Parents + Guardians

Developmental Milestones for your Child's First 5 Years

Each child has their own unique strengths and talents, as well as skills that may take them a little longer to tackle. Some challenges are part of natural growth and happen at their own pace. Others may be indicators of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delays.


Have you ever wondered, “What should my baby be doing at 6 months?” Or, “What should my toddler know how to do at 2 years old?”

As a parent, it can be difficult to understand which behaviors and challenges are typical and which need extra attention. To lighten the questions, we prepared a child development checklist, which covers what most children do at various ages, including social/emotional, language/communication, movement/physical development and cognitive milestones. This list of milestones for babies through 5-year-olds does not serve as a test for autism or disability. Rather, it should function as a guide of skills in which families can watch for in their children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC recommend physician surveillance during every well visit and developmental screenings for children at 9, 18 and 24 or 30 months of age. Evidence shows the earlier development is assessed, the greater the chance a child has to reach their true potential. So, if you have concerns or questions about any aspect of your child’s development – listed here or not – we urge you to discuss them with the pediatrician or contact us at Hopebridge to arrange an appointment for autism testing.

Find out the target milestones for each age bracket, from birth to 5 years:

Birth to 2 months
2 to 4 months
4 to 6 months
6 to 9 months
– 9 to 12 months
12 to 15 months
– 15 to 18 months
18 months to 2 years
24 to 30 months
30 months to 3 years
3-4 years
4-5 years

Milestones to watch from birth to 2 months old

  • Calms when spoken to or picked up
  • Looks at parent’s face
  • Smiles or shows excitement when starting to feed or when parent talks to them
  • Vocalizes sounds other than crying
  • Reacts to loud sounds
  • Tracks moving object or person
  • Lifts head when on tummy
  • Both arms move or legs kick in sequence
  • Opens hands briefly

Milestones to watch from 2 to 4 months old

  • Smiles, moves or makes sounds to get or keep others’ attention
  • Giggles at others attempts to make them laugh, though not yet a full laugh
  • Looks at face of person speaking
  • Turns head toward sound of parent’s voice
  • Babbles and coos when spoken to
  • Anticipates milk from breast or bottle
  • Plays with hands; watches hands
  • Holds head steady without support while held
  • Holds toy when placed in hand
  • Swings arms at toys
  • Brings hands to mouth
  • Props on hands or elbows when lying on stomach

Milestones to watch from 4 to 6 months old

  • Reacts to familiar people
  • Enjoys looking at self in mirror
  • Laughs
  • Takes turns making sounds
  • Makes squealing noises and blows “raspberries” (sticks out tongue and blows)
  • Explores objects & pulls them into mouth
  • Reaches to grab toys
  • Closes mouth to show they don’t want more milk or food
  • Leans on hands for support when sitting
  • Rolls from stomach to back
  • Props up on straight arms when lying on stomach

Milestones to watch from 6 to 9 months old

  • Looks toward sounds and name being called
  • Expresses a range of emotions through face and body language, such as happy, sad and surprised
  • Participates in peek-a-boo through smiles, laughs or covering face
  • Hesitancy or shyness around strangers
  • Reacts when parents leave the room
  • Makes sounds like “ma ma ma ma” and “babababa”
  • Lifts arms to be picked up
  • Looks for items when dropped out of sight
  • Makes purposeful movement to cause sound
  • Makes purposeful movement to cause motion
  • Independently gets into seated position
  • Sits independently without support
  • Moves objects between hands
  • Uses fingers to bring food towards self during feeding

Milestones to watch from 9 to 12 months old

  • Plays pat-a-cake, waves bye-bye
  • Calls parents “mama,” “dada” or another special name
  • Understands the meaning of “no”
  • Able to place one block in a cup
  • Looks for things someone hides, like a toy under a blanket
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid as someone else holds it
  • Pulls up to stand
  • Takes weight through legs while standing with support; walks with support
  • Picks up small objects using thumb and pointer finger, such as small food like peas or Cheerios

Milestones to watch from 12 to 15 months old

  • Imitates other children’s activities while playing
  • Claps when excited
  • Shows off objects they enjoy
  • Shows parents and caregivers affection through hugs, cuddles or kisses
  • Hugs stuff animal or toy
  • Tries to vocalize words besides parents’ names, such as “ba” for ball or “ma” for milk
  • Follows simple one-step commands that are given with goth a gesture and words
  • Looks to find familiar objects when named
  • Points to something they want or to ask for help
  • Attempts to use objects (e.g. cup, phone, book) with their intended use
  • Builds tower of 2-3 blocks
  • Takes several steps independently
  • Feeds self with fingers

