Child Development: Ages and Stages

Understanding your child’s changing and emerging growth and development is an important part of parenting. As infants and children progress through a series of growth stages, they may encounter physical and emotional challenges, and some relatively common problems during these years.

Growth and development includes not only the physical changes that will occur from infancy to adolescence, but also some of the changes in emotions, personality, behavior, thinking and speech that children develop as they begin to understand and interact with the world around them.

Listed below is additional information regarding growth at different ages and stages of a child’s life.

We also provide handouts for the following developmental skills: Speech and Language | Dressing Skills | Fine Motor and Visual Motor Skills | Grooming Skills

Newborn

How much will my baby grow?

In the first month of life, babies usually catch up and surpass their birthweight, then steadily continue to gain weight. A weight loss up to about 10 percent of birthweight is normal in the first two to three days after birth. However, the baby should have gained this back and be at his or her birthweight by about two weeks. While all babies may grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for boys and girls up to 1 month of age:

•    Weight: after the first two weeks, should gain about 1 ounce each day
•    Average length at birth: 20 inches for boys, 19 3/4 inches for girls
•    Average length at one month: 21 1/2 inches for boys, 21 inches for girls
•    Head size: increases to slightly less than 1 inch more than birth measurement by the end of the first month

What can my baby do at this age?

Although a newborn spends about 16 hours a day sleeping, the time a baby is awake can be busy. Much of a newborn’s movements and activity are reflexes or involuntary – the baby does not purposefully make these movements. As the nervous system begins to mature, these reflexes give way to purposeful behaviors.

Reflexes in newborns include the following:

•    Root reflex. This reflex occurs when the corner of the baby’s mouth is stroked or touched. The baby will turn his or her head and opens his or her mouth to follow and “root” in the direction of the stroking. The root reflex helps the baby find the breast or bottle.

•    Suck reflex. When the roof of the baby’s mouth is touched with the breast or bottle nipple, the baby will begin to suck. This reflex does not begin until about the 32nd week of pregnancy and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks. Premature babies may have a weak or immature sucking ability, because they are born prior to the development of this reflex. Babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that accompanies rooting and sucking and may suck on their fingers or hands.

•    Moro reflex. The Moro reflex is often called a startle reflex because it usually occurs when a baby is startled by a loud sound or movement. In response to the sound, the baby throws back his or her head, throws out his or her arms and legs, cries, then pulls his or her arms and legs back in. Sometimes, a baby’s own cries can startle him or her, initiating this reflex. The Moro reflex lasts until the baby is about 5 to 6 months old.

•    Tonic neck reflex. When a baby’s head is turned to one side, the arm on that side stretches out and the opposite arm bends up at the elbow. This is often called the “fencing” position. The tonic neck reflex lasts until the baby is about 6 to 7 months old.

•    Grasp reflex. With the grasp reflex, stroking the palm of a baby’s hand causes the baby to close his or her fingers in a grasp. The grasp reflex lasts only a couple of months and is stronger in premature babies.

•    Babinski reflex. With the Babinski reflex, when the sole of the foot is firmly stroked, the big toe bends back toward the top of the foot and the other toes fan out. This is a normal reflex until the child is about 2 years old.

•    Step reflex. This reflex is also called the walking or dance reflex because a baby appears to take steps or dance when held upright with his or her feet touching a solid surface.

Newborn babies not only have unique reflexes, but also have a number of physical characteristics and behaviors that include the following:

•    Head sags when lifted up, needs to be supported
•    Turns head from side to side when lying on his or her stomach
•    Eyes are sometimes uncoordinated, may look cross-eyed
•    Initially fixes eyes on a face or light then begins to follow a moving object
•    Beginning to lift head when lying on stomach
•    Jerky, erratic movements
•    Moves hands to mouth

What can my baby say?

At this early age, crying is a baby’s only form of communication. At first, all of a baby’s cries sound similar, but parents soon recognize different types of cries for hunger, discomfort, frustration, fatigue and even loneliness. Sometimes, a baby’s cries can easily be answered with a feeding or a diaper change. Other times, the cause of the crying can be a mystery and crying stops as quickly as it begins. Regardless of the cause, responding to your baby’s cries with a comforting touch and words are essential in helping your baby learn to trust you and rely on you for love and security. You may also use warmth and rocking movements to comfort your baby.

What does my baby understand?

You may find that your baby responds in many ways, including the following:

•    Startles at loud noises
•    Looks at faces and pictures with contrasting black and white images
•    Gives attention to voices, may turn to a sound
•    Hints of a smile, especially during sleep

How can I help increase my baby’s development and emotional security?

