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Developmental Milestones (1 – 5 years)

Developmental Milestones (1 – 5 years)

Milestones reflect the average age that a child acquires the ability to perform a particular activity.

As a parent you cannot help but worry about every single thing that involves your child. You compare your child with your neighbour’s or even with their own siblings to make sure they are developing as they should.

Well, every child is different, and so is every parent’s experience.

Below you will find milestones organised by period of development. You can use this as a guide to know when to contact a health professional about your concerns.



Gets to sitting position without assistance

Pulls himself from a sitting position to stand

Walks holding onto furniture

Stands momentarily without support

May walk two or three steps without support

Kicks or throws ball

Begins to show hand preference

Starts to explore climbing various surfaces


Prefers parents

Shy or anxious with strangers

Separation anxiety (Cries when mother or father leaves the room)

Shows specific preferences for certain people and toys

Prefers to play alone (no group play)

Tests parental responses to his behaviour (What do you do if he cries after you leave the room?)

Finger-feeds himself

Extends arm or leg to help when being dressed


Achieves object permanence (Knows that mummy would come back when she leaves the room)

Explores objects in many different ways (shaking, banging, throwing, dropping)

Finds hidden objects easily

Looks at correct picture when the image is named

Imitates gestures

Begins to use objects correctly (drinking from cup, brushing hair, holds phone to ear)

Tries to imitate scribbling

Vision, Hearing & Speech

Uses up to 10 words

Pays increasing attention to speech

Responds to simple verbal requests

Responds to “no”

Uses simple gestures, such as shaking head for “no”

Uses exclamations, such as “oh-oh!”

Tries to imitate words


Start teaching your baby simple words

Encourage tasks that identify objects correctly



Can walk backwards

Carries large toy or several toys while walking

Kicks a ball


Climbs onto and down a chair unassisted

Walks up and down stairs holding on to support

Copies a line


Stacks 6 cubes

Turns door knobs or book pages

Turns over container to pour out contents

Might use one hand more frequently than the other

High activity level


Imitates behaviour of others, especially adults and older children

Increasingly aware of self as separate from others

Begins to show defiant behaviour, may get fussy


Uses a spoon (though messy)

Picks favourite object e.g. teddy bear, blanket, shoes etc

Takes off shoes and socks

Toilet awareness

Vision, Hearing & Speech

Understands simple instructions

Uses pronouns

Can speak two-word sentences

Says several single words (by fifteen to eighteen months)

Uses simple phrases (by eighteen to twenty-four months)

Half of speech can be understood by strangers

Repeats words overheard in conversation

Points to named body parts or objects.


Teach your baby letters and numbers

Reinforce good behaviour with praises, be careful how you scold him

May need to revisit childproofing to encourage safe exploration

Have more than one of everything, sharing is difficult at this stage



Copies a circle

Stacks 9 cubes

Unbuttons shirt (Can undress self)

Catches a ball

Ascends stairs (like an adult)

Rides tricycle


Group play (plays with other children)

Gender identity (knows his/her own gender)

Sex – specific play (girls plait dolls hair)

Knows own full name

Understands taking turns


Toilet trained (during the day)

Repeats 3 digits

Points to and counts 3 objects

Names colours

Finds objects even when hidden under two or three covers

Begins to sort by shapes and colours

Vision, Hearing & Speech

Uses up to 800 words

Understands up to 1500 words

Speaks 4 – 5 word sentences

Strangers can understand speech fully

Recognizes objects in pictures


Lots of outdoor time, explore parks, visit the zoo,

Teach him about life outside his immediate environment

Allow outdoor play with other children



Copies a cross or rectangle

Can groom self (brush, bath, dresses, undresses)

Throws ball over-hand

Hops and stands on one foot up to five seconds

Walks downstairs without help


Interested in new experiences

Curiosity about sex (Plays “Mom” or “Dad”)

Co-operates with other children

Has imaginary friends

Has nightmares and monster fears


Imitation of adult roles

Begins to have a clearer sense of time

Follows three-part commands

Repeats 4 digits

Can tell or recalls parts of a story

Increasingly inventive in fantasy play

Cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality

Negotiates solutions to conflicts

More independent

Vision, Hearing & Speech

Understands the concepts of “same” and “different”

Uses plurals, prepositions

Uses past tense

Speaks in compound sentences of five to six words

Tells stories


Correct your child’s tenses with affection

Reward good behaviour, set gentle limits on dos and don’ts

Provide books that promote positive gender associations

Add simple puzzles to their fun activities



Copies a square, alphabets

Draws a person with two to four body parts

Uses scissors

Draws circles and squares

Hops, Swings, Climbs, somersaults

May be able to skip


Learning to read

Dresses and undresses without assistance

Uses fork, spoon, and (sometimes) a table knife

Conformity to peers is important (wants to please friends or be like friends)

Romantic feelings for others

Genital phase (likes to touch genitals)

Complete bladder control


Can tell time

Counts ten objects correctly

Knows about things used every day in the home (money, food, appliances)

More likely to agree to rules

Likes to sing, dance, and act

Shows more independence and may even visit a next-door neighbour by his/herself

Aware of sexuality

Able to distinguish fantasy from reality

Sometimes demanding, sometimes eagerly cooperative

Vision, Hearing & Speech

Speaks sentences of more than five words

Uses future tense

Tells longer stories

Says name and address


Encourage dramatic play with puppets, dress up

Add show and share time to weekly activities.

In conclusion, remember that every child develops in his/her ownparticular manner, experts have identified a wide range of variation.

A child might be far from average but still normal! Remember that there is no penalty for being cautious about your growing child and if there is a problem, acting early can make all the difference.

About Jomebishop

Medical doctor, freelance writer, Graced by Yahweh

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