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A GUIDE FOR PARENTS

Have you ever wondered how your child is growing and developing compared to other children of the same age? How do you know if your child is "on the right track"?

Your child is going through many physical and mental changes. Although no two children grow at the same rate, experts agree there are "normal" signs of development. This article will provide you with a checklist of important milestones in your child's development during the first three years of life. It is a simple tool you can use to become aware of and appreciate the dramatic changes that are occurring in your child.

Watch for these signs in your child over a one month period. (Even children have "bad days.") Remember, each child is different and may learn and grow at a different rate. However, if your child cannot do many of the skills listed for his or her age group, you should consult your child’s pediatrician. If your child was born sooner than expected, be sure to deduct the number of months early from his or her age. A 5-month-old born 2 months early would be expected to show the same skills as a 3-month-old who was born on his or her due date.

You are the most important observer of your child's development. If your child has special needs, early help can make a difference.

THE FIRST YEAR

By 3 months of age, does your child:

Motor Skills

  • lift head when held at your shoulder
  • lift head and chest when lying on his stomach
  • turn head from side to side when lying on his stomach
  • follow a moving object or person with his eyes
  • often hold hands open or loosely fisted
  • grasp rattle when given to her
  • wiggle and kick with arms and legs

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • turn head toward bright colors and lights
  • turn toward the sound of a human voice
  • recognize bottle or breast
  • respond to your shaking a rattle or bell

Language and Social Skills

  • make cooing, gurgling sounds
  • smile when smiled at
  • communicate hunger, fear, discomfort (through crying or facial expression)
  • usually quiet down at the sound of a soothing voice or when held
  • anticipate being lifted
  • react to "peek-a-boo" games

By 6 months of age, does your child:

Motor Skills

  • hold head steady when sitting with your help
  • reach for and grasp objects
  • play with his toes
  • help hold the bottle during feeding
  • explore by mouthing and banging objects
  • move toys from one hand to another
  • shake a rattle
  • pull up to a sitting position on her own if you grasp her hands
  • sit with only a little support
  • sit in a high chair
  • roll over
  • bounce when held in a standing position

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • open his mouth for the spoon
  • imitate familiar actions you perform

Language and Social Skills

  • babble, making almost sing-song sounds
  • know familiar faces
  • laugh and squeal with delight
  • scream if annoyed
  • smile at herself in a mirror

By 12 months of age, does your child:

Motor Skills

  • drink from a cup with help
  • feed herself finger food like raisins or bread crumbs
  • grasp small objects by using her thumb and index or forefinger
  • use his first finger to poke or point
  • put small blocks in and take them out of a container
  • knock two blocks together
  • sit well without support
  • crawl on hands and knees
  • pull himself to stand or take steps holding onto furniture
  • stand alone momentarily
  • walk with one hand held
  • cooperate with dressing by offering a foot or an arm

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • copy sounds and actions you make
  • respond to music with body motion
  • try to accomplish simple goals (seeing and then crawling to a toy)
  • look for an object she watched fall out of sight (such as a spoon that falls under the table)

Language and Social Skills

  • babble, but it sometimes "sounds like" talking
  • say his first word
  • recognize family members' names
  • try to "talk" with you
  • respond to another's distress by showing distress or crying
  • show affection to familiar adults
  • show mild to severe anxiety at separation from parent
  • show apprehension about strangers
  • raise her arms when she wants to be picked up
  • understand simple commands

THE SECOND YEAR

By 18 months of age, does your child:

Motor Skills

  • like to pull, push, and dump things
  • pull off hat, socks, and mittens
  • turn pages in a book
  • stack 2 blocks
  • carry a stuffed animal or doll
  • scribble with crayons
  • walk without help
  • run stiffly, with eyes on the ground

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • identify an object in a picture book
  • laugh at silly actions (as in wearing a bowl as a hat)
  • look for objects that are out of sight
  • put a round lid on a round pot
  • follow simple 1-step directions
  • solve problems by trial and error

