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developmental milestones for children

How your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves all offer important clues about your child’s development. 

Developmental milestones are things most children (75% or more) can do by a certain age. 

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These guidelines for specific ages were developed by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help you assess how your child is developing, learn how you can help and know when to seek professional assessment. 

You might find CDC’s Milestone Tracker App | CDC helpful too.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or provider has a concern. Ask your child's doctor about your child's developmental screening. 

 

If you are concerned about your child’s development, contact the Child Development Center, which offers screening and support services throughout Western Montana.  Reach them by telephone at 406.549.6413 or 1.800.914.4779, or online at childdevcenter.org

2 MONTHS

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Calms down when spoken to or picked up.

  • Looks at your face 

  • Seems happy to see you when you walk up to them 

  • Smiles when you talk to or smile at them  

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Language & Communication

  • Makes sounds other than crying 

  • Reacts to loud sounds 

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Cognitive

  • Watches you move

  • Looks at a toy for several seconds 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Holds head up when on tummy

  • Moves both arms and both legs 

  • Opens hands briefly 

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4 MONTHS

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Smiles on their own to get your attention.  

  • Chuckles (not yet a full laugh) when you try to get them to laugh.  

  • Looks at you, moves, or makes sounds to get or keep your attention. 

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Language & Communication

  • Makes sounds like “oooo” and “aahh” (cooing). 

  • Makes sounds back when you talk to them. 

  • Turns head towards the sound of your voice. 

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Cognitive

  • If hungry, opens mouth when they see breast or bottle 

  • Looks at their hands with interest 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Holds head steady without support when being held 

  • Holds a toy when placed in their hand 

  • Uses arm to swing at toys 

  • Brings hands to mouth 

  • Pushes up onto elbows/forearms when on tummy 

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6 MONTHS

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Knows familiar people 

  • Likes to look at self in a mirror 

  • Laughs 

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Language & Communication

  • Takes turns making sounds with you 

  • Blows “raspberries” (sticks tongue out and blows) 

  • Makes squealing noises 

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Cognitive

  • Puts things in her mouth to explore them 

  • Reaches to grab a toy that is wanted 

  • Closes lips to show that no more food is wanted 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Rolls from tummy to back 

  • Pushes up with straight arms when on tummy 

  • Leans on hands to support himself when sitting 

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9 MONTHS

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • May be shy, clingy, or afraid of strangers. 

  • Shows several facial expressions, like happy, sad, angry, and surprised 

  • Looks when you call their name 

  • Reacts when you leave (looks, reaches for you, or cries) 

  • Smiles or laughs when you play peek-a-boo 

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Language & Communication

  • Makes a lot of different sounds like "mamamama" and "bababababa." 

  • Lifts arms up to be picked up 

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Cognitive

  • Looks for objects when dropped out of sight (like their spoon or toy) 

  • Bangs two things together 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Can get into sitting position without assistance. 

  • Sits without support. ​

  • Moves things from one hand to their other hand 

  • Uses fingers to “rake” food towards self 

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1 YEAR

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Plays games with you, like pat-a-cake 

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Language & Communication

  • Waves “bye-bye” 

  • Calls a parent “mama” or “dada” or another special name 

  • Understands “no” (pauses briefly or stops when you say it) 

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Cognitive

  • Puts something in a container, like a block in a cup 

  • Looks for things they see you hide, like a toy under a blanket 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Pulls up to stand 

  • Walks, holding on to furniture 

  • Drinks from a cup without a lid, as you hold it 

  • Picks things up between thumb and pointer finger, like small bits of food 

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15 MONTHS

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Copies other children while playing, like taking toys out of a container when another child does 

  • Shows you an object they like 

  • Claps when excited 

  • Hugs stuffed doll or other toy 

  • Shows you affection (hugs, cuddles, or kisses you) 

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Language & Communication

  • Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada,” like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog 

  • Looks at a familiar object when you name it 

  • Follows directions given with both a gesture and words. For example,  gives you a toy when you hold out your hand and say, “Give me the toy.” 

  • Points to ask for something or to get help 

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Cognitive

  • Tries to use things the right way, like a phone, cup, or book 

  • Stacks at least two small objects, like blocks 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Takes a few steps on independently 

  • Uses fingers to feed self some food 

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18 MONTHS

What most babies do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Moves away from you, but looks to make sure you are close by 

  • Puts hands out for you to wash them. 

  • Looks at a few pages in a book with you. 

  • Helps you dress them by pushing arm through sleeve or lifting foot. 

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Language & Communication

  • Tries to say three or more words besides “mama” or “dada” 

  • Follows one-step directions without any gestures, like giving you the toy when you say “Give it to me.”  

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Cognitive

  • Copies you doing chores, like sweeping with a broom. 

  • Plays with toys in a simple way, like pushing a toy car. 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Walks without holding on to anyone or anything. 

  • Drinks from a cup without a lid. May spill sometimes.

