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Key child development milestones

Every child is different, and your parenting experience will be too. Babies and children develop at their own pace – there’s no set time by which they’ll learn a specific skill. But it can be useful to look at common baby developmental milestones to get a general sense of what you should be looking out for and when.

Key child development milestones

The baby stage: 0-12 months

The first year of your baby’s life is filled with awe and wonder. Here’s a look at some of the typical milestones they’ll reach during that first year.

At 2 months

Your baby will begin to smile at people, bring their hands to their mouth and suck on them, make cooing noises, turn their head towards sounds, start to follow things with their eyes, recognise people at a distance, hold their head up and, begin to push themselves around when on their tummy.

At 4 months

Your baby will watch faces closely, copy some facial expressions, begin to babble and copy sounds, cry in different ways to indicate that they are hungry, tired or in pain, respond to affection, reach for a toy with one hand, follow moving objects with their eyes, push up onto their elbows when they’re on their tummy and, possibly roll from their tummy to their back.

At 6 months

Your baby will know if faces are familiar or stranger, respond to emotions, enjoy looking at themselves in a mirror, respond to their name, show curiosity and motivation to get things that are out of reach, roll over in both directions (tummy to back and back to tummy), begin to sit without support and, pass items from hand to hand.

At 1 year

Your baby will have favourite people, sometimes cry when you leave and be nervous with strangers, repeat sounds or actions for attention, put out their limbs to help you dress them, play games like peek-a-boo, hand you a book for you to read to them, copy words you say, use simple gestures like shaking their head or waving, find hidden things, start to use objects for their intended purpose eg. brushing their hair or drinking from a cup, move things in and out of containers, follow simple directions like ‘pick up the toy’ and, possibly stand up alone or take independent steps.

The toddler stage: 1-2 years

Your baby is growing fast and developing their own unique personality! Commonly from this stage in baby development, naps start reducing as they have more stable nighttime sleep and don’t need quite as many additional snoozes.

At 18 months

Your toddler will show affection to familiar people, sometimes cling to caregivers in unfamiliar situations, point to show others something of interest, pretend to feed a dolly or animal toy, say several single words, scribble with pencils, follow single-step commands like ‘sit down’, pull toys while walking, help to undress themselves, drink from a cup and use a spoon to eat with.

At 2 years

Your toddler will copy others, get excited when they’re with other children, start to show some defiant behaviour, point to things you name and be able to name familiar items and people, say sentences with two to four words, point to things in books, begin to sort shapes and colours, play make-believe games, build a tower of four or more blocks, throw a ball with an overarm movement, make or copy lines and circles when drawing, kick a ball, start to run and, follow two-step instructions.

 

The preschool stage: 3-4 years

The new skills they are developing at this age are preparing your child for preschool and beyond! The baby development hasn’t stopped just because your toddler can walk and talk, they continue to grow and learn well into their preschool years.

At 3 years

Your child will climb and run easily, pedal a tricycle, walk up and down steps with one foot per step, play elaborate make-believe games, complete puzzles with three or more pieces, turn the pages of books one at a time, operate toys with switches and buttons, stack blocks higher, follow two- or three-step instructions, talk well enough to be understood by strangers, be able to state their own name and age, imitate others, show affection without prompting, take turns during games, stick with an activity for at least five minutes and, understand the concept of ‘mine’ and ‘theirs’.

 

At 4 years

Your child will enjoy playing with other children, hop on one foot, catch a bounced ball, name some colours and numbers, draw people with two or more body parts, use scissors, start to understand the concept of time, begin to copy letters, predict what is going to happen next in a story, understand some basic grammar such as when to use ‘he’ and ‘she’, sing a song from memory, be able to state their first and last name, start to understand danger and stay away from dangerous things, show concern for someone who is hurt or upset, love silly jokes, stay with an activity for at least 10 minutes, begin to control their feelings of frustration.

There are no hard and fast timings for baby development milestones

As a parent, it’s natural to want reassurance that your child is on track. While we hope this baby development guide gives a useful insight into the general pattern you might expect your child’s development to follow, it’s important to remember that this ‘timeline’ will not be the same across all children as every child is unique.

Your child may reach some milestones early and others later than suggested here, and that’s perfectly normal. If you have any worries that your child isn’t hitting their developmental milestones please talk to their key person, your health visitor or doctor.

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