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Developmental milestones in children, part one

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Parents often wonder if their child is demonstrating the proper developmental skill level as other children the same age. Every child is different but it is important to observe these patterns in order to determine if the child might have some delays which require remediation. By watching for developmental milestones, interventions can be initiated in order to help each child reach their full potential.

Children reach these milestones at different times in the area of physical development, mental development, speech and language development as well as emotional development but this is a general guideline. If your child is not demonstrating the age appropriate skills in one or more of these areas, then talk to your child’s doctor. Referrals for assessments through early intervention or through public preschool may be required.

At two years of age your child should be able to:
Social and emotional
• Copies others, especially adults and older children
• Gets excited when with other children
• Shows more and more independence
• Shows defiant behavior (doing what he/she has been told not to do)
• Plays mainly beside other children (parallel play) but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games

• Points to things or pictures when they are named
• Knows names of familiar people and body parts
• Says sentences made up of 2 to 4 words.
• Follows simple instructions
• Repeats words overheard in conversation
• Points to things in a book

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
• Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
• Begins to sort shapes and colors
• Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
• Plays simple make-believe games
• Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
• Might use one hand more than the other
• Follows two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”
• Names items in a picture book such as cat, bird or dog

Movement/Physical Development
• Stands on tiptoe
• Kicks a ball
• Begins to run
• Climbs onto and down from furniture without help
• Walks up and down stairs while holding on
• Throws ball overhand
• Makes or copies straight lines and circles

Take action early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:
• Does not use 2 word phrases (ex. ‘drink milk’)
• Does not know what to do with common items, such as a brush, phone, fork or spoon
• Does not copy actions and words
• Does not follow simple instructions
• Does not walk steadily
• Loses skills he/she once had

At three years of age, your child should be able to do the following:

Social and Emotional
• Copies adults and friends
• Shows affection for friends without prompting
• Takes turns in games
• Shows concern for crying friend
• Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
• Shows a wide range of emotions
• Separates easily from mom and dad
• May get upset with major changes in routine
• Dresses and undresses self

• Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
• Can name most familiar things
• Understands words like “in”, “on” and “under”
• Says first name, age and sex
• Names a friend
• Says words like “I”, “me”, “we” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
• Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
• Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentence

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
• Can work toys with buttons, levers and moving parts
• Plays make-believe with dolls, animals and people
• Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
• Understands what “two “means
• Copies a circle with a pencil or crayon
• Turns book pages one at a time
• Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
• Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Movement/Physical Development
• Climbs well
• Runs easily
• Pedals a tricycle
• Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

Take action early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child has any of these concerns:
• Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
• Drools or has very unclear speech
• Can’t work simple toys (such as peg board, simple puzzles, turning handle)
• Does not speak in sentences
• Does not understand simple instructions
• Does not play pretend or make-believe
• Does not want to play with other children or toys
• Does not make eye contact
• Loses skills he/she once had.

In the next article, your child’s development for ages four and five will be explored.