Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are all called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (crawling, walking, etc.).

How your child plays, learns, speaks, and acts offer important clues about your child’s development.

Check the milestones your child has reached by the end of each developmental phase. Take this information with you and talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or provider has a concern. Ask your child’s doctor about your child’s developmental screening.

“Learn the signs. Act early.” materials are not a substitute for standardized, validated developmental screening tools.

If You’re Concerned – Act Early

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age, and talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as Early Childhood CARES at (541) 346-2578.

Two Years:

What most children do at this age:

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 has been told not to)
  • Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games
Language/Communication
  • Points to things or pictures when they are named
  • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
  • Says sentences with 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 a 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 holding on
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Makes or copies straight lines and circles
Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:
  • Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”)
  • Doesn’t know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, spoon
  • Doesn’t copy actions and words
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Doesn’t walk steadily
  • Loses skills she once had

Three Years:

What most children do at this age:

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
Language/Communication
  • 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 sentences
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 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 (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step
Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:
  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Loses skills he once had

Four Years:

What most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Plays “Mom” and “Dad”
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than by himself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Often can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Talks about what she likes and what she is interested in
Language/Communication
  • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • Tells stories
  • Can say first and last name
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Names some colors and some numbers
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Starts to understand time
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Understands the idea of “same” and “different”
  • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Plays board or card games
  • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book
Movement/Physical Development
  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food
Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:
  • Can’t jump in place
  • Has trouble scribbling
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Ignores other children or doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Can’t retell a favorite story
  • Doesn’t follow 3-part commands
  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Speaks unclearly
  • Loses skills he once had

Five Years:

What most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Shows more independence (for example, may visit a next-door neighbor by himself [adult supervision is still needed])
  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative
Language/Communication
  • Speaks very clearly
  • Tells a simple story using full sentences
  • Uses future tense; for example, “Grandma will be here.”
  • Says name and address
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can draw a person with at least 6 body parts
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food
Movement/Physical Development
  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hops; may be able to skip
  • Can do a somersault
  • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Can use the toilet on her own
  • Swings and climbs
Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:
  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad)
  • Unusually withdrawn and not active
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Doesn’t respond to people, or responds only superficially
  • Can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Doesn’t play a variety of games and activities
  • Can’t give first and last name
  • Doesn’t use plurals or past tense properly
  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities or experiences
  • Doesn’t draw pictures
  • Can’t brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
  • Loses skills he once had

www.cdc.gov

Adapted from CARING FOR YOUR BABY AND YOUNG CHILD: BIRTH TO AGE 5, Fifth Edition, edited by Steven Shelov and Tanya Remer Altmann © 1991, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2009 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and BRIGHT FUTURES: GUIDELINES FOR HEALTH SUPERVISION OF INFANTS, CHILDREN, AND ADOLESCENTS, Third Edition, edited by Joseph Hagan, Jr., Judith S. Shaw, and Paula M. Duncan, 2008, Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.