A Parent’s Guide to Developmental Milestones in Speech, Language, and Motor Development

Understanding communication and motor milestones can be helpful when you have questions about your child’s development. Use the information here as a guideline to help you think about your child’s pattern of development. Remember that each child is unique, and there are variations in developmental patterns. See your pediatrician or family physician if you have concerns about your child’s development.

First Steps Pediatric Therapy Specialist - Infant under bilirubin lights

Babies from birth to six months are learning to:

  • respond and react to sounds around them
  • imitate sounds
  • recognize and respond to their name
  • babble – make sounds on their own
  • make sounds with their lips, like “b, p, m”
  • make sounds to show happiness or discomfort
  • begin sitting without support
  • roll front to back and back to front
  • begin supporting weight with their legs

At nine months babies often will:

  • show recognition of familiar people
  • understand “no-no”
  • string sounds together and make sound combinations like “bababa”
  • imitate sounds and gestures of others
  • enjoy “back and forth” games and play
  • look where you point to call their attention to something
  • stand with support
  • get into sitting position and sit without support
  • transfer toys from one hand to another
  • pick up small objects like cereal “O’s” with thumb and index finger

At 18 months children typically:

  • can pretend play, such as feeding a baby doll
  • point to request something or to call others’ attention to something interesting

  • know what common objects are for (cup, ball, brush)

  • point to a few body parts when asked

  • point to objects or pictures in books when named

  • will listen to simple stories and songs

  • can say single words and vocabulary grows rapidly

  • walk alone

  • begin to walk up steps and run

  • can help with undressing

At 2 years of age, children typically:

  • can self-feed

  • drink from an open cup with little spillage

  • follow basic two-step directions

  • understand differences in meaning of words like “big/little”, “on/off”

  • speak clearly enough to be understood about 50% of the time

  • imitate adult behaviors and voice patterns

  • show enjoyment or excitement around other children

  • can kick a ball

  • can throw a ball overhand

  • can walk up and down stairs holding on

  • can run

  • can climb on and off furniture without help

First Steps Pediatric Therapy Specialist - little girl walking on crutches
First Steps Pediatric Therapy Specialist - building blocks

At 3 years of age, children typically:

  • self-feed with a spoon or fork with little spillage

  • follow three-step directions

  • understand concepts in words like “mine, yours,” and “in, on, under”

  • understand some basic number concepts

  • have 1000 words in their vocabulary

  • speak clearly enough to be understood about 75% of the time

  • speak in 3-4 word sentences, using pronouns and plurals

  • can ask ‘who, what, where’ questions

  • engage in pretend play and group activities with other children

  • take turns and play cooperatively

  • can have a conversation with 2-3 speaking turns

  • take turns and play cooperatively

  • show affection for friends and family members

  • are interested in learning to button and zip clothing

  • can dress and undress themselves

  • climb well and run easily

  • walk up and down steps, one foot on each step

At 4 years of age, children typically:

  • can remember and retell parts of a story

  • understand time concepts like ‘yesterday, today, tomorrow’
  • can identify and name some colors and numbers
  • have 1600 words in their vocabulary

  • speak clearly enough to be understood about 90% of the time

  • speak routinely in sentences of 4 or more words

  • act out events using dramatic play

  • can express ideas and feelings and tell stories

  • prefer to play with other children than alone

  • can draw a person with 2-4 body parts

  • can manage fasteners like buttons and zippers

  • can hop and stand on one foot for a few seconds

  • can catch a bounced ball most of the time

At 5 years of age, children typically:

  • speak very clearly

  • can tell a story using full sentences

  • can describe future events (Dad will be home later.)

  • stay on topic when telling a story or having a conversation.

  • communicate easily with other children and adults.

  • can say full name and address

  • say most sounds correctly except a few like l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th

  • can make rhyming words

  • have verbal communication skills that resemble older children and adults

  • can copy shapes and print letters and numbers

  • can hop, skip, swing and do a somersault

  • wants to please and be like friends