Child Developmental Stages



Babyhood and toddlerhood are important periods of growth and learning for your child. As your baby grows you will notice social, communicative, emotional, cognitive, and motor changes. The list below is a general outline of the average developmental milestones we look for at each age from two months to five years. 


This list is by no means exhaustive. It is important to remember that each child progresses at their own pace, and that you should discuss any concerns about your child's development with your child's provider. 


Please reference our "Development FAQs" at the end of this section for answers to common questions. 


Child Developmental Milestones (Birth-5 years)

2 months: 

  • Be sure to visit our Newborn Page

  • Social reciprocity and communication (smiles, coos, gurgles, turns to sounds, briefly calms/self-regulates [i.e. puts hands in mouth to stop crying], prefers looking at parent)

  • Cognitive (pays more attention to faces than to inanimate objects, begins to recognize familiar people at a distance, emergence of tracking objects with eyes, acts bored [gets fussy, etc] when not stimulated)

  • Motor Development (head control while on tummy, coordination of movements with arms and legs)

  • AAP Bright Futures 2 Month Handout

4 months: 

  • Social and communication (smiles at people and faces, emergence of babbling, enjoys interaction with people and may cry when not interacting)

  • Cognitive (studies faces, reaches for toy, tracks object with eyes moving side to side, responds to affection)

  • Motor (brings hands to mouth, discovers feet and toes, stabilizes head unaided, holds a toy, may roll from tummy to back, pushes up on elbows when lying on stomach)

  • AAP Bright Futures 4 Month Handout

  • Be sure to visit our Newborn Page

6 months: 

  • Social and communication (enjoys looking at reflection in mirror, recognizes familiar faces, enjoys play, responds to sounds by babbling, begins to respond to own name, makes sounds of joy or displeasure)

  • Cognitive (passes objects from one hand to the other, demonstrates curiosity, reaches for objects out of reach, brings things to mouth)

  • Motor (rolls from front to back and back to front, emergence of sitting unsupported, when in "standing" position supports weight on legs and begins to demonstate bouncing)

  • AAP Bright Futures 6 Month Handout

9 months

  • Social and communication (may demonstrate fear of strangers, "clingy" to familiar adults, has favorite toys, understands "no," copies sounds and gestures) 

  • Cognitive (plays peek-a-boo, looks for objects he/she sees you hide, follows something as it falls down, smoothly moves objects from hand to hand, puts objects in mouth)

  • Motor (stands supported, crawls, sits without support, gets to sitting position completely unassisted, pulls to stand)

  • AAP Bright Futures 9 Month Handout

12 months

  • Social and communication (shows fear in some situations [i.e. when with strangers, when mom/dad leaves], hands you a book to hear a story, repeats sounds, begins to assist with dressing, says "mama," "dada," and may say expressions such as "uh-oh," waves "bye-bye," makes sounds with change in tone (beginning to mimick actual speech), plays reciprocal games including peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, etc.)

  • Cognitive (explores objects by throwing, shaking, banging etc., finds or attempts to find hidden objects, copies gestures, starts to use objects correctly [i.e. drinking from a cup, brushing hair], follows simple directions [pick that up, sit down])

  • Motor (table walking or cruising [holds onto the table and walks supported], may stand and take steps alone)

  • AAP Bright Futures 12 Month Handout

  • Be sure to visit our Toddler Page


15 months

  • Social and communication (5-10 words, may experience frustration, begins to point to body parts, understands simple commands [bring me that toy], indicates desire for something by pointing, etc., scribbles)

  • Cognitive (interested in social interaction [may want to sit at table instead of highchair], understands use of more objects [pretend play with telephone, brushing teeth, pushing vacuum cleaner], recognizes self in mirror)

  • Motor (walks unassisted, will begin to crawl up stairs or steps)

  • AAP Bright Futures 15 Month Handout 

  • Be sure to visit our Toddler Page

18 months 

  • Social and communication (hands objects to others for play, shows affection to stangers, may begin to have temper tantrums, plays pretend [feeds a doll, etc], begins to explore alone with parent closeby, vocabulary expands, says or demonstrates "no," points to interesting objects)

  • Cognitive (understands use of ordinary objects, points to indicate want, shows interest in pretending, helps undress himself)

  • Motor (eats with spoon, drinks out of cup, walks unaided, may walk up steps)

  • AAP Bright Futures 18 Month Handout

  • Be sure to visit our Toddler Page

2 years

  • Social and communication (copies others, gets excited with other children, demonstrates more independence, emergence of reciprocal play with other children such as chase games, may show defiant behaviors, points appropriately to pictures in a book, begins to say 2-4 word sentences, knows names of familiar people, knows body parts, repeats words)