Young babies need the security of a parent’s arms, and they understand the reassurance and comfort of your voice, tone and emotions. Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your newborn:

•    Hold your baby face to face.
•    Talk in a soothing tone and let your baby hear your affectionate and friendly voice.
•    Sing to your baby.
•    Walk with your baby in a sling, carrier or a stroller.
•    Swaddle your baby in a soft blanket to help him or her feel secure and prevent startling by the baby’s own movements.
•    Rock your baby in a rhythmic, gentle motion.
•    Respond quickly to your baby’s cries.


1 to 3 Months

How much will my baby grow?

While all babies may grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for boys and girls 1 to 3 months of age:

•    Weight: average gain of about 1½ to 2 pounds each month
•    Height: average growth of over 1 inch each month
•    Head size: average growth of about ½ inch each month

What can my baby do at this age?

As your baby begins to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that develop. Babies at this age begin to relax the tight muscle tone of newborns and begin extending their arms and legs more. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your baby may reach in this age group:

•    Some of the newborn protective reflexes begin to disappear
•    Neck muscles become stronger, head bobs then is held erect
•    Turns head from side to side when placed on abdomen
•    Brings hands or objects to mouth
•    Looks at hands
•    Follows light, faces, objects
•    Listens to sounds
•    Opens and closes hands
•    Holds, then drops a rattle or other object
•    Active leg movements

At the end of 3 months:

•    Raises head and chest when placed on abdomen
•    Beginning to reach hands to objects, may bat at hanging object with hands

What can my baby say?

It is very exciting for parents to watch their babies become social beings that can interact with others. While every baby develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Begins to imitate some sounds (coos, vowel sounds)
•    Cries become more purposeful and are different for hunger, fatigue, and other needs

What does my baby understand?

A baby’s understanding and awareness of the world around him or her increases during this time. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Knows familiar voices, especially of mother and father
•    Smiles in response to others
•    Responds to social contact, may coo
•    Moves arms, legs, body in rhythm with other’s voice

How can I help increase my baby’s development and emotional security?

Young babies need the security of a parent’s arms, and they understand the reassurance and comfort of your voice, tone and emotions. Consider the following as ways to foster emotional security of your newborn:

•    Hold your baby face-to-face and make eye contact.
•    Talk to your baby with a soothing, animated voice throughout the day while dressing, bathing, feeding or playing with your baby.
•    Sing to your baby.
•    Give your baby rattles and soft toys with different sounds.
•    Let your baby hear different sounds (for example, wind chime, ticking clock, soft music or music box).
•    Show your baby bright pictures of black and white images.
•    Hang a mobile with bright objects above your baby.
•    Call your baby by name.
•    Hold your baby during feedings and provide comfort when he or she is distressed and cuddling when happy.


4 to 6 Months

How much will my baby grow?

While all babies may grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for boys and girls 4 to 6 months of age:

•    Weight: average gain of 1 to 1¼ pounds each month; by 4 to 5 months has doubled birthweight
•    Height: average growth of ½ to 1 inch each month
•    Head size: average growth of about ½ inch each month

What can my baby do at this age?

This age is very social and babies begin moving in much more purposeful ways. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your baby may reach in this age group:

•    Grasp, Moro, root and tonic neck reflexes (reflexes normally present in young infants) disappear
•    Balances head well
•    Sits with support, back is rounded
•    Begins to support body with legs when held in standing position
•    Rolls from back to front and front to back by 6 months
•    Moves object from one hand to other
•    Grabs feet and toes when lying on back
•    Makes “swimming” motions with arms and legs when placed on abdomen
•    Begins drooling (not always a sign of teething)
•    Naps two to three times a day, for one to three hours each (on average)
•    Begins to sleep longer at night (six to eight hours consistently)
•    Has full color vision, able to see at longer distances

What can my baby say?

It is very exciting for parents to watch their babies become social beings that can interact with others. While every baby develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Coos and gurgles when talked to, or in response to toys
•    Babbles, imitates sounds
•    By 6 months, makes single syllable sounds (da, ma, ba)
•    Laughs
•    Squeals
•    Blows bubbles or “raspberries”

What does my baby understand?

A baby’s awareness of people and surroundings increases during this time and he or she may begin to interact with persons other than parents. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Recognizes familiar things and people
•    May hold out arms to be picked up
•    Begins to learn concept of object permanence (i.e., a partially hidden object under a blanket is still there)
•    May show displeasure when object or person goes away
•    May recognize his or her own name
•    May begin to understand “no”
•    Begins to understand cause and effect (the sound a toy makes when it is dropped)

How can I help increase my baby’s development and emotional security?

Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your baby:

•    Repeat sounds and smile when your baby makes sounds.
•    Laugh with your baby.
•    Talk to and imitate your baby during feeding, dressing, changing diapers and bath time.
•    Spend time on the floor playing with your child every day.
•    Dance with your baby and do other rhythmic movements.
•    Introduce your baby to other children and parents.
•    Place safe toys near your baby to encourage reaching and grasping.
•    Encourage laughing and play by making funny faces or sounds or blowing on baby’s belly and laughing.
•    Play peek-a-boo games to help develop object permanence, the understanding that objects are still present even though they cannot be seen.
•    Show your baby bright picture books and interesting objects.
•    Show your baby his or her reflection in a mirror.
•    Read books and stories to your baby, and point out pictures.
•    Take your baby outside to see new things and people.
•    Hold your baby for feedings and cuddle when he or she is awake.
•    Hold and comfort your baby when he or she is unhappy.


7 to 9 Months

How much will my baby grow?

While all babies may grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for boys and girls 7 to 9 months of age:

•    Weight: average gain of 1 pound each month; boys usually weigh about ½ pound more than girls; two times the birthweight by 4 to 5 months and three times the birthweight by 1 year
•    Height: average growth of about ½ inch each month
•    Head size: average growth of about ¼ inch each month

What can my baby do at this age?

Babies are rapidly developing their physical abilities at this age. They become mobile for the first time and safety in the home becomes an important issue. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your baby may reach in this age group:

•    Rolls over easily from front to back and back to front
•    Sits leaning forward on hands at first, then unsupported
•    Bounces when supported to stand
•    Gets on hands and feet and rocks back and forth
•    May creep, scoot, crawl – backward first, then forward
•    Begins to pull up to stand
•    Reaches for and grasps objects using whole hand
•    Bangs toy on table
•    Can hold an object in each hand
•    May hold a bottle
•    Plays peek-a-boo
•    Grasps object with thumb and finger by 8 to 9 months
•    Begins teething, usually starting with the two center front teeth in the lower jaw, then the two center front teeth in the upper jaw
•    Learns to drink from cup
•    Puts everything into mouth
•    Naps are usually twice, sometimes three times a day, for one to two hours each (on average)
•    May begin to awaken during the night and cry

What can my baby say?

It is very exciting for parents to watch their babies become social beings that can interact with others. While every baby develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Makes two syllable sounds (ma-ma, da-da)
•    Makes several different vowel sounds, especially “o” and “u”
•    Repeats tones or sounds made by others

What does my baby understand?

A baby’s awareness of people and surroundings increases during this time. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Responds to own name and “no”
•    Pays attention to conversation
•    Appears to understand some words (such as “eat”)
•    Prefers mother over others
•    Enjoys seeing self in mirror
•    Responds to changes in emotions of others
•    Is afraid of strangers
•    Shows interest in and dislike of foods
•    Makes attention-getting sounds, such as a cough or snort
•    Begins to understand object permanence and can uncover a toy after seeing it covered
•    May follow one-step commands with a sign to demonstrate (such as, “get the ball” while parent points to ball)

How can I help increase your baby’s development and emotional security?

Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your baby:

•    Give your baby safe toys that make noises when shaken or hit.
•    Play in front of a mirror, calling your baby by name and pointing to your baby’s reflection in the mirror.
•    When talking to your baby, pause and wait for him or her to respond just as when talking with an adult.
•    Play pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo.
•    Name common objects when shown to your baby.
•    Make a variety of sounds with your mouth and tone of voice.
•    Repeat and expand the sounds your baby makes, such as “ma-ma” when he or she says “ma.”
•    Show picture books and read stories to your baby every day.
•    Give your baby toys with objects or knobs to push, poke or turn.
•    Give your baby toys that stack or nest and show him or her how they work.
•    Build a tower with your baby and show him or her how to knock it down.
•    Establish a routine for bath and bedtime.
•    Offer a cup.


10 to 12 Months

How much will my baby grow?

While all babies may grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for boys and girls 10 to 12 months of age:

•    Weight: average gain of about 13 ounces each month, birthweight is doubled at approximately 4 to 5 months and tripled at one year
•    Height: average growth of just over 1/2 inch each month with most infants growing 10 inches in the first year.
•    Head size: average growth of about 1/2 inch each month

What can my baby do at this age?

As your baby continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that develop. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your child may reach in this age group:

•    Pulls up to a standing position
•    Can sit back down from standing position
•    Cruises or walks around holding onto furniture
•    May stand next to furniture without holding on
•    May walk holding on to your finger or hand
•    May begin to take steps and walk on own
•    Plays ball by receiving and returning a rolled ball
•    Able to pick up food and small objects with fingers
•    Can feed self finger foods
•    Drinks from cup with spout
•    Can turn pages in a book, often several at a time
•    Bangs objects together
•    Imitates scribble
•    New teeth continue to erupt; may have four to six teeth by one year old
•    Takes two naps a day and is able to sleep up to 12 hours at night without a feeding
•    Make wake up at night looking for parents

What can my baby say?