Milestones to watch from 15 to 18 months old

  • Moves away from parents, but looks to make sure they are nearby
  • Points to show others something
  • Looks at a few pages in a book
  • Helps dress self by pushing arms through sleeve or lifting foot
  • Puts hands out when ready to wash them
  • Tries to vocalize three or more words besides parents’ names
  • Follows simple one-step commands without any gestures Imitates others doing various chores or activities
  • Plays with toys in a simple manner, such as pushing a toy car
  • Walks without support
  • Scribbles
  • Feeds self with fingers & drinks from cup independently (may spill sometimes)
  • Attempts to use a spoon or fork
  • Climbs on and off furniture without help

Milestones to watch from 18 months to 2 years

  • Notices when others are hurt or upset
  • Looks at others’ faces to see how to react in a new situation
  • Points to objects when looking at a book and asked questions like, “Where is the dog?”
  • Verbalizes two-word phrases, such as “more milk”
  • Identifies at least two body parts when asked
  • Uses gestures beyond waving and pointing, such as blowing a kiss, giving a high five or nodding yes
  • Holds something in one hand while using the other
  • Attempts to work buttons, knobs or switches on a toy
  • Plays with more than one toy at the same time, like a baby doll and a stroller or toy food on a toy plate
  • Feeds self with a spoon independently
  • Walks up & down stairs with hand on rail or while holding another hand
  • Runs
  • Kicks a ball

Milestones to watch from 24 to 30 months old

  • Plays alongside other children and sometimes interacts with them
  • Shows what they can do by saying “look at me!”
  • Follows simple routines, like putting away toys on request
  • Verbalizes about 50 words
  • Combines two or more words with one action, like “doggie barks”
  • Labels things in a book when you point and ask, “what is this?”
  • Uses pronouns (I, you, we)
  • Follows simple two-step commands, like “pick up your water bottle and sit down”
  • Uses objects or toys to pretend, like feeding a block to a doll or holding up a remote like a phone
  • Shows simple problem-solving skills, like standing on small stool to reach something
  • Demonstrates they know at least one color
  • Removes some clothing independently
  • Uses hands to twist things like turning doorknobs or unscrewing lids
  • Jumps off ground with both feed
  • Turns book pages one at a time

Milestones to watch from 30 months to 3 years old

  • Notices other children and joins them to play
  • If parents need to leave, such as for childcare, calms down within 10 minutes
  • Engages in conversation using at least two back-and-forth exchanges
  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why,” questions
  • Describes what action is happening in a book or picture, such as “running” or “eating”
  • Gives first name, when asked
  • Speech is understood most of the time
  • Imitates drawing a circle
  • Avoids touching hot objects, when warned
  • Strings items together, like large beads
  • Uses a fork independently

Milestones to watch from 3 to 4 years old

  • Asks to play with other children
  • Comforts others who are hurt or sad
  • Pretends to be someone or something else during playtime
  • Avoids danger, such as refrains from jumping from tall heights on the playground
  • Enjoys helping others
  • Changes behavior based on where they are (e.g. restaurant vs. playground)
  • Combines four or more words to speak in sentences
  • Repeats some words from a song, story or nursery rhyme
  • Talks about at least one thing that happened during their day
  • Answers simple questions
  • Identifies a few colors by name
  • Shares what comes next in a well-known story
  • Draws a person with three or more body parts
  • Independently serves self food or pours water (with adult supervision)
  • Catches a ball in arms
  • Unbuttons some buttons
  • Holds crayon or pencil between fingers and thumb

Milestones for 4 to 5 years old

  • Follows rules or takes turns when playing games
  • Sings, dances or acts for others
  • Accomplishes several simple chores at home
  • Tells a story they heard or made up that includes at least two events
  • Answers simple questions about a book or story told to them
  • Participates in conversation with more than three back-and-forth exchanges
  • Uses or recognizes simple rhyming words
  • Counts to 10
  • Identifies some letters and numbers between 1 and 5 when pointed to
  • Uses time-related words, like “yesterday” and “morning”
  • Pays attention for 5 to 10 minutes during activities (beyond screen time)
  • Writes some letters in their name
  • Jumps on one foot
  • Buttons some buttons

Learn the signs of autism

If you suspect delayed speech, regression of skills or any other developmental concerns after following this checklist, you can also consult our signs of autism list as a helpful pre-screening tool, as well as check out our “What is Autism?” resources for more information. These can provide some added insight to your conversation with your physician or the clinician who conducts the evaluation.