Early Childhood
Developmental Milestones

by Pat Simms-Elias

A baby is born. You gaze at his beautiful face, kiss her downy soft little head and count fingers and toes. Your child continues to steadily grow and develop, achieving important milestones along the way. The first smile, the first steps, the first words are all important developmental milestones a child reaches as they grow.
A child speaks, plays, moves, learns and behaves certain ways at certain ages. No two children are alike and each will develop at their own pace, but if a child does not reach typical milestones, it is known as a developmental delay. The earlier a delay is discovered, the sooner intervention can be started in order to help the child reach full potential.

Many mothers of developmentally delayed children report they instinctively knew there was something different about their child but were often told, "don't worry, they’ll grow out of it." Unfortunately too many precious windows of opportunity have been closed while waiting for the child to "grow out of it."

To address this issue, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has launched a campaign called ‘Learn the Signs. Act Early’. They are asking physicians, educators, parents, grandparents and anyone else that cares for young children to learn how to identify atyptical development so help can be offered as soon as possible.

As an Early Interventionist (a special education teacher that works with very young special needs children), I witness daily just how important it is to begin helping a child and family earlier than later. A child that is not able to communicate becomes frustrated, which can lead to a multitude of behavior problems, affecting all family members involved.

We measure our children’s growth by keeping track of their height and weight, but we can also measure many other areas of development as well. Communication, Gross Motor (large muscle), Fine Motor (small muscle), Cognitive (thinking), Social/Emotional and Self-Help (eating, dressing, grooming, etc.) skills can be measured as well.

Visit the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) for detailed descriptions of a child's development in all domains of development, from 7 months to 5 years. It offers a multitude of information about typical development, what to do if you’re concerned about your child’s development, what a developmental screening is, why it’s important, who to contact if you think your child has a delay and how you can help your child.

The following is an abridged version of a developmental milestone chart to give a general idea of some age-appropriate abilities.

3 Months
•Begins recognizing your face and voice and smiling back at you
•Follows you and moving objects with their eyes
•Is interested in own hands and uses them to reach, grasp, bring to mouth, swat and shake objects
•Can support own head
•Responds to sounds and turns towards them
•Babbles and imitates some sounds
•Pushes legs down when held in a standing position

7 Months
•Responds to facial expressions, tone of voice, and own name
•Able to track with eyes better and farther
•Babbles chains of sounds
•Expresses pleasure and displeasure
•Rolls and
•Sits using hands for support
•Transfers objects hand to hand

1 Year
•Cries when parents leave, fearful with strangers
•Says “dada” and “mama”
•Imitates some gestures and words
•Creeps on hands and knees, pulls self to stand, cruises furniture, stands briefly without support and may take two or three steps independently
•Has preferences and expresses them by shaking head no
•Finger feeds self, uses a pincer (2 finger) grasp
•Understands a few simple requests

2 Years
•Walks & begins to run
•Climbs on furniture and up stairs one-step at a time
•Uses at least 15 words & 2-4 word sentences
•Imitates actions and words
•Feeling more independent & defiant
•Follows simple instructions
•Scribbles, uses a shape sorter, begins make-believe play

3 Years
•Runs easily, climbs stairs alternating feet, pedals tricycle
•Uses 4 to 5 word sentences and can be understood by everyone
•Follows directions with 2 and 3 parts to it
•Names objects and pictures
•Tells name, age and sex
•Pretend plays with dolls, animals and people
•Expresses a wide range of emotions and affection to family & friends

4 Years
•Jumps in place, hops & stands on one foot briefly, throws overhand, catches bounced ball
•Can relate experiences, converse briefly, recall parts of a story
•Names colors, counts, understands concept of same & different
•Draws a person with 2-4 body parts and begins to copy some shapes and capital letters
•Dresses, undresses and toilets independently.
•Participates in interactive games
•Uses scissors

5 Years
•Swings, hops, somersaults, climbs
•Tells longer stories using future and past tenses
•Counts 10 or more objects
•Wants to please friends & be like friends
•Prints some letters

from the March-April 2006 issue