Speech development is very exciting for parents as they watch their babies become social beings that can interact with others. While every baby develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Says da-da and ma-ma and knows who these persons are
•    Imitates sounds and some speech
•    May say things like “Uh oh”
•    Imitates animal sounds in response to questions (such as, “What does the cow say?”)
•    Simple gesture (such as shaking head “no”)

What does my baby understand?

Babies at this age become much more aware of others as well as themselves. They are not yet confident that mother will return when she leaves. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

•    Recognizes familiar objects and pictures in books, and may point to some objects when asked “Where is the … ?”
•    Follows a one step command with the parent having to show the child how to do it
•    Has preferences for people and toys, and may have a favorite toy or blanket
•    Is curious and wants to explore
•    Moves to music
•    Drops objects on purpose for others to pick up
•    Points and gestures for objects and actions
•    May begin to pretend simple activities, such as cleaning or drinking from cup

How does my baby interact with others?

Separation anxiety and fear of strangers are common at this age. Separation anxiety is anxiousness and fearfulness of being separated from a parent, whether or not the parent is actually leaving the presence of the child. However, this is an important part of the relationship with the parent. While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

•    Fear and anxiety of strangers; may cling and clutch parents; cries when parent leaves
•    Waves bye-bye
•    Cries or shows emotions when told “no”

How can I help increase my baby’s learning and emotional security?

Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your baby:

•    Walk away for short periods while your baby plays in a safe area to help teach him or her that you will come back each time.
•    Introduce your baby gradually to new people and things.
•    Look at picture books with your baby and talk about the pictures.
•    Give your baby finger foods and help him or her to use a spoon, but allow your baby to do it alone. Do not worry if your baby makes a mess, as experimentation is important.
•    Read stories to your baby every day.
•    When your baby asks for something by pointing, name the object as you give it to him or her.
•    Hold and cuddle your baby often.
•    Continue a bed time routine of cuddling, rocking and soothing.
•    Respond to your baby if he or she awakens and cries at night, but avoid turning on the light or picking up or holding your baby. Limit your interactions to soothing talk and patting, telling your baby it is time for sleep.
•    Give your child toys that move (such as balls or cars).


1-Year-Olds

After a baby’s first birthday, the rate of growth begins to slow down. The baby is now a toddler and is very active.

What can my baby do at this age?

As your baby continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that develop. While babies may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your baby may reach in this age group:

•    Walks alone by 15 months, then begins to run
•    Can stop, squat then stand again
•    Sits down on small stool or chair
•    Climbs stairs while holding on
•    Dances with music
•    Plays with push and pull toys
•    Can build towers out of blocks
•    Throws a ball overhand
•    Puts two- to three-piece puzzles together
•    Scribbles with crayon or pencil and may imitate drawing a straight line or circle
•    Mostly feeds self with fingers
•    Begins to feed self with spoon
•    Drinks well from cup
•    Can help with dressing and may be able to undress simple clothes (i.e., clothes without buttons or zippers)
•    First molar (back) teeth appear
•    Takes one afternoon nap
•    May sleep 10 to 12 hours at night

What can my baby say?

Speech development is very exciting for parents as they watch their babies become social beings that can interact with others. While every baby develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Imitates animal sounds and noises
•    At one year, says four to six simple words
•    At 18 months, says 10 to 15 words
•    By 18 to 24 months, uses simple phrases or two-word sentences (i.e., “Mommy up”)
•    By 2 years, says 100 or more words
•    Asks “What is … ?”
•    Uses negative phrases such as “No want”

What does my baby understand?

By about 18 months of age, children begin to understand symbols – the relationship of objects and their meanings. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

•    Waves bye-bye and plays pat-a-cake
•    By 18 months understands one-step questions and commands such as “Where is the ball?”
•    By 24 months understands two-step questions and commands such as “Go to your room and get your shoes.”
•    Understands object permanence (a hidden object is still there)
•    Understands the cause-and-effect relationship better
•    Likes to explore drawers and boxes to see what is inside
•    Make-believe play increases (i.e., may imitate housework or feed a doll)
•    Recognizes own face in mirror
•    Can point to body parts (i.e., nose, hair, eyes) when asked
•    Begins to understand use of certain objects (i.e., the broom is for sweeping the floor)
•    May ask for parent’s help by pointing

How does my baby interact with others?

