Milestones of Early Childhood Development


From the day your child is born, he experiences many physical changes. During his first eight months, he learns to support his head, reach out to you, and rollover from his back to his stomach. Next, you may find him up on all fours, rocking back and forth, creeping and exploring life with his senses. Then you’ll find him sitting up for short periods, ready to start crawling.

During this time of great physical and intellectual change, you can teach your child valuable lessons about emotions and communication. As you smile, talk, sing, soothe, and cuddle, you are making an emotional and intellectual imprint on him. As you nuzzle, rock, pat, feed, change, and burp him, he is learning to piece together the puzzle of her life. Your words, gestures, feelings, and behavior all fit in certain places. They say to him, “I’m here for you. Life is a safe place. Tell me about your needs, and I’ll help you meet them. Bond with me, love, learn, grow. . .”

Watch your baby closely during this time. Notice him as he mimics your behavior and reflects your emotions to you. Openly admire him as he grows and accomplishes new things!


This is a time when your child’s physical changes will challenge you. Be ready as her behavior changes. She’ll crawl, perhaps even climb up the staircase. Or, she’ll pull himself up on her feet and begin to “cruise” or take steps between pieces of furniture. You’ll see her begin to feed herself or dress. She’ll pull and push toys and swing in rhythm to the music.

During this time, you’ll see her develop an understanding of the emotional meanings of safety and security. She’ll use this understanding of two-way communication with you. This is the time when the roots you gave her during the first year of life begin to thrive.


This is a time when your child begins to understand gestures, baby talk, real words, and shared ideas. You’ll see his budding curiosity, self will, and eagerness for approval emerge in his pretend play.

His movements will seem almost constant as he rides toys, runs, jumps, kicks, throws balls, and catches balls by wrapping his body around them.

Something as simple as a knob is exciting to the 18- to 24-month old-knobs on toys, television knobs, and gadget knobs.

By 30 months, he loves to scribble on paper, paint, build block towers, and put pegs on a board. Around this time, he may indicate that he is ready for toilet training.


Communication with your three- to a five-year-old child has progressed through many phases-from gestures, words, ideas, and emotional meanings to themes involving emotions and relationships. She is developing what is known as EQ and IQ, emotional and intellectual development.

Your child is thoroughly delightful to be with much of the time, if you are attuned to her dignity, wants, and needs. She still needs a strong sense of security, and you’ll need to watch her carefully as she explores on her own.

Pretend play is very important to your child at this age. She loves songs, fingerplays, and creating play themes with playmates, dolls, and toys. She’ll roll the clay into balls, play with wind-up toys, or push computer buttons. Your child will enjoy talking about concepts involving “if,” “then,” or “because.”

This is a great time to build on your child’s love of movement and games. Help her make a homemade drum and create rhythms. Make up some games together.

By age 5, your child is skipping, hopping, riding a bike with training wheels, and getting ready for roller skates. She can draw herself with all her body parts!

Through your attention and involvement, you have created a bond with your child as she develops her intertwined physical, emotional, and intellectual skills. You have respected her dignity and made an imprint on her through each new stage in the dance of development.

The Social Milestones of Early Childhood

As you watch and respond during the days and months ahead, your baby will progress rapidly through the following developmental stages. What’s your job as a parent during this time? To care for your child and make him/her feel valued and respected. Respond with love, safe limits, intervention, and consistency.


Your child is reaching out to you with both arms. Hold her. Continue talking to her. She will gurgle and coo back to you. When you imitate her sounds, she smiles.


Your child will turn to you as you call his name and smile at his image in the mirror. He’ll start sitting up unsupported for short periods and begin disliking strangers.


Your child will begin to check out your moods. She will imitate play movements, and favor certain toys. She will seek out your approval.


Your child will begin to stand up and walk. When this happens, you’ll see him express many emotions and notice your emotions. Remember that he’s watching you, and you are his guide. He now knows the difference between himself and others lets you know he doesn’t like it when you go away. He may begin to resist naps and throw temper tantrums. Be patient, and give him structure and love.


You’ll notice that your child likes to socialize with other children.


Your child sees herself as a separate person. She will sing, clap and dance. She will say no, indicating a desire for self-starting. After a secure first year, she is ready for adventure now.


Your child is running around. He is learning to share his toys and can be encouraged to take turns. He loves dramatic play.


While galloping, jumping, and hopping about in dramatic play, your child wants realistic props. She enjoys playing with others and wants to know about the differences between boys and girls. She uses her imagination and may be concerned about going to bed in the dark (use night light and keep your bedtime routine short and friendly.) She loves to be silly!


Your child is skipping, jumping, and can walk backward. He can catch a ball with two hands, and ride a little bike with training wheels. He will choose his friends. He likes assigned roles and wants fair play. He can draw a picture of a person with all his or her body parts.

Creative development activities for infants and toddlers

With a little bit of imagination, playing indoors can be an exciting experience for your child. When cold or otherwise inclement weather rages outside, special spaces in your home can provide a haven for fun, exploration, and learning.

Keep in mind that you need to be involved, too. Playing with your child is essential to establishing and strengthening a loving family relationship. Here are some simple activities to help pass the time away together.

Birth to 6 months

Color Movement With A Ribbon Washcloth–Create a homemade toy to stimulate play with your baby. You’ll need a washcloth, six-inch-long pieces of wide ribbon in various colors, needle, and thread. Sew the six ribbons securely to the washcloth.

Hold the washcloth above the baby so the ribbons are within her arm’s reach. Your baby will enjoy the colorful display as you wave it gently. She will begin to bat the ribbons and eventually grab and pull them. Bob the washcloth up and down as you sing to your baby. When playtime is finished, remove the washcloth toy from the crib area. Any small object can become a choking hazard for a baby!

6 – 12 months

Movement Activity With Pillow Mountains–Arrange a variety of pillows and sofa cushions on the floor. You might set them up in mazes or stack them in piles. Stay close to your baby as he cruises, crawls, and/or rolls through and over the arrangement of pillows. You can also play peek-a-boo behind the cushions.

12 to 24 months

Boxes, Boxes, Boxes–Boxes can provide hours of enjoyment for young children. Cut out shapes (circles, squares, triangles) from the top of a covered box. Give your toddler the shapes and see if she can fit them into the correct holes. As she picks up each shape, name it and talk about it with her. You can also give your toddler several boxes of different sizes. Help her learn to stack the boxes.

2 – 5 years

Bottle Cap Memory Game--Save old milk caps and bottle lids (washed and clean) to create a game that teaches sorting and memory skills:

Put caps in pairs and place matching stickers inside each pair. Assemble as many pairs as you would like. Show your child how to place all the caps on a table, sticker side down. Then turn over caps one by one to match sticker design. Your child will develop memory skills as he turns the caps over to find matching pairs.

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