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Development Milestones

Milestones describe the developmental steps children take from birth through to adulthood.

All babies and children will change and learn new skills in their own time. No two children are the same so it is important not to get too focused on exactly when milestones are reached. Instead, knowing about milestones can be useful as a guide on whether your child is on track. 

For some children not reaching milestones can be one of the signs that let parents and professionals know a child could need extra support. 

In the early weeks and months of your baby’s life the ‘milestones’ come thick and fast. As they get older developmental changes might not happen as obviously, or as often, but your child is still developing and changing.

Parents and carers are vital in helping children meet their potential. The time you spend talking, playing, praising and guiding your child will give them the confidence and opportunity to learn more about themselves, what they can do, and about the world around them.

What To Expect & When?

Below are some of the things you might expect your child to be doing at certain ages. It is unlikely that your child will be absolutely on target in all different areas of development. Milestones are used as a rough guide. The most important thing is your child is making steady progress at their own pace.

  • In these early weeks and months the changes you will see in your baby are huge. Beginning with a tiny baby to a little person who knows they can trust you and is learning more about their world day by day. In these early days many babies will begin to;

    0 - 4 weeks

    • Lift head briefly when lying on tummy and hold their head ‘straight’ when lying on their back
    • Move both arms and legs equally well
    • Suck well at breast or bottle – and root (look around with mouth open) when hungry
    • Grab onto things that touch their hand - like your finger
    • Over these weeks they will begin to have longer spells of time awake and alert
    • Gaze at your face for short periods – looking away when they need a break.

    Around 3 - 4 weeks

    • Go briefly quiet when they hear a human voice
    • Cry if they are not comfy or are stressed. In time the cries are different for different needs.

    1 - 3 months 

    • Smile - especially at main carers, at around 4-6 weeks
    • Hold their head up a little (45 degrees) when on their tummy
    • Take a little of their weight briefly on their feet - when carefully held
    • Start to use their ‘voice’ to make more sounds.

     2 - 3 months

    • Hold a rattle briefly
    • Put hands together.

    3 - 4 months

    • Reach towards objects
    • Like to suck on their fingers
    • Hold up their head more easily
    • Hold their head more upright when on their tummy (90 degrees)
    • Roll from their side to their back
    • Make more babbling and cooing sounds. Might laugh out loud, squeal, and giggle
    • Smile more easily at people
    • Have a longer attention span.

    4 - 6 months

    • Roll from tummy to back, then from back to tummy
    • Hold more of their weight when held carefully in a standing position
    • Support head when pulled into sitting position
    • Use their head, eyes and hands together to reach for what interests them
    • Use their eyes, hands and mouth to carefully inspect objects
    • Put everything in mouth!
    • Make noises like ‘aaa’ or ‘eh eh eh’ and other sounds
    • Respond to the tone of voice people speak in; like excitement or crossness
    • Enjoy smiling at themselves and you in the mirror.
  • This is a time when your baby is learning more physical skills and getting more mobile. They might play with their toys, start to eat solid foods and enjoy being with you. Around now many babies might;

    6 - 9 months

    • Sit without support
    • Begin to get ‘on the move’
    • Stand while holding on to you
    • Get themselves into a sitting position
    • Grab and hold objects, and swap them from hand to hand
    • Feed themselves finger foods and hold their own bottle or beaker
    • Put their feet in their mouth
    • Start to copy speech sounds, know their own name and begin to respond to ‘No’
    • Make sounds likes ma, ba, da
    • As they get close to 9 months they may pull up to standing.

     9 - 12 months

    • Start to crawl, may walk with support or stand briefly
    • Take a few wobbly steps (but this varies a lot)
    • Have good pincer grip (using finger and thumb to pick things up)
    • Bang together objects held in each hand
    • Play pat-a-cake
    • Start to drink from a cup by themselves
    • Say mama/dada and knows it means you!
    • Understand simple instructions like “give it to me”
    • Begin to have a sense of humour.
  • Your baby is enjoying making more and more sounds and will begin to have some words. During this year they might begin to toddle. They are getting very sure of what they do, and don’t like, they get frustrated and will have tantrums. They really need you to help them feel safe and make sense of their world. Around now many babies might;

    12 - 15 months

    • Stand steadily alone, may walk, bend over and stand back up
    • Put a ball in a box or a raisin in a bottle if asked
    • Build a tower of two cubes
    • Like to scribble holding a crayon in their fist
    • Use a spoon without much spilling and drink from a cup without help
    • Have about three to five words
    • Use gestures like pointing and clapping
    • Understand “no” and shake their head for no
    • Know about ‘me’ and ‘mine’
    • Like to copy their family doing household jobs.

