Child Developmental Milestones

How your child plays, speaks, and moves tell us a lot about their development. Developmental milestones are things that most children can do at a certain stage. These developmental milestones can be broken down into five stages:

  • Newborn (0-3 months)
  • Infant (3-12 months)
  • Toddler (1-3 years)
  • Nursery age (3-4 years)
  • School age (4-5 years)

The following milestones for each age group can serve as an indicator as to how your child is developing in their early years:

By 3 months:

  • Can control their head
  • Makes energetic arm and leg movements
  • Raises head and chest and stretches legs out and kicks while lying on their stomach or back
  • Opens and shuts hands
  • Grabs blankets or fingers
  • Recognises familiar people and objects from a distance
  • Enjoys playing and may cry when playing stops
  • Laughs, babbles, coos, imitates sounds

By their 1st birthday:

  • Begins to walk unsteadily
  • Sits without assistance
  • Pulls self up to stand
  • Begins saying 2 or 3 words
  • Waves bye-bye, plays peek a boo
  • Response to "no" and simple verbal requests
  • Says "dada" and "mama"

By their 3rd birthday:

  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot at a time
  • Kicks, throws and catches a ball
  • Runs more confidently
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Easily walks forward and backwards
  • Says their name and age
  • Answers simple questions
  • Speaks in sentences of five to six words
  • Tells stories
  • Understands the idea of same and different, starts comparing sizes
  • Recognises common pictures and objects
  • Imitates family and show affection
  • Shows a wide range of emotions such as sadness, anger, happy or bored

By their 4th birthday (School ready):

  • Recognises numbers and quantities in the everyday environment
  • Participates in music activities such as singing
  • Has good oral health
  • Able to take turns, sit, listen and play
  • Able to communicate their needs and have a good vocabulary
  • Able to socialise with peers and form friendships
  • Independent in eating; can use a knife and fork
  • Developed motor control and balance for a range of physical activities
  • Independent in getting dressed and going to the toilet
  • Are well-nourished and within normal weight for height

By their 5th birthday:

  • Recognise and write letters up to ten
  • Likes to sing, dance and act
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell real from make believe
  • Speaks clearly
  • Knows about everyday things such as food
  • Begin articulating their feelings in a more meaningful way
  • Feels empathy for others
  • Begin to extend their oral language skills to reading and writing
  • Separates from caregivers without excessive upset
  • Plays and shares with other children, wants to please friends


Every child is different and these guidelines are going to vary from child to child. Parents really do know best, if you are worried that your child is not reaching these milestones, contact your doctor with your concerns. The earlier the intervention the better, so don’t be afraid to voice your worries to a professional.

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