When earmarking a child’s progression over time, physicians consider developmental milestones, which refer to certain physical or behavioral checkpoints they can expect to meet as they grow. If your child does not reach certain milestones for their age group, this might indicate the presence of a developmental disorder.
Some of these developmental disorders can be diagnosed through genetic testing. Others can wax and wane with environmental inputs. Regardless, it’s important to track progress over time so that you can spot abnormal delays and treat them early.
According to the CDC’s list of milestones for children during their first few years of life, children should be performing the following actions by the ages listed below:
- One Year
- Social/Emotional – cries when parents leave, shows shyness or nervousness around strangers, has chosen favorite objects and people and repeats sounds or movements to capture your attention
- Communication – attempts to repeat words you say, performs simple gestures such as waving, and says “mama” and “dada” or makes exclamations like “uh-oh!”
- Cognition – looks at objects after you name them, imitates gestures, explores objects in new ways, begins to use objects correctly (such as putting toys in containers), and follows simple requests or directions
- Movement – moves to a sitting position without help, walks while holding onto furniture, and may stand or take steps without support
- Two Years
- Social/Emotional – imitates adults and older children, becomes excited around other children, begins to include them in play, shows increasing independence, and may become defiant
- Communication – recognizes names of familiar people and body parts, repeats words they hear in conversation, and says sentences of two to four words
- Cognition – can find hidden objects, begins to sort shapes and colors or build towers using four or more blocks, finishes sentences and rhymes from familiar books, names objects in books, and follows two-step instructions
- Movement – climbs on and off furniture unassisted, uses stairs while holding onto nearby objects, stands on tiptoe, begins to run, kicks balls, and draws circles and lines
- Three Years
- Social/Emotional – shows concern for crying friends, takes turns while playing games, displays a broad range of emotions, may become upset when experiencing major routine changes, and is able to dress themselves
- Communication – speaks well enough to be understood by strangers in most situations, uses two to three sentences while conversing, can name friends, says their first name, age, and sex, and uses words such as “I,” “me,” and “we.”
- Cognition – understands the meaning of “two,” plays with toys that have levers, buttons, and other moving parts, can complete simple puzzles, is able to turn door handles and unscrew jar lids, and turns book pages one by one
- Movement – uses stairs by placing one foot on every step, climbs and runs well, and can pedal a tricycle
What to Do if Your Child Isn’t Meeting Milestones
While these milestones are simply markers to help track progress over time, they can play a big role in being able to determine if developmental issues arise. Oftentimes, developmental disorders can be diagnosed via genetic testing before a child is even born. Through genetic counseling, you can better understand how to detect symptoms as you arise.
If you do not choose genetic testing during pregnancy, keep track of your child’s progress in meeting developmental milestones and share your record with their pediatrician. All children are different, and milestones refer to the age when most children can perform certain actions, but the exact timing can vary. By keeping an eye on when milestones occur, you can make sure that delays are kept in check and that your child is healthy.