As children begin to walk, they may begin to show independence and will try to walk further away from the parent, but will return. Separation anxiety and fear of strangers may lessen, then return at about 18 months. While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

•    Plays alongside others without interacting, called parallel play
•    May begin clinging to parents around 18 months
•    May begin to say “no” more frequently to commands or needs
•    May have temper tantrums
•    May use a blanket or stuffed animal as a security object in place of the parent

How can I help increase my baby’s learning and emotional security?

Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your 1-year-old:

•    Give your child toys that can be filled and emptied and toys for imaginary play.
•    Give your child simple two- to six-piece puzzles and balls of all sizes.
•    Help your child build towers of blocks.
•    Encourage your child to “help” you with household tasks.
•    Give your child paper and large crayons to scribble and draw.
•    Talk to your child with clear simple language about what you are doing.
•    Use the correct names for objects, even if your child does not. For example: your child might say “wa-wa,” and you say “Water, that is right.”
•    Expand your child’s sentences. If your child says, “Want cookie,” you say, “Do you want another cookie?”
•    Read to your child every day using picture and story books.
•    Feed your child at family mealtimes.
•    Provide consistent firm, appropriate discipline without yelling or hitting.


2-Year-Olds

How much will my child grow?

After a child’s second birthday, the rate of growth continues to slow. Two-year-olds are very active and begin to lose the appearance of a baby. While all children may grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for 2-year-old boys and girls:

•    Weight: average gain of about 4 to 6 pounds per year
•    Height: average growth of about 2 to 3 inches each year

What can my child do at this age?

As your child continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that develop. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your child may reach in this age group:

•    Walks and runs well
•    May jump awkwardly
•    Begins to throw, kick and catch balls
•    Can stand momentarily on one foot
•    Climbs on playground structures
•    Turns doorknobs and lids
•    Begins to ride a tricycle
•    Builds towers of 10 blocks by 3 years old
•    All 20 teeth appear by 3 years old
•    Appetite decreases greatly
•    Has developed right- or left-handedness by 3 years old
•    Turns pages in a book, one at a time
•    Has good thumb and finger control
•    Can drink through a straw
•    Begins to have bladder and bowel control
•    May still take one afternoon nap
•    May sleep 10 to 12 hours at night

What can my child say?

Speech development is very exciting for parents as they watch their children become social beings that can interact with others. Speech at this age is becoming clearer and the child begins to form sentences. While every child develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Says about 200 to 300 words
•    Begins to put three words together (subject, verb, object), for example “Me want ball”
•    Names pictures
•    May name some body parts

What does my child understand?

While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

•    Understands possession, “Mine”
•    Can tell his or her own age and name
•    Knows if he or she is a boy or girl
•    Counts up to three objects
•    May begin to problem solve

How does my child interact with others?

While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

•    Shows independence from parents
•    Continues to play alongside others without interacting, called parallel play
•    Acts as if other children are objects or toys
•    Does not understand sharing
•    Is negative and says “no” frequently
•    Temper tantrums may continue
•    Helps to get himself or herself dressed and undressed

How can I help increase my child’s learning and emotional security?

Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your 2-year-old:

•    Let your child have a choice when possible: for example, say, “Do you want a banana or an orange?”
•    Let your child help around the house, such as dusting, sweeping or sorting laundry.
•    Read picture and story books with your child.
•    Help your child learn to wash his or her hands.
•    Let your child try to take off his or her own clothes and put on some simple clothes (i.e., clothes without buttons or zippers).
•    Let your child play with blocks, balls, crayons and/or clay. Supervise play so that your child does not put objects in his or her mouth, ears, etc.
•    Sing songs, play children’s music and dance with your child.
•    Look at family pictures with your child and tell a story.
•    Make cut-outs in a large cardboard box to pretend it is a house or car.
•    Use toys during bath time; have fun pouring water from one cup to another.
•    Let your child talk on a toy phone, or say a few words while you are talking on a real phone.
•    Play “follow the leader” games.
•    Teach body parts while dressing and bathing.
•    Let your child put stickers on paper to make a design.
•    Count things out loud to teach your child about numbers (i.e., count eggs in the carton, stairs as you go up, or fingers and toes).
•    Play with soap bubbles.
•    Use toys that sort shapes, such as a circle, square or triangle.
•    Give your child a doll or teddy bear.
•    Read your child a book of rhymes.
•    Give your child a toy to ride.
•    Limit television and video time.
•    Provide out-of-home social experiences.


3-Year-Olds

How much will my child grow?

In 3-year-olds, growth is still slow compared to the first year. Most children have become slimmer and lost the rounded tummy of a toddler. While all children may grow at a different rate, the following indicate the average for 3-year-old boys and girls:

•    Weight: average gain of about 4 to 6 pounds per year
•    Height: average growth of about 2 to 3 inches per year

After age 2, children of the same age can noticeably vary in height and weight. As long as the child is maintaining his or her own rate of growth, there should be no reason to worry. A consultation with the child’s pediatrician is recommended if there is cause for concern.

