest in developing successful friendships
  • Does not have friends or playmates
  • Is not willing to share and take turns
  • Acts nervous or shy around others, or chooses to be alone
  • Feels pressured to do things he or she would rather not do
  • Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad, violent behavior, bullying)
  • Says negative things about self or others often
  • Is distracted by violent media (TV, Computer/Video games, Movies)
  • Is unusually withdrawn and not active
  • Is silent or unwilling to share feelings with family, does not want to join in family activities
  • Often stays in their room, seems sad or sullen
  • Refuses family rules and chores
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Has trouble adjusting to school (or performs poorly in school)
  • Shows signs of mood problems (Anxiety, school refusal, complaints, depressive or bipolar disorders)
  • Wets the bed
  • Has trouble sleeping or wants to sleep too much
  • Lacks interest or ability to maintain hygiene (brushing teeth, bathing, dressing)
  • Shows signs of early sexual development
  • Uses food to self soothe
  • Has a distorted body image
  • Returns to baby-like behaviors
  • Lacks basic skills or abilities
  • Has health problems
  • Experiences motor skill or developmental delays
  • Lacks friends or siblings to be physically active with
  • Lacks participation in physical activity
  • Does not enjoy physical activity
  • Is shy or afraid of physical activity
  • Is embarrassed about appearance
  • Shows a lack of coordination
  • Is more interested in inactive behaviors (watching TV and movies, playing video/computer games)

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your local public school. For more information, go to brightfutures.aap.org or call 847-434-4000.

Dev Screening Checklist

Developmental Milestone Checklist

Here’s a checklist you can use to track your child’s development. Print it out and bring it with you to their next doctor’s visit or teacher’s conference. Please note that these checklists are not a substitute for standardized, validated developmental screening tools.

Sample PEDS Test

If your child’s physician is using PEDS, you might expect to be asked the following type of questions at your child’s next well-visit:

Do you have any concerns about how your child...

  • Talks and makes speech sounds?
  • Understands what you say?
  • Uses his or her hands and fingers to do things?
  • Uses his or her arms and legs?
  • Behaves?
  • Gets along with others?
  • Is learning to do things for himself/herself?
  • Is learning preschool or school skills?

Your child’s pediatrician or family practitioner must be signed up for PEDS in order for your child to be screened. There are validated instruments for developmental screening, such as PEDS, and other non-validated instruments. It is important that you ask your child’s pediatrician what type, if any, tool they are using to screen your child.

Developmental Milestone Videos

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Dev Screening Schedule

Developmental Screening Schedule

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get screened at 9, 18, 24, 30 months and every year thereafter.

And remember, ACT EARLY any time you have concerns. Don’t wait. You know your child best. Developmental screening brings peace of mind. Even if something is wrong, the earlier you know, the sooner you can get help. Dial 2-1-1 for Help Me Grow to locate screening services.

Help Me Grow 2-1-1