Early Childhood Milestones

By: Dr Nicole Plesko-Altermatt

Star Vista
Posted on: 10 Jan 2023

What do we mean by ‘developmental milestones’?

In the first two years of life, infants start to experience the world and the people surrounding them. They begin to communicate and to move around, they learn how they can influence objects or trigger reactions in people… in other words, they develop a tremendous number of new skills!

Some of these skills, like grasping an object, taking the first steps or waving “bye-bye”, serve as developmental checkpoints and are called ‘milestones’. Each milestone is expected to be achieved by a child by a certain age.

Guide to developmental milestones

Below is a table which may help explain what we mean by developmental milestones (please don’t worry if your child is not reaching them as these are guidelines only and each child is different).


Social & self-help


Gross Motor

Fine Motor

1  months

Looks briefly at faces
Calms when picked up

Startled reaction to loud noises
Calms when softly spoken to

Turns head to side when on stomach

Grasps reflexively

2 months

Smiles socially
Follows people with eyes

Makes short vowel sounds

Lifts head when on stomach

Opens and closes hands

4 months 

Laughs aloud

Turns to voice
Coos extensively

Rolls over

Grasps objects
Plays with own hands, puts hands in mouth

6 months 

Engages with expressive babbling in “conversation”


Moves in different directions

Explores objects in both hands, on surfaces, and in mouth

9 months

Uses basic social gestures (like “bye-bye”)
Looks for dropped object

Says “dadada” and “mamama” unspecifically

Crawls on hands and knees

Pulls itself to stand

Sits well

Transitions between different positions

Throws objects and observes outcome/reaction of caregiver
Picks up small objects

12 months 

Imitates gestures
Engages in social play (like peek-a-boo)

Uses first words specifically

Takes first steps holding onto furniture/hand

Uses 2-finger pincer grasp

15 months

Imitates actions (like writing, cleaning, cooking)

Follows a verbal command
Learns new words frequently

Starts to walk independently

Empties drawers, purses
Puts objects in containers

18 months

Helps dress and undress self

Identifies body parts

Squats to pick up toy

Scribbles on paper

24  months

Eats with a spoon

Combines 2-3 words to small phrases

Kicks ball

Turns book pages
Stacks objects

How are childhood milestones monitored?

Your child’s development should be checked regularly by your paediatrician or family doctor. But you as parent should also keep track of the most important milestones – for both monitoring purposes and to celebrate your child’s achievements.

  • Parental monitoring of milestones

Parents observe their infant’s growth and learning daily. Make notes of your child’s newly acquired skills and bring these notes to medical check-ups. They will serve as reference and can help to identify peculiarities or concerns early.

Some of the most important milestones are: social smiling, head lifting in prone, grasping an object, use of basic gestures, use of first specific words, crawling on hands and knees, taking their first independent steps and combining two or more words.

  • Developmental screening and evaluation

This is carried out by an early childhood professional and should occur regularly (around every few months). A developmental assessment determines if your child reaches the milestones as expected or if any further evaluation is needed.

Regular screenings ensure that children who need support get the support as early as possible.

What should I do if my child does not reach a milestone at the expected age?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s development, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Every child is unique and every child will develop and grow according to their own unique pattern. But only a professional screening assessment will determine if your child needs support.

As a doctor with extensive paediatric experience, I know that early identification of an issue is best for the ongoing development of a child. Please come in for a developmental screening  where we can evaluate your child’s development and can discuss with you ways in which you can help your child to grow and learn.

Dr Nicole Plesko PD (Zurich, Switzerland)
Dr Nicole is a children’s doctor based at Osler Health Star Vista. Dr Nicole trained in Switzerland and has extensive experience in assessing children’s development. Apart from consulting in English, she also speaks German and French.


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