What can my child do at this age?

As your child continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that develop. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your child may reach in this age group:

•    Runs and jumps easily
•    Walks up stairs unassisted
•    Rides a tricycle
•    Washes and dries hands
•    Stacks 10 blocks
•    Easily draws straight lines and copies a circle
•    Can stand on tip-toes
•    Uses spoon well and feeds self
•    Dresses and undresses self except for buttons and laces
•    Can concentrate on tasks for eight or nine minutes
•    Has all 20 primary (“baby”) teeth
•    Vision is nearing 20/20
•    Bladder and bowel control are usually established; uses potty chair or toilet
•    May sleep 11 to 13 hours total, may still take a short afternoon nap

What can my child say?

Speech development is very exciting for parents as they watch their children begin to speak clearly and interact with others. While every child develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones in this age group:

•    Should be able to say about 500 to 900 words
•    Speech can be understood by others
•    Speaks in two or three word sentences and progresses to four to five word sentences
•    Can remember simple rhymes or lyrics
•    Uses “please” and “thank you”
•    Refers to self by using own name
•    Names colors

What does my child understand?

While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones your child may reach in this age group:

•    Understands size differences (such as, big and little)
•    Understands past tense (yesterday)
•    Understands long sentences
•    Understands prepositions (on, under, behind)
•    Uses pronouns correctly (such as, I, you, he and me)
•    Asks “why” constantly
•    Counts up to four objects by 4 years old
•    Says full name and age
•    May have fears of certain things (for example, dark, monster under bed and going down the drain)
•    Attempts to solve problems
•    Remembers certain events
•    Can point to the correct picture when asked a simple question about it.

How does my child interact with others?

While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

•    Begins to share and likes to play with other children
•    Can take turns
•    Temper tantrums are less frequent
•    Begins to show feelings in socially acceptable ways

How can I help increase my child’s learning and emotional security?

Consider the following as ways to foster the emotional security of your 3-year-old:

•    Spend time allowing your child to talk with you.
•    Teach your child how things work.
•    Encourage play with other children.
•    Encourage your child to tell you stories.
•    Listen to your child and show that you are pleased by your child’s talking.
•    Let your child do as much as possible for himself or herself when getting dressed, brushing teeth, and combing hair.
•    Have your child help with simple chores such as picking up toys.
•    Give your child old clothes for “dress up” and allow him or her to pretend being a mom, dad, doctor, cowboy and the like. Even old sheets or towels can become skirts, capes or turbans. You can also pretend you are an elephant, butterfly, robot or other characters and play with your child.
•    Sing songs or nursery rhymes and teach your child the words.
•    Read stories with your child and ask your child to name pictures in the stories or retell part of the story.
•    Help your child play with crayon and paper or chalk and chalkboard by showing how to draw circles and lines and then put them together to make a stick figure. Make figure faces that are happy, sad, or surprised, and talk about the different feeling shown in each picture.
•    Let your child build things out of blocks or boxes.
•    Give your child a safe space to ride a tricycle.
•    Listen to children’s music with your child and dance.
•    Practice counting with your child.
•    Give your child the chance to play games with other children. Church groups, YWCA or YMCA recreation centers, or libraries often have preschool programs.
•    Put puzzles together with your child.
•    Let your child have pretend playtime with dolls, cars or toy cooking utensils.
•    Play hide and seek and follow the leader.
•    Let your child use his or her imagination by playing with play dough or clay.
•    Trace your child’s hand or whole body and make a picture.
•    Show your child you are proud of any artwork and hang it up for display.
•    Teach your child colors.
•    Play ball with your child. Play different games with the ball, such as tossing a ball into a box or rolling the ball up and down an incline.


Preschool (4 to 5 Years)

What can my child do at this age?

As your child continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that your child develops. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

4-year-olds:

•    Sings a song
•    Skips and hops on one foot
•    Catches and throws a ball overhand
•    Walks downstairs alone
•    Draws a person with three separate body parts
•    Builds a block tower with 10 blocks
•    Understands the difference between fantasy and reality

5-year-olds:

•    Jumps rope
•    Walks backward
•    Balances on one foot with eyes closed
•    Uses scissors
•    Begins learning to tie shoes
•    Copies shapes while drawing
•    Dresses self
•    Knows address and phone number
•    Recognizes and recites the alphabet
•    Permanent teeth may begin coming in

What can my child say?