  • Feeds self with fingers 

  • Tries to use a spoon 

  • Scribbles 

  • Climbs on and off a couch or chair without help.  

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2 YEARS

What most children do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Notices when others are hurt or upset, may pause or look sad when someone is crying. 

  • Looks at your face to see how you react in a new situation.  

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Language & Communication

  • Points to things in a book when you ask, like “Where is the bear?”

  • Points to at least two body parts when you ask them to show you.

  • Says at least two words together, like “More milk.”

  • Uses more gestures than just waving and pointing, like blowing a kiss or nodding yes. 

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Cognitive

  • Holds something in one hand while using the other hand; for example, holding a container and taking off the lid. 

  • Tries to use switches, knobs, or buttons on a toy.

  • Plays with more than one toy at the same time, like putting toy food on a toy plate.

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Kicks a ball.

  • Runs.

  • Walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help.

  • Eats with a spoon. 

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30 MONTHS

What most children do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Plays next to other children and sometimes plays with them 

  • Shows you what they can do by saying, “Look at me!” 

  • Follows simple routines when told, like helping to pick up toys when you say, “It’s clean-up time.” 

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Language & Communication

  • Says about 50 words 

  • Says two or more words, with one action word, like “Doggie run” 

  • Names things in a book when you point and ask, “What is this?” 

  • Says words like “I,” “me,” or “we” 

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Cognitive

  • Uses things to pretend, like feeding a block to a doll as if it were food 

  • Shows simple problem-solving skills, like standing on a small stool to reach something 

  • Follows two-step instructions like “Put the toy down and close the door.” 

  • Shows they know at least one color, like pointing to a red crayon when you ask, “Which one is red?” 

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Uses hands to twist things, like turning doorknobs or unscrewing lids 

  • Takes some clothes off independently, like loose pants or an open jacket 

  • Jumps off the ground with both feet 

  • Turns book pages, one at a time, when you read to them 

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3 YEARS

What most children do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave them, like at a childcare drop off.  

  • Notices other children and joins them in play.

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Language & Communication

  • Talks with you in conversations using at least two back-and-forth exchanges. 

  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions, like “Where is mommy/daddy?”

  • Says what action is happening in a picture or book when asked, like “running,” “eating,” or “playing.”  

  • Talks well enough for others to understand, most of the time. 

  • Says first name, when asked. 

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Cognitive

  • Draws a circle, when you show them.

  • Avoids touching hot objects, like a stove when you warn them.

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Strings items together, like large beads or macaroni.

  • Puts on some clothes independently, like loose pants or a jacket.

  • Uses a fork.

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4 YEARS

What most children do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Pretends to be something else during play (teacher, superhero, dog).

  • Comforts others who are hurt or sad, like hugging a crying friend.

  • Avoids danger, like not jumping from tall heights at the playground.

  • Asks to go play with children if none are around, like “Can I play with Alex?”

  • Likes to be a “helper.”  

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Language & Communication

  • Says sentences with four or more words.

  • Says some words from a song, story, or nursery rhyme.

  • Talks about at least one thing that happened during their day, like “I played soccer.”

  • Answers simple questions like “What is a coat for?” or “What is a crayon for?”  

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Cognitive

  • Names a few colors of items. 

  • Tells what comes next in a well-known story.

  • Draws a person with three or more body parts.

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Catches a large ball most of the time. 

  • Serves themself food or pours water, with adult supervision.

  • Unbuttons some buttons 

  • Holds crayon or pencil between fingers and thumb (not a fist). 

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5 YEARS

What most children do by this age:

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Social & Emotional

  • Follows rules or takes turns when playing games with other children.

  • Sings, dances, or acts for you. 

  • Does simple chores at home, like matching socks or clearing the table after eating.

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Language & Communication

  • Tells a story they heard or made up with at least two events. For example, a cat was stuck in a tree and a firefighter saved it. 

  • Answers simple questions about a book or story after you read or tell it to them.

  • Uses or recognizes simple rhymes (bat-cat, ball-tall).

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Cognitive

  • Counts to 10. 

  • Names some numbers between 1 and 5 when you point to them.

  • Uses words about time, like “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” “morning,” or “night

  • Pays attention for 5 to 10 minutes during activities. For example, during story time or making arts and crafts (screen time does not count).

  • Writes some letters in their name. 

  • Names some letters when you point to them.  

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Movement & Physical Development

  • Hops on one foot.

  • Buttons some buttons. 

  • Doesn't watch things as they move. 

  • Doesn't smile at people. 

  • Can't hold head steady. 

  • Doesn't bring hands to mouth. 

  • Doesn't coo or make sounds. 

  • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions. 

Image by Bermix Studio

Act early by talking to your child's doctor if your child: 

If you're concerned, act early. 

  • Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age. 

  • For more help, contact the Child Development Center, which offers screening and support services throughout Western Montana. By telephone at 406.549.6413 or 1.800.914.4779, or online at childdevcenter.org

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or provider has a concern. Ask your child's doctor about your child's developmental screening.