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
Looks briefly at faces
Startled reaction to loud noises
Turns head to side when on stomach
Makes short vowel sounds
Lifts head when on stomach
Opens and closes hands
Turns to voice
Engages with expressive babbling in “conversation”
Moves in different directions
Explores objects in both hands, on surfaces, and in mouth
Uses basic social gestures (like “bye-bye”)
Says “dadada” and “mamama” unspecifically
Crawls on hands and knees
Pulls itself to stand
Transitions between different positions
Throws objects and observes outcome/reaction of caregiver
Uses first words specifically
Takes first steps holding onto furniture/hand
Uses 2-finger pincer grasp
Imitates actions (like writing, cleaning, cooking)
Follows a verbal command
Starts to walk independently
Empties drawers, purses
Helps dress and undress self
Identifies body parts
Squats to pick up toy
Scribbles on paper
Eats with a spoon
Combines 2-3 words to small phrases
Turns book pages
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.