Speech development in children is very exciting for parents as they watch their children become social beings that can interact with others. While every child develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

4-year-olds:

•    May put together four to five words into a sentence
•    Will ask questions constantly
•    May know one color or more
•    Likes to tell stories
•    May use some “bad” words (if he or she has heard them spoken repeatedly)

5-year-olds:

•    May put together six to eight words into a sentence
•    May know four or more colors
•    Knows the days of the week and months
•    Can name coins and money
•    Can understand commands with multiple instructions
•    Talks frequently

What does my child understand?

As a child’s vocabulary increases, so does his/her understanding and awareness of the world around them. Children at this age begin to understand concepts and can compare abstract ideas. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

4-year-olds:

•    Begins to understand time
•    Begins to become less aware of only one’s self and more aware of people around him/her
•    May obey parent’s rules, but does not understand right from wrong
•    Believes that his or her own thoughts can make things happen

5-year-olds:

•    Increased understanding of time
•    Curious about real facts about the world
•    May compare rules of parents with that of friends

How does my child interact with others?

A very important part of growing up is the ability to interact and socialize with others. This can be a frustrating transition for the parent as children go through different stages, some of which are not always easy to handle. While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

4-year-olds:

•    Very independent, wants to do things on his or her own
•    Selfish, does not like to share
•    Moody; mood swings are common
•    May be aggressive during mood swings and become aggressive to family members
•    Has a number of fears
•    May have imaginary playmates
•    Likes to explore the body and may play doctor and nurse
•    Might “run away” or threaten to do so
•    Fights with siblings
•    Will often play with others in groups

5-year-olds:

•    Generally more cooperative than 4-year-olds
•    Generally more responsible than 4-year-olds
•    Eager to please others and make them happy
•    Has good manners
•    Dresses self completely without help
•    Gets along well with parents
•    Likes to cook and play sports
•    As child enters school, he or she may become more attached to parent

How can I help increase my preschool child’s social ability?

Consider the following as ways to foster your preschool child’s social abilities:

•    Offer compliments for good behavior and achievements.
•    Encourage your child to talk to you and be open with his or her feelings.
•    Read to your child, sing songs and talk with him or her.
•    Spend quality time with your child and show him or her new experiences.
•    Encourage your child to ask questions and explore.
•    Encourage physical activity with supervision.
•    Arrange times for your child to be with other children, such as in play groups.
•    Give your child the chance to make choices, when appropriate.
•    Use time-out for behavior that is not acceptable.
•    Encourage your child to express his or her anger in an appropriate manner.
•    Limit television watching (or other screen time) to 1 to 2 hours a day. Use free time for other, more productive, activities.


School-Age (6 to 12 Years)

What can my child do at this age?

As your child continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that your child develops. While children may progress at different rates and have diverse interests, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

6- to 7-year-olds:

•    Enjoys many activities and stays busy
•    Likes to paint and draw
•    May lose first tooth
•    Vision is as sharp as an adult’s vision
•    Practices skills in order to become better
•    Jumps rope
•    Rides a bike

8- to 9-year-olds:

•    More graceful with movements and abilities
•    Jumps, skips and chases
•    Dresses and grooms self completely
•    Can use tools (i.e., hammer, screwdriver)

10- to 12-year-olds:

•    Remainder of adult teeth will develop
•    Likes to sew and paint

What does my child understand?

As children enter into school-age, their abilities and understanding of concepts and the world around them continue to grow. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

6- to 7-year-olds:

•    Understands concept of numbers
•    Knows daytime and nighttime
•    Knows right and left hands
•    Can copy complex shapes, such as a diamond
•    Can tell time
•    Can understand commands with three separate instructions
•    Can explain objects and their use
•    Can repeat three numbers backwards
•    Can read age-appropriate books and/or materials

8- to 9-year-olds:

•    Can count backwards
•    Knows the date
•    Reads more and enjoys reading
•    Understands fractions
•    Understands concept of space
•    Draws and paints
•    Can name months and days of week, in order
•    Enjoys collecting objects

10- to 12-year-olds:

•    Writes stories
•    Likes to write letters
•    Reads well
•    Enjoys using the telephone

How does my child interact with others?

A very important part of growing up is the ability to interact and socialize with others. During the school-age years, parents will see a transition in their child as he or she moves from playing alone to having multiple friends and social groups. While friendships become more important, the child is still fond of his or her parents and likes being part of a family. While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

6- to 7-year-olds:

•    Cooperates and shares
•    Jealous of others and siblings
•    Likes to copy adults
•    Likes to play alone, but friends are becoming important
•    Plays with friends of the same gender
•    May have occasional temper tantrums
•    Modest about body
•    Likes to play board games

8- to 9-year-olds:

•    Likes competition and games
•    Starts to mix friends and play with children of the opposite gender
•    Modest about body
•    Enjoys clubs and groups, such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
•    Becoming interested in boy-girl relationships, but does not admit it

10- to 12-year-olds:

•    Friends are very important; may have a best friend
•    Increased interest in the opposite gender
•    Likes and respects parents
•    Enjoys talking to others

How can I help increase my school-aged child’s social ability?

