What Are Childhood Development Milestones?

Cindy Quarters

Childhood development milestones are the things that each child accomplishes as he or she moves through childhood. These are examined to see if a child is developing normally, based on the age at which the child usually becomes able to accomplish certain tasks or understand certain things. A child’s age when a milestone is reached is compared to the average age of other children reaching the same milestone. Such comparisons can help to identify a child who may be struggling with physical or mental skills.

Childhood development milestones include physical, mental and emotional categories.
Childhood development milestones include physical, mental and emotional categories.

There are different categories of childhood development milestones, including physical, mental and emotional. The physical milestones are typically the easiest to spot, covering such things as crawling, coloring and skipping. Mental markers can be a little bit harder to identify but include language and thinking skills. A child’s emotional development covers the ability to form relationships and react to the feelings of others.

Young children experience mental, physical and emotional developmental milestones.
Young children experience mental, physical and emotional developmental milestones.

Each age of a child’s life has different childhood development milestones that should be reached. Infants and very young children, for example, normally do such things as respond to strong tastes and odors, react to people’s faces, and realize that hidden objects still exist. They will also respond to limited commands and questions and can manipulate objects such as toys and bottles. These and many other milestones show that a child is developing normally.

Because children grow and progress at different rates, child development milestones may be seen as general guidelines.
Because children grow and progress at different rates, child development milestones may be seen as general guidelines.

Slightly older children, up to age four or five, develop skills that are much more complicated as they continue to learn about the world. They should be able to group objects according to type or color, understand the concepts of past and present and identify things such as a piece of cake as being part of a larger object. Children this age also reach many childhood development milestones as they develop both gross and fine motor skills through activities such as riding a bike, swinging and coloring.

Children a few years old should be developing their fine motor skills.
Children a few years old should be developing their fine motor skills.

As children continue growing, they are expected to develop more advanced skills as their world expands beyond home and family to include friends, teachers, school and extra-curricular activities. Between the ages of 6 and 12 children develop the skills to deal with more complicated relationships, and many typical tasks, such as personal hygiene, become the child’s responsibility instead of the parent’s. Children in this age group also commonly try new things as they test their parents and experiment with new ideas.

Coloring is a physical childhood development milestone.
Coloring is a physical childhood development milestone.

One important thing to remember about childhood development milestones is that they represent a range of normal development. Not all children will reach these milestones at the same age, but that doesn’t mean the children that are slow to develop necessarily have anything wrong with them. Developmental targets are used to help parents and other involved adults identify potential problems as well as ways a child might need help, but in most cases a child who is behind in reaching his or her milestones just needs a little more time.

Crawling is a typical infant milestone.
Crawling is a typical infant milestone.

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