Language and Social Skills

  • say 8-10 words you can understand
  • look at a person who is talking to him
  • ask specifically for her mother or father
  • use "hi," "bye," and "please," with reminders
  • protest when frustrated
  • ask for something by pointing or by using one word
  • direct another's attention to an object or action
  • become anxious when separated from parent(s)
  • seek attention
  • bring toys to share with parent act out a familiar activity in play (as in pretending to take a bath)
  • play alone on the floor with toys
  • compete with other children for toys
  • recognize herself in the mirror or in pictures
  • seem selfish at times

By 2 years of age, does your child:

Motor Skills

  • drink from a straw
  • feed himself with a spoon
  • help in washing hands
  • put arms in sleeves with help build a tower of 3-4 blocks
  • toss or roll a large ball
  • open cabinets, drawers, boxes
  • operate a mechanical toy
  • bend over to pick up a toy and not fall
  • walk up steps with help
  • take steps backward

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • like to take things apart
  • explore surroundings
  • point to 5-6 parts of a doll when asked

Language and Social Skills

  • have a vocabulary of several hundred words
  • use 2-3 word sentences
  • say names of toys
  • ask for information about an object (asks, "Shoe?" while pointing to shoe box)
  • hum or try to sing
  • listen to short rhymes
  • like to imitate parents
  • sometimes get angry and have temper tantrums
  • act shy around strangers
  • comfort a distressed friend or parent
  • take turns in play with other children
  • treat a doll or stuffed animal as though it were alive
  • apply pretend action to others (as in pretending to feed a doll)
  • show awareness of parental approval or disapproval for her actions
  • refer to self by name and use "me" and "mine"
  • verbalize his desires and feelings ("I want cookie")
  • laugh at silly labeling of objects and events (as in calling a nose an ear)
  • enjoy looking at one book over and over
  • point to eyes, ears, or nose when you ask

THE THIRD YEAR

By 3 years of age, does your child:

Motor Skills

  • feed himself (with some spilling)
  • open doors
  • hold a glass in one hand
  • hold a crayon well
  • wash and dry hands by himself
  • fold paper, if shown how
  • build a tower of 54 blocks
  • throw a ball overhead
  • try to catch a large ball
  • put on shoes (but not tie laces)
  • dress herself with help
  • use the toilet with some help
  • walk up steps, alternating feet
  • walk on tiptoes if shown how
  • walk in a straight line
  • kick a ball forward
  • jump with both feet
  • pedal a tricycle

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • recognize sounds in the environment
  • pay attention for about 3 minutes
  • remember what happened yesterday
  • know what is food and what is not food
  • know some numbers (but not always in the right order)
  • know where things usually belong
  • understand what "1" is
  • understand "now," "soon," and "later"
  • substitute one object for another in pretend play (as in pretending a block is a "car")
  • laugh at silly ideas (like "milking" a dog)
  • look through a book alone
  • match circles and squares
  • match an object to a picture of that object
  • match objects that have same function (as in putting a cup and plate together)
  • count 2 to 3 objects
  • avoid some dangers, like a hot stove or a moving car follow simple one-step commands

Language and Social Skills

  • use 3-5 word sentences
  • ask short questions
  • use plurals ("dogs," "cars," "hats")
  • name at least 10 familiar objects
  • repeat simple rhymes
  • name at least one color correctly
  • imitate housework or help with simple tasks
  • ask to use the toilet almost every time
  • enjoy being read to
  • demonstrate some shame when caught in a wrongdoing
  • try to make others laugh
  • play spontaneously with two or three children in a group
  • assign roles in pretend social play ("You be mommy; I be daddy")
  • know her first and last name
  • understand "I," "you," "he," and "she"
  • believe everything centers around him ("if I hide my eyes, no one will see me")
  • answer whether she is a boy or girl

If you have questions about your child's development or want to have your child evaluated, consult your child’s pediatrician.

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