two children painting
December 14, 2022

Common Developmental Milestones in Children

Early childhood is a time of rapid growth across all developmental domains. It lays the foundation for cognitive and social-emotional behaviour in later life. Giving sufficient nurturing is central to fostering a child’s holistic development, and it is beneficial for parents to keep track of different developmental milestones to ensure that the children can have the best possible start in life. In this complete guide, we will go through all the common developmental milestones in children, from gross motor skills to distinctive stages of child development.

a boy pouring liquid in a funnel

What is Child Development?

Growth is often confused with development. The former refers to an infant’s physical increase in size, whereas the latter includes distinctive behavioural changes characteristic of each stage of child development — also known as developmental milestones.

As toddlers progress through stages of development, they experience the surrounding environment to their capabilities. They develop innate competencies to understand languages, interact with others with care and respect, tackle unknown problems, and manage their emotions.

What Are the Developmental Milestones?

Developmental milestones are a set of functional skills and behaviours that toddlers acquire as they grow. The primary developmental milestones reflecting the core stages of child development include:

Motor Milestones

Infants progress naturally and quickly when it comes to acquiring basic movement patterns. Every motor milestone constitutes a major advance in toddlers’ gross and fine motor skills and their experience of the external world. Gross motor development milestones involve large muscles in the arms, legs, and feet, which coordinate whole-body movements such as walking, running, kicking, and throwing. They also play a crucial role in developing fine motor skills, precise movements requiring the coordination of small muscles of hands, fingers, and eyes. This means learning to use pencils and scissors, button a shirt, open boxes, and more. Each motor milestone is driven by what toddlers perceive of their surroundings and their motivation to experience more of it.

boys playing on a rocking horse

Sensory Milestones

Sensory development is highly related to motor development. Infants take in information about the external world through their senses and produce body movements in response to different stimuli. In their first year of life, newborns readily develop their sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste, allowing for gradual exploration of environments in early childhood. Sensory milestones also refer to toddlers’ early development of perception skills and cognitive abilities, such as memory and attention. For instance, infants may begin to recognize loud noises from a young age or be extremely sensitive to certain textures like woolen clothes.

Language Developmental Milestones

Language development milestones start with babbles and gestures. As infants grow, they observe their surroundings and begin to use simple words or sounds to express their needs. A vocabulary spurt occurs at 18-24 months when babies acquire words at an accelerated rate. Due to an increased memory capacity and general learning abilities, vocabulary growth continues to expand as toddlers learn to formulate phrases and speak in whole sentences. Moreover,  language developmental milestones also include understanding and responding to conversations. Your child will increase their ability to listen attentively.

two young girls reading together

Social-emotional Developmental Milestones

Social-emotional development is a child’s ability to interact with others, understand and express emotions, and build trust in a relationship. For instance, they learn to follow basic rules and take turns in games or activities as they grow. Social-emotional developmental milestones  also cover basic social skills, such as cooperating with peers, sharing toys, and showing empathy for other people’s feelings.

What Are the 5 Stages in Child Development?

The 5 main stages of development include newborn, infant, toddler, preschool, and school age. During each developmental stage, children reach new core milestones in physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development.

1. Newborn (0-3 Months)

Motor Milestones

  • Raise head and chest when lying on tummy
  • Lift the upper body when lying on the stomach
  • Open and close palms
  • Flail arms and legs and kick when excited
  • Push down on legs when stepping on a solid surface

Sensory Milestones

  • Track moving objects with their eyes
  • Gaze at faces and toys
  • Recognize familiar people and object from a distance
  • Turn the head toward the sound source

Language Developmental Milestones

  • Produce sounds other than crying
  • Respond to being talked to
  • Recognize familiar voices

Social-emotional Developmental Milestones

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile in response to sound or voice
  • Show strong preference for certain people over others
  • Cry differently for various needs (e.g., food, sleep)
  • Imitate facial expressions or movements

Infant (3-12 Months)

Motor Milestones

  • Roll over from back to stomach
  • Sit with little or no support
  • Crawl on all fours
  • Stand holding onto furniture

Sensory Milestones

  • Explore objects and environments with hands and mouth
  • Examine shapes, sizes, and textures of toys and surroundings
  • Find partially hidden objects
  • Pick up various objects of different weights and sizes
  • Develop full-colour vision

Language Developmental Milestones

  • Respond to their own name
  • Begin to babble (e.g. dada, mama)
  • Imitate some sounds and gestures others make
  • Experiment with sounds at different pitches and volumes
  • Communicate using babbles or gestures
  • Utter their first word

Social-emotional Developmental Milestones  

  • Follow a routine and recognize familiar people 
  • Respond positively when being held or cuddled 
  • Display separation anxiety 
  • Play independently for short periods of time 
  • Demonstrate an attachment to caregivers
a young boy looking up at his teacher and playing

Toddler (1-3 Years)

Motor Milestones

  • Walk independently
  • Stand on their tiptoes
  • Start to run and jump with both feet off the ground
  • Kick a ball
  • Climb on low furniture
  • Throwing
  • Go up and down stairs with support

Sensory Milestones

  • Sort objects by size, shape, and colour
  • Use pencils, colour pens, or markers to make marks on paper
  • Stack 5 or more toys or small blocks on top of each other
  • Actively explore their environment (e.g., flipping light switches)
  • Identify objects in pictures or books 
  • Take toys apart and put them back together

Language Developmental Milestones

  • Utter at least 50 words
  • Use simple pronouns
  • Imitate new vocabulary
  • Put two words together to make a phrase
  • Understand simple instructions (“Get the toy”)
  • Name objects and pictures
  • Actively listen to stories

Social-emotional Developmental Milestones 

  • Show more independence from parents/caregivers
  • Demonstrate a desire for autonomy (e.g., asserting will)    
  • Show interest in other children  
  • Understand basic feelings, such as happiness and sadness
  • Attempt to express feelings
  • Share and take turns with toys
two young children cooking together

Preschool (3-5 Years)

  • Walk up and down stairs alternating feet
  • Catch a large ball                                                                                                                                      
  • Pedal a tricycle or bicycle
  • Use safety scissors
  • Notice gender differences
  • Identify letters, numbers, shapes and colours
  • Turn book pages one by one
  • Complete simple puzzles 
  • Draw basic shapes (e.g., circles, squares)
  • Understands most of what is said to them                    
  • Use 5–7-word sentences
  • Ask questions                    
  • Acquire new vocabulary

School Age (6+ Years)

  • Dress and undress without assistance
  • Skip rope
  • Run, skip, and hop
  • Balance on one foot for 10 seconds or more
  • Tie shoes
  • Gain better control of hands and fingers for writing
  • Identify shades of colours accurately 
  • Understand the meanings of words    
  • Tell stories with a beginning, middle, and end            
  • Speak in grammatical sentences
  • Read aloud with expression  
a teacher showing children nature

Nurture the Best Growth in Children

It is important to understand these development milestones to provide an appropriate environment for your child’s growth and development. At Woodland Pre-Schools, our team of experienced teachers gets a solid grasp of child development and designs a unique curriculum to ensure that your child reaches their fullest potential in early childhood. Contact us for more information on admissions. Join our free trial class to get a taste of the Woodland Journey and experience our learn-through-play-based curriculum.