Consider the following as ways to foster your school-aged child’s social abilities:

•    Set and provide appropriate limits, guidelines and expectations and consistently enforce using appropriate consequences.
•    Model appropriate behavior.
•    Offer compliments for your child being cooperative and for any personal achievements.
•    Help your child choose activities that are appropriate for your child’s abilities.
•    Encourage your child to talk with you and be open with his or her feelings.
•    Encourage your child to read and read with your child.
•    Encourage your child to get involved with hobbies and other activities.
•    Encourage physical activity.
•    Encourage self-discipline; expect your child to follow rules that are set.
•    Teach your child to respect and listen to authority figures.
•    Encourage your child to talk about peer pressure and help set guidelines to deal with peer pressure.
•    Spend uninterrupted time together – giving full attention to your child.
•    Limit television, video and computer time.


Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)

How much will my adolescent grow?

The teenage years are also called adolescence. Adolescence is a time for growth spurts and puberty changes. An adolescent may grow several inches in several months followed by a period of very slow growth, then have another growth spurt. Changes with puberty (sexual maturation) may occur gradually or several signs may become visible at the same time.

There is a great amount of variation in the rate of changes that may occur. Some teenagers may experience these signs of maturity sooner or later than others.

What changes will occur during puberty?

Sexual and other physical maturation that occurs during puberty is a result of hormonal changes. In boys, it is difficult to know exactly when puberty is coming. There are changes that occur, but they occur gradually and over a period of time, rather than as a single event. While each male adolescent is different, the following are average ages when puberty changes may occur:

•    Beginning of puberty: 9.5 to 14 years old
•    First pubertal change: enlargement of the testicles
•    Penis enlargement: begins approximately one year after the testicles begin enlarging
•    Appearance of pubic hair: 13.5 years old
•    Nocturnal emissions (or “wet dreams”): 14 years old
•    Hair under the arms and on the face, voice change and acne: 15 years old

Girls also experience puberty as a sequence of events, but their pubertal changes usually begin before boys of the same age. Each girl is different and may progress through these changes differently. The following are average ages when puberty changes may occur:

•    Beginning of puberty: 8 to 13 years
•    First pubertal change: breast development
•    Pubic hair development: shortly after breast development
•    Hair under the arms: 12 years old
•    Menstrual periods: 10 to 16.5 years old

There are specific stages of development that both boys and girls go through when developing secondary sexual characteristics (the physical characteristics of males and females that are not involved in reproduction such as voice changes, body shape, pubic hair distribution and facial hair). The following is a brief overview of the changes that occur:

•    In boys, the initial puberty change is the enlargement of the scrotum and testes. At this point, the penis does not enlarge. Then, as the testes and scrotum continue to enlarge, the penis gets longer. Next, the penis will continue to grow in both size and length.

•    In girls, the initial puberty change is the development of breast buds, in which the breast and nipple elevate. The areola (dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast) increases in size at this time. The breasts then continue to enlarge. Eventually, the nipples and the areolas will elevate again, forming another projection on the breasts. At the adult state, only the nipple remains elevated above the rest of the breast tissue.

•    Pubic hair development is similar for both girls and boys. The initial growth of hair produces long, soft hair that is only in a small area around the genitals. This hair then becomes darker and coarser as it continues to spread. The pubic hair eventually looks like adult hair, but in a smaller area. It may spread to the thighs and, sometimes, up the stomach.

What does my adolescent understand?

The teenage years bring many changes, not only physically, but also mentally and socially. During these years, adolescents increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at a different rate and may have a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the abilities that may be evident in your adolescent:

•    Develops the ability to think abstractly
•    Is concerned with philosophy, politics and social issues
•    Thinks long-term
•    Sets goals
•    Compares one’s self to one’s peers

As your adolescent begins to struggle for independence and control, many changes may occur. The following are some of the issues that may be involved with your adolescent during these years:

•    Wants independence from parents
•    Peer influence and acceptance becomes very important
•    Romantic/sexual relationships become important
•    May be in love
•    Has long-term commitment in relationship

How can I assist my adolescent in developing socially?

Consider the following as ways to foster your adolescent’s social abilities:

•    Encourage your adolescent to take on new challenges.
•    Talk with your adolescent about not losing sight of one’s self in group relations.
•    Encourage your adolescent to talk to a trusted adult about problems or concerns, even if it is not you he or she chooses to talk with.
•    Discuss ways to manage and handle stress.
•    Provide consistent, loving discipline with limits, restrictions and rewards.
•    Find ways to spend time together.