The early years of your child’s life are critical to their overall development. While all children grow and develop at their own pace and in their own way, there are some basic time frames when certain developmental skills should be achieved.
To be the best advocate for your child at all stages of their growth, you must know what to expect. Keep reading to learn more about developmental milestones and how you can support your children toward healthy development.
Understanding Developmental Milestones
While learning how to smile and say “bye-bye” may seem like cute, photo-worthy memories, they’re also key developmental milestones. From birth to 5 years, your child will hit hundreds of landmarks as they grow and advance.
Although they may do it at their own pace, general developmental milestones can give parents and caregivers a better understanding of what to expect as their child ages.Explore CDC Developmental Milestones
4 Domains of Development
Each milestone falls under a specific “domain” or area of development. The four common domains of healthy childhood development are physical, cognitive, speech and socioemotional.
Click on each domain to learn more.
Physical refers to developing the 5 senses, physical growth like height and weight and building motor skills. In childhood development, there are two types of motor skills: gross and fine.
- Gross motor skills: Involve large muscle movements, like sitting on one’s own or walking.
- Fine motor skills: Involve using smaller muscle movements to do daily tasks, like fingers grasping food or turning a door knob.
Cognitive refers to the ability to think about and process information. There are four main stages of cognitive development in children:
- Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years): Perceiving the world via sensory, like laughing or reaching for things.
- Preoperational stage (2-6 years): Beginning to incorporate language without logical reasoning.
- Concrete operational stage (7-11 years): Takes things more literally and at face value.
- Formal operational stage (12+): Can think and understand abstract thoughts, like hypotheticals.
Communicative refers to the ability to comprehend and use language. Some scientists believe it to be the most powerful skill. The four main aspects of language development include:
- Phonology: Turning sounds into words
- Syntax: Putting words into correct sentences
- Semantics: Creating meaning with sentences
- Pragmatics: Applying language to conversation
Socioemotional refers to the ability to regulate one’s emotions and read social cues. Some parents may be surprised to find out that most children can’t fully regulate their emotions or follow rules until around age 4.
Here are a few other socioemotional milestones:
- By 6 mo: Reacting and mimicking facial expressions
- By 1: Clear preferences and recognition of familiar vs. unfamiliar
- By 2: Engaging in parallel play with other children
- By 3: The awareness of self should have begun to form, and an ability to express feelings.
- By 4: Ability to follow rules and regulate emotions.
What To Do If You’re Concerned
Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about your child’s development. He or she will support you in your next steps, like getting a formal evaluation or screening.
You can also reach out to your provider, 1-800-CHILDREN or a school district to discuss your options, like completing the Ages & Stages Questionnaire. These are tools that help providers and educators evaluate developmental and social-emotional skills in children, and can give you insight on your child’s progress.
Parenting With Developmental Milestones in Mind
As a parent, you’re your child’s first teacher.
In each household, parenting can (and should) look different across diverse communities and backgrounds. Science has shown that there are a few positive parenting practices that work well in nearly every household to support healthy development:
- Responding predictably to your children
- Showing warmth and sensitivity
- Maintaining routines
- Setting reasonable household rules
- Reading and talking to your children
- Prioritizing health and safety
- Using appropriate discipline without harshness
By implementing these practices into your every day routine, you can help raise happy, healthy, and safe children ready to tackle all developmental stages and milestones.
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