Milestones Matter: How Your Child Plays, Learns, Speaks, Acts, and Moves

Learn about the developmental milestones your child should be reaching from 2 months to 5 years. Discover tips and activities to help your child learn and grow, and find out what to do if you're concerned about their development.

As a parent, you want to give your child the best start in life. One way to do this is by understanding their developmental milestones and supporting their growth.

This guide will help you do just that, offering an overview of the key milestones your child should reach from 2 months to 5 years old, as well as tips and activities to encourage their development and guidance on what to do if you have concerns.

Milestones Matter: How Your Child Plays, Learns, Speaks, Acts, and Moves

2 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Calms down when spoken to or picked up, looks at your face, seems happy to see you, smiles when you talk or smile
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Makes sounds other than crying, reacts to loud sounds
  • Cognitive Milestones: Watches you as you move, looks at a toy for several seconds
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Holds head up when on tummy, moves both arms and both legs, opens hands briefly

4 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Smiles to get your attention, chuckles when you try to make them laugh, looks at you, moves, or makes sounds to get or keep your attention
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Makes sounds like “oooo”, “aahh” (cooing), makes sounds back when you talk, turns head towards the sound of your voice
  • Cognitive Milestones: If hungry, opens mouth when they see breast or bottle, looks at their hands with interest
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Holds head steady without support, holds a toy, uses arm to swing at toys, brings hands to mouth, pushes up onto elbows/forearms when on tummy

6 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Knows familiar people, likes to look at themselves in a mirror, laughs
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Takes turns making sounds, blows “raspberries”, makes squealing noises
  • Cognitive Milestones: Puts things in their mouth to explore them, reaches to grab a toy, closes lips to show they don’t want more food
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Rolls from tummy to back, pushes up with straight arms when on tummy, leans on hands to support when sitting

9 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Is shy, clingy, or fearful around strangers, shows several facial expressions, looks when you call their name, reacts when you leave, smiles or laughs when you play peek-a-boo
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Makes different sounds like “mamamama” and “babababa”, lifts arms up to be picked up
  • Cognitive Milestones: Looks for objects when dropped out of sight, bangs two things together
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Moves things from one hand to the other, uses fingers to “rake” food, sits without support, gets to a sitting position by themselves

12 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Plays games with you, like pat-a-cake
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Waves “bye-bye”, calls a parent “mama” or “dada” or another special name, understands “no”
  • Cognitive Milestones: Puts something in a container, looks for things they see you hide
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture, drinks from a cup without a lid, picks things up between thumb and pointer finger

15 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Copies other children while playing, shows you an object they like, claps when excited, hugs a stuffed doll or other toy, shows you affection
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada”, looks at a familiar object when you name it, follows directions given with a gesture and words, points to ask for something or to get help
  • Cognitive Milestones: Tries to use things the right way, stacks at least two small objects
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Takes a few steps, uses fingers to feed

18 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Moves away from you but looks to make sure you are close by, points to show you something interesting, puts hands out for you to wash them, looks at a few pages in a book, helps you dress them
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Tries to say three or more words besides “mama” or “dada”, follows one-step directions without gestures, like giving a toy when asked
  • Cognitive Milestones: Copies you doing chores, plays with toys in a simple way
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Walks without holding on, scribbles, drinks from a cup without a lid and may spill, feeds with fingers, tries to use a spoon,

2 Years

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Notices when others are hurt or upset, looks at your face to see how to react in a new situation
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Points to things in a book when you ask, says at least two words together, points to at least two body parts, uses more gestures than just waving and pointing
  • Cognitive Milestones: Holds something in one hand while using the other hand, tries to use switches, knobs, or buttons, plays with more than one toy at the same time
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Kicks a ball, runs, walks up a few stairs with or without help, eats with a spoon

30 Months

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Plays next to other children and sometimes plays with them, shows you what they can do, follows simple routines when told
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Says about 50 words, says two or more words with one action word, names things in a book, says words like “I,” “me,” or “we”
  • Cognitive Milestones: Uses things to pretend, shows simple problem-solving skills, follows two-step instructions, shows they know at least one color
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Uses hands to twist things, takes some clothes off, jumps off the ground with both feet, turns book pages

3 Years

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave, notices other children and joins them to play
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Talks with you in conversation using at least two back-and-forth exchanges, asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions, says their first name
  • Cognitive Milestones: Draws a circle, avoids touching hot objects, like a stove
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Strings items together, puts on some clothes, uses a fork

4 Years

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Pretends to be something else during play, asks to go play with children, comforts others who are hurt or sad, avoids danger, likes to be a helper
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Says sentences with four or more words, says some words from a song, talks about at least one thing that happened during their day
  • Cognitive Milestones: Names a few colors of items, tells what comes next in a well-known story, draws a person with three or more body parts
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Catches a large ball most of the time, serves themselves food or pours water, unbuttons some buttons, holds a crayon or pencil

5 Years

  • Social/Emotional Milestones: Follows rules or takes turns when playing games, sings, dances, or acts for you, does simple chores at home
  • Language/Communication Milestones: Tells a story they heard or made up, answers simple questions about a book or story, keeps a conversation going with more than three back-and-forth exchanges
  • Cognitive Milestones: Counts to 10, names some numbers between 1 and 5, uses words about time, pays attention for 5 to 10 minutes, writes some letters in their name
  • Movement/Physical Development Milestones: Buttons some buttons, hops on one foot


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