  • Cognitive (begins to sort objects by shape and color, builds towers with blocks, completes sentences or favorite rhymes, plays make believe, earliest emergence of hand preference, may name common pictures in books like cat, dog)

  • Motor (kicks a ball, stands on tiptoes, begins to run, walks up and down steps holding on, scribbles straight lines/circles, throws ball over head, jumps)

  • AAP Bright Futures 2 Year Old Handout 

  • Be sure to visit our Toddler Page

3 years

  • Social and communication (takes turns, copies adults, shows affection without prompting, shows concern for crying friend, dresses and undresses self, displays wide range of emotions, separates easily from mom and dad, understands concepts of "mine," "yours," "his," etc., follows 2-3 step instructions, names familiar objects, speech becomes more clear, strings together short sentences)

  • Cognitive (plays with puzzles, names some colors, works toys with moving parts, plays make believe, basic understanding of math concepts emerges [i.e. understands "two," "more"], turns pages in books, potty trained)

  • Motor (climbs well, runs easily, pedals tricycle, walks up and down steps with one foot per step)

  • AAP Bright Futures 3 Year Old Handout 

  • Be sure to visit our Toddler Page 

4 years

  • Social and communication (enjoys new things, would rather play with other children than alone, cooperates with other children, more creative in imaginative play, has a hard time distinguishing the real from the imaginary, talks about likes and dislikes, can say first and last name, tells stories, sings nursery or familiar songs, uses "he" and "she" correctly)

  • Cognitive (begins to understand counting, emergence of understanding of time, draws a person, starts to understand "same" or "different," uses scissors)

  • Motor (hops, stands on one foot for short amount of time, catches a bounced ball, can pour and mash own food)

  • AAP Bright Futures 4 Year Old Handout

  • Be sure to visit our Toddler Page


5 years 

  • Social and communication (wants to please or imitate friends, likes to sing/dance, shows concern and empathy for others, aware of gender, can be very cooperative, understanding of real vs. make believe, shows more independence, speaks with clarity, tells stories with complete sentences, says name, age, and address, can speak of the future [i.e. "I will go to school"]) 

  • Cognitive (counting to 10 or more, ABCs, draws complete person, copies or traces shapes, some letters, and numbers, knowledge of everyday objects like food, animals, and money, etc.) 

  • Motor (skips, hops well, walks like a duck, walks on heels and tiptoes well, climbs, swings, may do a somersault)

  • AAP Bright Futures 5 Year Old Handout 

  • Be sure to visit our School-Aged Page








What do I do if I have questions about my child's development? 

It is important to remember to discuss any questions, concerns, or observations about your child's development with your provider. Developmental surveillance and assessment is an integral aspect of each well-child exam. This is an important opportunity for you to discuss any concerns. These developmental milestones are a general overview of what we expect to see at each age. Children progress at different rates and may follow their own pattern of development. It is important to assess and monitor each child's development as a whole including social, communication, cognitive, and motor growth. Careful surveillance and help from your child's clinician will determine whether your child may benefit from early developmental intervention services. This might include physical, occupational, speech or other therapies. Early identification of developmental patterns is important because, if needed, it opens the door for early intervention. 



I am concerned about autism. What signs and symptoms should I look for?

Autism is diagnosed based on developmental patterns and symptoms we observe. Sometimes, children will develop normally and then experience a regression at around 18-24 months of age. Usually, we first begin to notice the absence of normal developmental milestones, before abnormal behaviors (hand flappng, rigidity, head-banging, etc.) become more apparent. Autism is often diagnosed at 24 months or later, but the earlier a diagnosis can be made, the earlier services can be started. Developmental surveillance is important at every age, as is discussing any concerns you may have with your child's provider. 


I have concerns about my child's development. What should I do? 

We are here to partner with you in assessing and supporting your child's full health and growth, including all aspects of development. Please mention your concerns to your child's provider at your child's next physical. If you have concerns and your child is not scheduled for a physical in the near future, please consider scheduling a consult appointment with your child's clinician to review your concerns and provide assessment or suggestions. A sick appointment may not provide sufficient time to review your concerns with the attention they deserve.



What resources do you recommend for additional information about development? 

The best resource is speaking with your child's clinician.

Additionally, our Toddler Page, and later, School Age Page provide further discussion and resources for healthy development. 


Here are some helpful resources for early-identification of autism:

Kennedy Kreiger Institute Early Signs of Autism Tutorial Video


Recognizing autism in early childhood development: signs every parent needs to know


Does your baby have autism? By Osnat and Philip Teitelbaum


Read our Autism Section here.






Development FAQs