Child skill development is often divided into several different categories or ‘domains.’
When first born, we are not immediately able to do things that we can do as adults. Children develop slowly and learn skills as they grow. Studies of infants and children have helped us document milestones – skills that at least half of all children can do by a certain age (see table below).
Social and Adaptive Skills
|6 weeks||Can lift chin while on tummy||Hands are in fists near the face most of the time||Makes sounds other than crying||Startles to a loud noise||Smiles, particularly at caregivers|
|2 months||While on tummy, props head and chest up with arms, head will bob if held in a sitting position||Holds rattle if placed in hand||Cooing and vowel-like noises (a, e, i, o, u)||Appears alert to voice or sound||Responds to adult voices and smiles|
|4 months||Rolls front to back when lying down, holds head still when supported in sitting position||Reaches for objects and clutches at clothes, holds hands open most of the time||Laughs out loud, makes sounds even when alone||Stops crying to soothing voice, turns head in direction of voice||Stops crying at parent’s voice, smiles at pleasurable sights and sounds|
|6 months||Rolls back to front while lying down, can tripod sit (supporting self with arms in sitting position)||Transfers objects from hand-to-hand, reaches with one hand, feeds self crackers or other larger food pieces||Babbles using consonants (ba, pa, ta, ka, ga)||Stops momentarily after hearing ‘no,’ gestures for up||Recognizes familiar versus unfamiliar people, smiles or vocalizes to reflection in mirror|
|9 months||Crawls well, pulls to stand||Grasps objects using two fingers and thumb, bangs two cubes together||Imitates one word, says ‘mama’||Responds to name well||Becomes anxious if separated from caregiver|
|10 months||Cruises (walks using two hands on furniture to help balance), stands with one hand held, walks with two hands held||Starts pincer grip: grasps small objects using index finger and thumb||Says ‘dada’||Experiences fear||Enjoys peek-a-boo, waves bye-bye, drinks from cup held for her|
|12 months||Stands well, takes independent steps (may still need support to walk)||Improved pincer grip of small objects, holds a crayon||Points in order to get desired object, uses gestures while vocalizing, has one to two words||Follows a one-step command with a gesture, stops activity when told ‘no’||Shows objects to parent to share interest, cooperates with dressing|
|15 months||Walks without support, climbs on furniture and upstairs, runs stiff-legged||Draws a line, can release small objects into a container, uses spoon with some spilling||Uses three to five words||Points to one body part when named by a caregiver||Shows empathy (looks sad when someone else cries), returns hugs from an adult|
|18 months||Runs well, seats self in small chair, creeps down stairs||Throws a ball when standing, scribbles, builds a tower of three cubes||10 to 25 words, uses compound phrases ‘all gone,’ ‘stop that’||Points to three body parts when named, points to familiar people when named, understands ‘mine’||Removes clothes, engages in pretend play (tea party, birthday party)|
|24 months (2 years)||Runs, kicks ball, walks up and down steps||Builds a tower of six cubes, copies a circle||Uses two to three word phrases (‘I want doggy,’ ‘my ball’), strangers can understand half of what child is saying||Follows a two-step command: ‘Go to the door and put on your boots,’ understands ‘me’ and ‘you’||Parallel play: will play beside (but not necessarily interact with) other children|
|3 years||Pedals tricycle, balances on one foot for three seconds, jumps||Copies a circle, cuts with scissors (awkwardly), puts on own shoes (no laces)||200+ words, uses three word sentences, strangers can understand 75 per cent of what child is saying||Understands action words like playing, washing and blowing, understands negatives, points to parts of pictures (door of car, nose of dog)||Can dress and undress fully, shares without being told, uses imaginative and pretend play with others|
|4 years||Hops on one foot – two to three times, jumps one to two feet from standing||Copies a square, ties a single knot, uses fork well||300 to 1000 words, repeats four to six syllable sentence, strangers can understand nearly all of what child is saying||Follows three step commands, names things when the action or function is described – ‘It tells time, you cut with it, it swims in the water,’ reads common words (street or store signs)||Plays in a group, interested in tricking others, goes to the toilet alone, washes hands|
|5 years||Skips, jumps backwards, walks backward heel to toe||Copies triangle, cuts well with scissors, writes first name||Responds to “why” questions, retells stories with clear beginning, middle and end||Knows right and left on self, enjoys rhyming words||Has a group of friends, apologizes for mistakes|
If your child has not reached a certain milestone yet, there is no need to panic! Milestone charts are not perfect and every child develops at a slightly different rate. Many children are a little bit behind in one or two skill domains. Remember, milestones are often based on the point at which half of all children of that age can perform a certain skill. The other half includes many who are developing normally but need a bit more time and practice to achieve that milestone. However, if you are ever worried, take your child for an assessment by your family doctor.
When a baby is born very early, the expectations for milestone development often change. This means that it may be normal for your premature baby to be a little bit late in achieving skill milestones. After all, we cannot expect a baby who was born two months early to reach the same early milestone as babies who were born full term. Childhood development is not an exact science.
Doctors still do not agree on how long we should correct our expectations for premature babies. One rule of thumb is to correct for prematurity until a baby reaches his second birthday. Then after two years, a baby’s development should be the same as other children.
Parents often worry about autism or other developmental delays. Certain early warning signs should alert you to go to the doctor to check on your child’s development.
One of the best ways you can monitor development is to take your child to your family doctor for regular check-ups. This means a check-up every two to three months in the first year of life, every six months from 12 months to two years old, and then every year from ages two to eight. Most children develop normally, even if they are behind on a milestone or two every so often. If you are worried about your child’s development or see some red flags, schedule an appointment with your doctor, even if it is not time for your child’s regular check-up.