Watching your child grow from infancy to adulthood is an experience like no other. From learning to crawl to learning to walk to learning to drive, children go through a developmental journey that is as scientifically complex as it is unique to each individual. Each child will learn and grow at their own pace, responding to the world around them and learning from you, other adult figures in their life and peers of similar age. Understanding this process can be challenging, but it can help you determine how your child is growing and what support you can give them. Here’s some of what you can expect from your child’s development, though again, because each child is different, these milestones may not necessarily happen at the exact time you expect them.
Babies grow dramatically in their first 18 months of life. Over the course of their first 18 months of life, babies begin to develop their basic cognitive, language, social/emotional and physical abilities. During this early period of life, it’s good to start speaking to your baby so they will learn vocal skills and recognize your voice. It’s also a good idea to give them short periods of “tummy time”, or letting them play on their bellies, to help strengthen their neck and back muscles and learn to lift their heads. Some skill milestones for this age range are as follows, and are likely to develop in the order listed, but may not necessarily.
- Showing interest in faces and familiar objects
- Recognizing faces, listening to familiar sounds like music and responding to affection
- Using their hands to move things around or bring things to their mouth
- Observing the locations of things and beginning to understand object permanence (the fact that an object still exists even if the baby can’t see it).
- Cooing and making other basic sounds, calming when spoken to, crying differently for different needs
- Babbling and imitating sounds, laughing
- Responding to their name, making more complex sounds that include consonants and vowels, gesture communication
- Pointing, knowing the meaning of “no”, imitating gestures and sounds
- Looking around at you and other people, smiling
- Facial expression responsiveness, enjoyment of play, responding to different tones of voice
- Enjoying mirrors
- Preferring certain people, acting clingy, knowing when a stranger is present
- Playing simple games, having tantrums
- Turning in the direction of a sound, following people or objects with their eyes, lifting head for longer periods of time
- Seeing and reaching for things, pushing up with their arms when on their belly, rolling over
- Sitting up without support, bouncing when being held up in a standing position, rolling in both directions
- Pulling up into a standing position, crawling
- Walks with support (cruising), standing alone, climbing up a step, drinking from a cup
18 Months-3 Years
These next 18 months of toddlerhood are a transitional time in which children have gained most of their basic abilities and are now able to explore, express themselves in more detail and make increasingly complex decisions. They’ll start learning how to process the world around them and exhibiting personal likes and dislikes. They’ll touch and feel things to understand them better.
It’s during this time that you should begin to create a safe space for your child to explore and learn, toddler-proofing areas that are dangerous to them and creating schedules and routines so your child becomes accustomed to the normal flow of life and passage of time. This is a great time for you to play, communicate, sing and read with your child and begin to use gentle discipline to keep them safe and aware of right and wrong actions. You should also do your best to take care of yourself during this time, as well, since raising a toddler comes with a new, yet rewarding set of challenges. Here are some of the milestones that a toddler is likely to reach during this time.
- Identifying familiar objects and images and knowing their functions, scribbling, understanding basic requests like “stand up”
- Playing with more complex toys (like building things out of blocks), following simple two-step directions, grouping similar items together, playing more types of games
- Knowing several words and their meaning, following simple instructions, liking hearing short stories and songs
- Saying simple sentences and questions, naming things, using others’ names to identify them
- Helping with tasks like putting away toys, acting proud of accomplishments, recognizing themself in a mirror (may make faces), exploring surroundings
- Enjoying playtime with other toddlers, disobeying simple instructions
- Assisting with personal dressing, running, drinking from a cup and eating with utensils, dancing, sitting down
- Jumping up and down, standing on tip-toes, drawing lines and basic shapes, throwing balls and other toys, climbing stairs with railings
During these two years, children usually begin to exhibit many more personality traits and start becoming more independent. They may start learning the basics of reading, writing and social cues, and they may have close friends and favorite places to be.
This is a great time for you to begin doing regular day-to-day activities and chores with your child. This can include daily reading time, problem-solving, supervised play in outdoor spaces and on playgrounds, and maybe introducing new forms of movement, like dancing or swimming. Children start making independent choices about what activities they want to do and what they want to wear. It’s important to be a clear and consistent communicator during this time, speaking in age-appropriate language and being firm but gentle.
Here are some milestones children may reach during this time:
- Putting together simple puzzles, using more complex toys with buttons and levers, turning knobs and book pages
- Counting, drawing stick figures, remembering or predicting the events of a story, playing simple board games, naming colors and numbers and letters
- Drawing more complex shapes and scenes, counting to 10, copying letters and numbers, understanding simple processes, saying name and address
- Using 2-3 sentences at a time to communicate, naming many daily objects and activities, can be understood by family, understanding directional terms like “in” and “under”
- Speaking in more clear and complex conversations, talking about events of the day, saying first and last name
- Telling stories that make sense, reciting favorite rhymes and songs, naming more advanced letters and numbers, answering questions about stories
- Showing empathy, offering affection, understanding the concepts of possession and ownership, expressing frustration about change, getting dressed independently, taking “their turn”
- Playing games with “parent” and “child” roles, playing more complex games with other children, talking about likes and dislikes, advanced pretending and imagining
- Awareness of gender, more active participation in games, switching between obedience and disobedience, knowing the difference between reality and fantasy
- Walking up and down stairs, easily running and jumping, catching, using playground equipment like slides and swings
- Walking backwards, hammering pegs into holes, climbing confidently, pouring liquids with help
- Doing somersaults and other complex movements, using scissors and other tools with supervision, using the toilet
These three years will present their own challenges as a child begins school for the first time, makes their first close friends, displays more personality and independence and gets involved in extracurricular activities. Children’s self-confidence grows, as do their needs for affection, support and socialization.
This may be a difficult time for you as you learn what boundaries work best for your child, how to properly discipline and keep your child safe and how to allow them the independence they seek. However, the role of the parent is still essential in creating set schedules and encouraging the growth of healthy habits like eating, bathing and tooth-brushing. Ensure that your children are getting enough sleep, finding quiet spaces for learning and studying, getting active and building relationships, taking part in family traditions and learning how to be physically safe around others.
Some milestones that children are likely to reach at these ages are:
- Completing most several-step instructions
- More advanced awareness of mathematics, ranging from an ability to count backward to basic arithmetic
- Knowing directions like left and right
- Telling time
- Learning to read at varying degrees
- Understanding words, sentences and more complex speech
- Practicing cooperation and playing well with others
- Mimicking adult behaviors
- Feeling more complex emotions like jealousy and victory
- May be physically modest
- Playing with children of opposite genders
- Able to jump rope and ride a bike
- Drawing or painting at an increasingly advanced level (this is a time in which children’s physical and mental talents may begin to become more evident)
- Doing basic grooming tasks independently, like combing hair and brushing teeth
- Practicing physical skills that they enjoy
As children get older, they usually become far more aware of their surroundings, of social cues and of things they view to be comfortable, uncomfortable, challenging and safe. They may mimic many of the behaviors they learn from peers and adults, which will also begin to reveal what they’re good at, how they think and feel and if they are in need of additional support in one area or another.
It’s important as a parent to allow your child the space to grow and make their own choices, while also being able to help them adapt and learn from the consequences of their actions. Important choices will start to arise, such as who they are allowed to spend time with, what activities they are allowed to do and when (such as managing screen and internet time) and how to set priorities.
Remember, too, that it’s normal for children to reach the milestones listed above at different times. Taking them to routine physicals at their pediatrician can help you determine if you may want to make some changes to help your child grow up well. At Community Access Network, we’re here to serve those needs and more, so contact us today to set up your next appointment!