What are Developmental Milestones?

Lindsey Rivas

Developmental milestones are a set of skills or tasks that children should typically be able to do during a certain age range. They are guidelines for physical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills and behaviors. The milestones are often broken down by age groupings, although the way they are grouped together can vary by source. Some of the major milestones include rolling over, walking, and talking. Although it can be perfectly normal for children to have some delays in reaching milestones, parents who are concerned about it should talk to a doctor to rule out developmental problems.

Different developmental milestones are associated with different ages.
Different developmental milestones are associated with different ages.

Children typically develop in a predictable pattern of growth, but the exact time that one achieves the developmental milestones can vary. The milestones are used to check if children are on track in general, but each child develops at his or her own pace. For infants, these abilities are many times learned and practiced during playtime. Some children excel in certain areas over others, although there is often overlap between skill categories because abilities in one can be enhanced by abilities in others.

Rolling over is achieved at about five months of age.
Rolling over is achieved at about five months of age.

Infants who were born prematurely usually reach developmental milestones later than those of the same birth age. This is because premature infants achieve milestones closer to their adjusted age, which is the age they would be if they had been born at full term. In some cases, they will learn the skills later than what their adjusted age would be.

Most of the time, developmental milestones are grouped into certain age ranges. Some sources will divide them into zero to three months, three to six months, six to nine months, and nine months to one year. Others will use a break down of one month, three months, seven months, and one year. Milestones are generally tracked yearly beyond the first year.

Many parents look forward to their children achieving major developmental milestones. For example, around five months old, infants typically learn to roll over, and by seven months they can usually sit by themselves. Crawling is often achieved around nine months old. Children generally develop their walking and talking abilities between 12 to 16 months old.

When children do not reach certain milestones around the expected age, parents might get concerned. Although children develop at different rates, significant delays in achieving milestones can indicate developmental problems like autism, Asperger syndrome, or physical disorders. Parents should talk to a doctor if they have questions or worries about the delayed abilities of their children. A doctor might recommend ways to improve the lagging skills, such as seeing a specialist like a speech pathologist or doing exercises to strengthen the body.

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