Major Milestones in the First 5 Years

By Janie Leathers

What is a milestone?  A milestone is defined as something that most children are able to do by a particular age.  The first five years of your child’s life are full of social, language, cognitive, and physical milestones.  Pediatricians track milestones to ensure children are following a typical pattern of development.  Understanding these developmental markers can identify developmental delays and ensure early intervention if necessary. 

Every child is unique and some might reach milestones faster than others.  For example, some children may walk earlier while others may talk earlier. Some typical milestones are described below. 

Milestones in the First Year

2 MonthsSmile, look at your face, react to loud noises, watch you move, move both arms and feet, and hold their head up when laying on their tummy
4 MonthsMake sounds to get your attention, coo, turn toward your voice, look at their hands, hold toys, and bring their hands to their mouth
6 MonthsLaugh, squeal, recognize familiar people, reach for toys, roll from their tummy to their back, and push up with their arms
9 MonthsBe shy or fearful around strangers, look when you call their name, react when you leave, enjoy peek-a-boo, make lots of different sounds, bang things together, sit without support, and use fingers to rake food toward themselves
12 MonthsPlay pat-a-cake, wave, say mama or dada, understand no, look for things you hide, pull up to stand, walk with support, and drink from a cup

Milestones from 15 to 30 months

15 MonthsClap, copy others, give hugs, try to say one or two words besides mama or dada, mimic using objects such as a phone, stack two blocks, take a few steps on their own, and use their fingers to feed themselves
18 MonthsSay 3 or more words besides mama or dada, help you wash their hands or get dressed, copy actions such as sweeping a broom, scribble, walk and climb without help, and try to use a spoon
24 MonthsNotice other people’s emotions, say two or more words together, point to body parts when asked, play with more than two toys at a time, run, and kick a ball
30 MonthsFollow simple routines and two step instructions, say ~ fifty words, name things and turn pages in a book, know at least one color, jump with both feet 

Milestones in Years 3, 4, and 5

3 YearsNotice other children and play with them, ask who/what/where/why questions, say their first name, talk well enough to be understood by others, draw a circle, string items together, and put on a jacket by themselves
4 YearsPlay pretend, comfort others, use sentences, talk about what is going on, name colors, hold a crayon or pencil using their fingers and thumb, and draw a person with three body parts
5 YearsFollow rules, sing, dance, do simple chores, tell a story, recognize simple rhymes, count to ten, hop on one foot, and name some letters

Learn more about major milestones

One of the ways that First Chance uses to help parents and caregivers – including grandparents, foster parents, guardians, etc – learn more about milestones is through providing the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). We have provided this developmental screening tool to families for years as an integral part of early childhood education. The ASQ is a developmental screening tool that gives a snapshot of how your child is doing in important areas, such as communication, physical ability, social skills, and problem-solving skills. The ASQ can help identify your child’s strengths as well as any areas where your child may need support.

Every local family with a young child from birth to 5 years may receive the questionnaire, activity pages, and support to help meet their child’s needs. Our team will help provide you with the right ASQ for your child’s age. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. You will answer each question “yes,” “sometimes,” or “not yet,” based on what your child is able to do now. Your answers help show your child’s strengths and areas where they may need practice. To answer each question, you can try fun and simple activities with your child. These activities encourage your child to play, move around, and practice day-to-day skills. Once you’ve completed the ASQ, you can drop off your questionnaire at Lend and Learn (1002 Fay St, Columbia). Our staff will score the ASQ and follow up with you to share the results.

Visit the Lend & Learn Toy Library to pick up an ASQ for your child.

Other Resources on Milestones

Your Pediatrician 
You can make an appointment to talk with your child’s doctor about the screening results.

Parents as Teachers (573) 214-3955
For children 0-3, Parents as Teachers offers screenings, in-home visitation, parent support, child development information, resources, and parent-child activities.

Columbia Public Schools (573) 214-3585
For children 3-5, Columbia Public Schools provides an early childhood education screening, educational support services, and educational resources.

Missouri First Steps 1-866-583-2392
First Steps is Missouri’s Early Intervention system that provides services to families with children from birth to three years of age with disabilities or developmental delays.

ParentLink 1-800-552-8522 or call locally: (573) 882-7323
Parent Link has a Warm Line where caregivers can visit with professionals who can assist with parenting concerns. ParentLink Loan Library, web resources, and referral info.

CDC Milestones
Online information about child development, referrals, and free tools including a Milestones Tracker App.

Zero to Three
Online practical resources to help parents support their child’s healthy development.