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Developmental Milestones for your Child's First 5 Years

Each child has his or her 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.

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Developmental Checklist for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers

As a parent, it’s difficult to understand which behaviors and challenges are typical and which need more attention. To lighten the questions, we prepared a child development checklist. This list of expected 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 to observe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 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 his or her true potential. So, if you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s development – listed here or not – we urge you to discuss it with the pediatrician or contact us at Hopebridge to schedule a formal diagnostic evaluation.

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

Birth to 3 months
3 to 5 months
6 to 11 months
12 to 17 months
– 18 to 23 months
– 2 to 2.5 years
– 2.5 to 3 years
3 to 3.5 years
3.5 to 4 years
4 to 4.5 years
4.5 to 5 years

Milestones for birth to 3 months old

  • Shows excitement when starting to life, feed, etc.
  • Legs kick in sequence
  • Vocalizes & smiles at person other than mother
  • Moves head side to side
  • Tracks moving object or person
  • Lifts head when held at shoulders
  • Thrusts arms & legs
  • Stops crying or quiets when picked up

Milestones for 3 to 5 months old

  • Sits supported with back straight
  • Holds up head & chest when on forearms for 15-20 seconds
  • Plays with hands; watches hands
  • Looks at dropped object
  • Babbles & coos when spoken to
  • Rolls from stomach to back
  • Reaches for objects when lying on stomach
  • Props on arms when lying on stomach
  • Anticipates bottle
  • Explores objects & pulls them into mouth
  • Looks at face of person speaking
  • Reacts to familiar people

Milestones for 6 to 11 months old

  • Lifts cup by handle
  • Makes purposeful movement to cause sound
  • Makes purposeful movement to cause motion
  • Places one block in cup
  • Sits independently
  • Plays pat-a-cake, waves bye-bye
  • Takes weight through legs while standing with support
  • Rolls from back to stomach
  • Looks to find sound
  • Imitates sounds & syllables (9-11 months)
  • Rocks on hands & knees (8 months)
  • Pulls string to secure toy

Milestones for 12 to 17 months old

  • Points to one body part
  • Feeds self with spoon & drinks from cup independently
  • Fills cup with blocks
  • Removes objects from bottle
  • Stands up in the middle of floor independently
  • Walks without support (13 months)
  • Says 2-5 words
  • Follows simple one-step commands
  • Responds to own name
  • Vocalizes and/or gestures for wants
  • Cruises holding onto furniture
  • Squeezes toy in imitation
  • Builds tower of 2-3 blocks
  • Imitates scribble

Milestones for 18 to 23 months old

  • Imitates single stroke
  • Stacks 5 rings on stand in any order
  • Pushes & pulls or carries toys while walking
  • Walks up & down stairs with hand on rail or while holding another hand
  • Requests objects by name
  • Points to 3-5 body parts
  • Puts away toys on request
  • Squats to play & returns
  • Builds tower of 3-4 blocks
  • Responds to 3 simple commands
  • Occasionally removes most clothing items with help

Milestones for 2 to 2.5 years old

  • Carries large objects while walking
  • Asks names of things
  • Says 20-50 words, uses plurals & combines 2 words
  • Shows ownership of toys & resists when play is stopped
  • Walks up steps independently with no hands
  • Begins to string 4 beads
  • Builds tower of 5-7 blocks
  • Imitates vertical line
  • Uses toilet and/or verbalizes need
  • Feeds self with spoon without turning it over; begins using fork
  • Stacks 4 cups inside one another

Milestones for 2.5 to 3 years old

  • Plays alongside other children
  • Zips and unbuttons large buttons
  • Mostly toilet-trained, day & night
  • Dresses & undresses with supervision
  • Runs easily, jumps off step alone
  • Can walk on tiptoes
  • Matches 2 colors
  • Snips with scissors
  • Demonstrates use of 4 objects (cup, crayon)
  • Uses pronouns (I, you, we)
  • Matches 4 objects to their pictures (shoe on shoe picture, ball on ball picture)
  • Copies circle
  • Builds tower of 8-9 blocks
  • Gives full name when asked
  • Demonstrates understanding of concept of 1

Milestones for 3 to 3.5 years old

  • Understands preposition (in, on, over, under)
  • Jumps in place with both feet
  • Knows the sex of a person (whether boy or girl)
  • Washes hands & face
  • Goes to toilet alone; seldom has accidents
  • Takes turns & shares toys
  • Walks upstairs alternating feet; begins downstairs alternating
  • Can name 3 actions in pictures
  • Rides tricycle
  • Counts to 5
  • Demonstrates understanding of concepts of 2 & 3
  • Cuts paper in two

Milestones for 3.5 to 4 years old

  • Copies drawing of cross
  • Identifies 3 colors by name
  • Classifies pictures into 3 groups
  • Cuts 6 inches within half-inch line
  • Stands on one foot for 2-3 seconds
  • Kicks a ball with backswing and follows through
  • Puts on shoes, often on incorrect feet
  • Says 200 words

Milestones for 4 to 4.5 years old

  • Puts toys away on his or her own
  • Tells experiences
  • Buttons large buttons
  • Hops on 1 foot
  • Follows 2-step commands
  • Stacks 5 rings on stand in order
  • Runs simple errands
  • Answers “why do we have?” questions
  • Brushes teeth
  • Speech is understood most of the time
  • Catches ball in arms
  • Identifies 5 colors by name
  • Copies squares

Milestones for 4.5 to 5 years old

  • Speech is fully intelligible
  • Tells opposites
  • Begins putting zipper in catch
  • Hops on one foot
  • Counts to 10
  • Builds pyramids of 6 blocks
  • Copies triangles
  • Forms a square with 2 triangles
  • Imitates 2-step diagonal paper fold
  • Begins skipping or galloping
  • Shows bossiness with other children
  • Tells what things are made of

Learn the signs of autism

If you suspect delayed speech or other developmental struggles after following this checklist, you can also consult our signs of autism list as a helpful pre-screening tool. It will provide some added insight to your conversation with your physician or the psychologist who conducts the evaluation.