Developmental Milestones in Children

Developmental milestones

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When we talk about child development, we often speak of milestones that children hit at certain ages. So what exactly are these milestones? A developmental milestone is an ability that most children achieve by a certain age. These milestones can involve physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills such as walking, sharing with others, expressing emotions, recognizing familiar sounds, and talking.

Why Developmental Milestones Are Important

You can think of the developmental milestones as a checklist. They represent what an average child can do around a particular age, although this obviously varies from child to child. For instance, some kids may begin walking as early as 9 or 10 months, while others don't begin to walk until around 14 to 15 months or even later. By looking at the different developmental milestones, parents, doctors, and teachers are able to better understand how children typically develop and keep an eye out for any potential developmental problems.

For example, between the ages of 9 to 12 months, children begin to achieve physical milestones such as standing up or even walking. While the exact age at which a child achieves a particular milestone can vary, you may become concerned if your child hasn't achieved a skill that most of his or her same-age peers can perform. This could prompt a visit to your child's doctor, who can then reassure you if there's not a problem and give you resources for help if there is.

Types of Milestones

There are four basic categories for developmental milestones, including:

  1. Physical milestones: These milestones involve both large motor skills and fine motor skills. The large motor skills are usually the first to develop and include sitting up, standing, crawling, and walking. Fine motor skills involve precise movements such as grasping a spoon, holding a crayon, drawing shapes, and picking up small objects.
  2. Cognitive milestones: These milestones are centered on a child's ability to think, learn, and solve problems. An infant learning how to respond to facial expressions and a preschooler learning the alphabet are both examples of cognitive milestones.
  3. Social and emotional milestones: Centered on children gaining a better understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others, social and emotional milestones also involve learning how to interact and play with other people.
  4. Communication milestones: These milestones involve both language and nonverbal communication. A one-year-old learning how to say his first words and a five-year-old learning some of the basic rules of grammar are examples of important communication milestones.

    Kids Develop at Different Rates

    While most of these milestones typically take place during a certain window of time, there is one important caveat. Parents and caregivers must remember that each child is unique. Not all kids are going to hit these milestones at the same time. Some children might reach certain milestones very early, like learning how to walk or talk much earlier than their same-age peers. Other children might reach the same milestones much later. This doesn't necessarily mean that one child is gifted or that another is delayed—it simply represents the individual differences that exist in the developmental process.

    These developmental abilities also tend to build on one another. More advanced skills like walking usually occur after simpler abilities such as crawling and sitting up have already been achieved. Just because one child began to walk by 9 months of age does not mean that another child is behind if he still isn't walking at 12 months. Most kids generally begin to walk between the ages of 9 and 15 months, so anytime between those ages is considered normal. If your child hasn't learned to walk by 18 months and you're concerned, check with your child's doctor.

    Personality has an influence on your child's development as well, which can be especially obvious with twins or other multiples. Where one child may be very physically active and work hard at learning to walk, going back and forth from object to object, another child may be more laid back, content for the time being to observe others from her seat on the floor.

    A Word From Verywell

    By understanding these developmental milestones and what age range is typical for kids to meet them, you and your healthcare professional can keep a watchful eye on your child's growth and development. If you ever have a concern about your child, be sure to talk to your doctor. If your child does have developmental delays, getting early intervention can help lead to more successful outcomes. There are multiple programs available to help kids with delays from birth through high school.

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