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What Are Developmental Milestones in Children? - Table, Definition & Examples

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gary Gilles

Gary has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and has been teaching and developing courses in higher education since 1988.

Developmental milestones are an important way for anyone working with children to measure their developmental progress in several important areas. Learn four key areas to assess, the main milestones from three months of age to five years and test your knowledge with quiz questions.

What Are Developmental Milestones?

Developmental milestones act as checkpoints in a child's development to determine what the average child is able to do at a particular age. Knowing the developmental milestones for different ages helps parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals understand normal child development and also aids in identifying potential problems with delayed development.

For example, a child who is 12 months old typically can stand and support his or her weight by holding on to something. Some children at this age can even walk. If a child reaches 18 months of age but still cannot walk, it might indicate a problem that needs further investigation.

Types of Developmental Milestones

Child development experts look at four categories of developmental milestones:

First, there are physical milestones. The physical milestones pertain to the development of both the large and fine motor skills. The large-motor skills are typically the first to develop in young children and are used in sitting, turning over, crawling, standing, and walking. The fine motor skills develop later and require greater precision for tasks such as using an eating utensil, drawing with a crayon, and picking up small or delicate objects.

Second, there are cognitive or mental milestones, which we'll simply call cognitive milestones. Cognitive milestones refer to the child's developmental abilities to think, learn, and solve problems. A two-year-old being able to point at pictures in a book and give them the correct names and a four-year-old being able to do basic counting are examples of cognitive milestones.

Third, there are social and emotional milestones. Social and emotional milestones pertain to the child's ability to express their own emotion and respond to the social interaction they have with other people. For example, a six-month-old child should begin to recognize familiar faces, while a two-year-old is moving from playing alone to showing interest in playing with other children.

Finally, there are communication and language milestones. Communication and language milestones refer to a child's developing verbal and nonverbal communication skills. For example, a one-year-old is typically learning how to say single words, while a five-year-old can speak in complete sentences and even tell simple stories.

Here are some of the more important developmental milestones from three months of age to five years.

By three months old, a child...

  • Follows a moving object or person with his eyes,
  • Turns toward the sound of a person's voice, and
  • Makes cooing, gurgling sounds.

By six months old, a child...

  • Reaches for and grasps objects,
  • Rolls over, and
  • Recognizes familiar faces.

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