A Brief Introduction to Infant and Child Developmental Milestones
Watching a child grow from infancy to adulthood is one of the many joys of being a parent. That said, anticipating and evaluating various developmental milestones can also be a strenuous time for families. Fortunately, organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain comprehensive resources regarding milestones children are expected to reach as they learn to move, speak, and engage socially with other people.
Some of the first major milestones can be expected when a child is about two months old. It is around this time that infants should begin smiling at people during interactions. They will often attempt to follow a parent or another caregiver with their eyes. Infants at two months of age can also begin to pacify themselves, such as distracting themselves with their hands.
Language and communication skills are still rudimentary at this age, but infants are expected to make a variety of vocalizations and, more importantly, will turn their heads to see the source of a sound when someone is speaking. Cognitive and movement skills are similarly basic and generally involve infants beginning to interact with their surrounding environment at the most basic level.
Milestones quickly begin piling up as an infant ages. By nine months, families can expect to see a fully formed personality that reacts to new and familiar stimuli differently. For instance, infants can be hesitant around new adults and may become dependent on parents and family members in such situations. Similarly, an infant will identify favored play items and seek them out over other toys.
Infants are not expected to walk or talk at this age, but they should be approaching these major milestones. From a communication standpoint, infants at nine months should understand the meaning of the word “no” and should point to things they want. They may imitate sounds and gestures made by other people, and, generally speaking, their vocalizations should be much closer to words. As far as movement is concerned, a nine-month-old infant should be crawling, capable of sitting on their own, and able to stand with something to support themselves.
Of course, important milestones are not limited to infancy. Children as old as five years are still hitting important developmental milestones, many of which involve more nuanced social interactions. A child at this age should demonstrate a desire to please friends and, in some cases, may wish to imitate friends to better fit in. Five-year-old children should have an understanding of rules and societal norms and should generally follow these rules. It is around this age that children should be able to delineate between real and make-believe.
That said, children at this age are still fulfilling language and movement milestones. A five-year-old child should be capable of telling a basic story using complete sentences while correctly using past and future tenses. From a movement standpoint, milestones range from balancing on one foot for 10 or more seconds to effectively using forks, spoons, and sometimes table knives.
These are only a few of the numerous milestones families should be aware of. Furthermore, it is important to remember that every child is different, and a delay or early milestone is not an immediate cause for concern. For more information or to use the CDC Milestone Tracker or a milestone checklist, please visit www.cdc.gov.