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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 but 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 through until they are adults.

Parents and carers are vital in helping children meet their potential. The time you spend talking and 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

    • Can lift head briefly when lying on tummy and hold their head ‘straight’ when lying on their back.
    • They can move both arms and legs equally well.
    • Can suck well at breast or bottle – and root (look around with mouth open) when hungry.
    • They will 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.
    • They like to gaze at your face for short periods – looking away when they need a break.

    By three to four weeks

    • They might begin to smile especially at main carers.
    • They go briefly quiet when they hear a human voice.
    • They cry if they are not comfy or are stressed. In time the cries are different for different needs.

    1-3 months

    • Can hold their head up a little (45 degrees) when on their tummy.
    • Will 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

    • Holds a rattle briefly.
    • Puts hands together.

    3 -4 months

    • Reaches towards objects.
    • Like to suck on their fingers.
    • Can hold up their head more easily.
    • Can hold their head more upright when on their tummy (90 degrees).
    • Can roll from their side to their back.
    • More babbling and coos. Might laugh out loud, squeal, and giggle.
    • Smiles more easily at people.
    • Their attention span is getting longer.

    4-6 months

    • Can roll from tummy to back, then from back to tummy.
    • Can hold more of their weight when held carefully in a standing position.
    • Can support head when pulled into sitting position.
    • Head, eyes, and hands are all used together to reach for what interests them.
    • They will use their eyes, hands and mouth to carefully inspect objects.
    • Puts everything in mouth!
    • Makes noises like ‘aaa’ or ‘eh eh eh’ and other sounds.
    • They respond to the tone of voice people speak in; like excitement, or crossness.
    • Will 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 can play with their toys, start to eat solids and most of all enjoy being with you.

    At around now many babies;

    6-9 months

    • Can sit without support.
    • Begin to get ‘on the move’.
    • Can stand while holding on to you.
    • Can get self into a sitting position.
    • Can grab and hold objects, and swap them from hand to hand.
    • Can feed themselves finger foods and hold their own bottle / beaker.
    • Can put their feet in their mouth.
    • As they get close to 9 months may pull them self up to standing.
    • Start to copy speech sounds. Know their own name. Begin to respond to ‘No’.
    • Make sounds likes ma, ba, da.

     9-12 months

    • Start to crawl, may walk with support, stands briefly.
    • May 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.
    • May be able to drink from a cup by themselves.
    • Say mama/dada and knows it means you!
    • Understand simple instructions “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 will 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.

    At around now many babies;

    12-15 months

    • Stand steadily alone, may walk, bend over and stand back up.
    • Can put a ball in a box and a raisin in a bottle.
    • Can build a tower of two cubes.
    • Like to scribble holding a crayon in their fist. 
    • Can use a spoon without much spilling and can drink from a cup without help.
    • May 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 you doing household jobs.

    15-18 months

    • May 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’.
    • Can 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

    • Can walk upstairs and downstairs holding on.
    • Can turn single pages of books.
    • Can builds tower of four to six cubes.
    • Might be able to string beads. Help to dress and undress themselves.
    • Can wash and dry hands.
    • Know noticeably more words; especially names for things. Might start to put 2 or 3 words together.
    • Can name pictures of common objects.
    • Follow simple directions. They might start to know their colours.
    • Can 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 – plays at ‘looking after’ teddies and dolls’.
    • Focus on their own wants and needs – 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 so many 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. They are getting more confident and will be ready for the new experiences school will bring. Look at our school readiness quiz *here* for information and ideas on how to help your child.

    At around this age many children will;

    • Jump with both feet.
    • Throw a ball overhead.
    • Get dressed with a bit of help. Can use zippers, buckles, and buttons.
    • May be on the way to being toilet trained.
    • Steer push along toys. Can pour from one container to another.
    • By 30 months walk up stairs one foot after the other. They can pedal a tricycle, and briefly stand on one leg.
    • Build an eight-cube tower.
    • Hold a pencil properly.
    • Know to be careful on stairs/near cooker.

    By 30 months,

    • Have about 300 words.
    • Can put together three to four word sentences.

    By 3 years and over;

    • Have about 1,000 words!
    • Understand ‘big’ versus ‘little’.
    • Want to learn – often asking ‘What’s that?’ or ‘why’.
    • Can stand on one foot for five seconds. Hop and jump.
    • Draw a picture and names it. Can draw a two-part person.
    • Count to three. Tells age by holding up fingers.
    • Know first and last name.
    • Can answer simple questions.
    • Understand turn-taking.
    • By end of third year has a vocabulary of around 1,500 words.
  • Your child is now out in the world at school. They have to get used to making friends and following boundaries at school. Time with you is really important and your encouragement and support still plays a big part in their development.

    At around this age many children will;

    4-6  Years

    • Hop on one foot, and skip alternating feet, balance on one leg for ten seconds.
    • Catch a bounced ball.
    • Draw a body in three parts.
    • Get dressed apart from back buttons and shoe tying.
    • Wash their face and brush teeth with supervision.
    • By the end of fifth year may have 2,000 words. Understand opposites and sizes (big, bigger, biggest).
    • Ask lots of why and how questions.
    • Count five to ten objects. Know colours.
    • Be unbending and dramatic. Will argue back.
    • Have a good imagination. Like silly rhymes, sounds, names, etc.
    • Begin to have a sense of time. Like yesterday, tomorrow, and how long an hour is, etc.

    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).
    • Begins 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’ from your special relationship.

    It can be confusing for your teen and for you. They still need you very much 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

The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) Health Questionnaire will help you to think about your knowledge, skills and confidence in understanding and supporting your baby or child’s health. The results of this can help us, to support you, in setting goals and priorities in a way that is right for you and your family. On completion of the questions you will be signposted to some self care resources which are tailored to your responses. This will help you to take steps to improve your family's health and wellbeing. *Click Here* to find out more. 



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