    15 - 18 months

    • Try to run if they can already walk
    • Try to kick a ball and climb on furniture
    • Try to turn pages in a book
    • Like to ‘help’
    • Take off some clothes
    • Say about ten words
    • Begin to point to body parts and well known things like a car or dog
    • Say “no” (a lot!) and waves bye bye
    • Know where things are or belong
    • Claim things as ‘mine’
    • Like routine.

    18 - 24 months

    • Walk upstairs and downstairs holding on
    • Turn single pages of books
    • Builds tower of four to six cubes
    • Be able to string beads.
    • Help to dress and undress themselves
    • Wash and dry hand
    • Know noticeably more words; especially names for things. They might start to put 2 or 3 words together
    • Name pictures of common objects
    • Follow simple directions and start to know their colours
    • Tell you when they are wet and dirty
    • Tell you when they are hungry or thirsty and can ask for more
    • ‘Act out’ real situations – like playing ‘looking after teddies or dolls’
    • Focus on their own wants and needs – and have tantrums when it doesn’t go as their way
    • Know their important family group.
  • The pre-school years are a time when your little one is learning many new skills and having a lot of new experiences. They want to do more and more for themselves. 

    They love to be active and they love quiet times with you too. They can concentrate for longer. You might notice your child getting more confident and ready for the new experiences that school will bring. Look at our school readiness quiz for information and ideas on how to help your child. At around this age children may;

    24 - 30 months

    • Jump with both feet
    • Throw a ball overhead
    • Get dressed with a bit of help using zips buckles and buttons
    • Be on the way to being toilet trained
    • Steer push along toys and pour from one container to another
    • Build an eight-cube tower
    • Hold a pencil properly
    • Know to be careful on stairs/near cooker.

    By 30 months

    • Have about 300 words and start to put together three to four word sentences
    • Walk up stairs one foot after the other, pedal a tricycle, and briefly stand on one leg.

    3 years and over

    • Have about 1,000 words and by end of third year have a vocabulary of around 1,500 words
    • Understand ‘big’ versus ‘little’
    • Want to learn – often asking ‘What’s that?’ or ‘why’
    • Stand on one foot for about five seconds and be able to hop
    • Draw a picture and name it
    • Count to three and tell their age by holding up fingers
    • Know their first and last name
    • Answer simple questions
    • Understand turn-taking.
  • Children this age enjoy finding out more about the world around them. They may be settling into ‘big school’. They will be benefit from the chance to make friends and follow routines and boundaries. Time with you is really important and your encouragement and support still plays a big part in their development. At around this age children may;

    4 - 6  Years

    • Hop on one foot, skip alternating feet and balance on one leg for ten seconds
    • Catch a bounced ball
    • Draw a body in three parts
    • Get themselves dressed but still need help with back buttons and shoe tying
    • Wash their face and brush teeth with supervision
    • Ask lots of why and how questions
    • Count five to ten objects and know colours
    • Be unbending, dramatic and argue back
    • Have a good imagination, like silly rhymes, sounds and names
    • Begin to have a sense of time - like yesterday, tomorrow, and how long an hour is
    • Have around 2,000 words by their 6th birthday and understand opposites and sizes (big, bigger, biggest).

    6 - 11 Years

    • Continue to practice and improve skills using gross motor (big muscle groups) and fine motor (small groups of muscles in hands and wrists)
    • Begin to be more logical with their thinking
    • Be more able to think about how others feel.
  • This can be a tricky stage of development for children. Some of the milestones are about the steady move towards independence. This can sometimes feel like a ‘move away’.

    It can be confusing for your teen and for you. They still need you to help make sense of their thoughts and feelings and the physical changes they are experiencing. Keeping a relationship where your teen feels able to confide in you can help protect them from some of the risky behaviour they might be tempted by. There are some tips on how to keep communicating with your teen *here*. At around this age you may notice;

    12-17 Years

    • They are beginning the physical changes of puberty. Find out more *here*
    • Their brain begins its biggest period of change and development since babyhood – it will continue until their mid-twenties!

    Read more about the development of the teenage brain *here*. This can help you and them make sense of their sometimes tricky behaviour.

  • Firstly remember that each child will develop at their own pace.

    Talk to your child's nursery, childminder or teacher; tell them about your worries – they may be able to work with you to build your child’s skills and advise on any next steps needed.

    If you are worried you can contact our Just One Number team on the details below to talk through your concerns. 

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480 635060.


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