Developmental Milestones, Screening & Services

Developmental Milestones, Screening & Services

From the first smile to the first somersault, families love to celebrate their little learners’ development. Every child — including yours — grows, learns and develops in a unique way. When a child’s development doesn’t follow the typical path, families have many supports available to get support — and get it early, which is the best time. In Indiana, families of children from birth to three can find developmental supports through First Steps. For all children, developmental screening allows families to find and access extra help when it can make the greatest difference.

Children reach plenty of milestones worth celebrating.

From birth to five, families can keep track of that progress and support each child's growth in a variety of ways. Read more below about developmental milestones and more.

Every child has a unique path.
Checking on developmental milestones helps you keep them on track.

Developmental milestones are the typical skills that children develop in playing, learning, speaking, behaving and moving at specific ages. These milestones have windows of development that most children follow. When children develop in ways that don’t follow that path, Indiana families can find plenty of supports [page link to supports section] for children.

Are you curious about your child’s development? Two great resources can help you check in on their growth:

Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive

Every family looks forward to seeing a child’s first smile, first step, and first words. Regular screenings help raise awareness of a child’s development, making it easier to celebrate milestones and identify possible development concerns as early as possible. With early and regular screening, you can make sure that your children get the support they need to succeed in school and thrive alongside their peers.

To advance this mission, Indiana has joined with many other states across the nation in the Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive initiative. Learn more on their website.

To check in with your child’s growth, you can explore the milestones for birth through five by clicking on each tab. Track that progress using a developmental screening passport, created by Birth to Five: Watch me Thrive.

What most babies do by 2 months:
Social and Emotional
  • Begins to smile at people
  • Can briefly calm herself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)
  • Tries to look at parent
Language/Communication
  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds
  • Turns head toward sounds
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Pays attention to faces
  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance
  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change
Movement/Physical Development
  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy
  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs
What most babies do by 4 months:
Social and Emotional
  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops
  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning
Language/Communication
  • Begins to babble
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Lets you know if he is happy or sad
  • Responds to affection
  • Reaches for toy with one hand
  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it
  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
  • Watches faces closely
  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance
Movement/Physical Development
  • Holds head steady, unsupported
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface
  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back
  • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys
  • Brings hands to mouth
  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows
What most babies do by 6 months:
Social and Emotional
  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
  • Likes to play with others, especially parents
  • Responds to other people’s emotions and often seems happy
  • Likes to look at self in a mirror
Language/Communication
  • Responds to sounds by making sounds
  • Strings vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”) and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds
  • Responds to own name
  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure
  • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with “m,” “b”)
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Looks around at things nearby
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other
Movement/Physical Development
  • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
  • Begins to sit without support
  • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce
  • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward
What most babies do by 9 months:
Social and Emotional
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • May be clingy with familiar adults
  • Has favorite toys
Language/Communication
  • Understands “no”
  • Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa”
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others
  • Uses fingers to point at things
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Watches the path of something as it falls
  • Looks for things she sees you hide
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Puts things in his mouth
  • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other
  • Picks up things like cereal o’s between thumb and index finger
Movement/Physical Development
  • Stands, holding on
  • Can get into sitting position
  • Sits without support
  • Pulls to stand
  • Crawls
What most children do by 12 months:
Social and Emotional
  • Is shy or nervous with strangers
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Has favorite things and people
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”
Language/Communication
  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye”
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
  • Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
  • Tries to say words you say
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named
  • Copies gestures
  • Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair
  • Bangs two things together
  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
  • Lets things go without help
  • Pokes with index (pointer) finger
  • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”
Movement/Physical Development
  • Gets to a sitting position without help
  • Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”)
  • May take a few steps without holding on
  • May stand alone
What most children do by 18 months:
Social and Emotional
  • Likes to hand things to others as play
  • May have temper tantrums
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • Shows affection to familiar people
  • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • May cling to caregivers in new situations
  • Points to show others something interesting
  • Explores alone but with parent close by
Language/Communication
  • Says several single words
  • Says and shakes head “no”
  • Points to show someone what he wants
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Knows what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon
  • Points to get the attention of others
  • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
  • Points to one body part
  • Scribbles on his own
  • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say “sit down”
Movement/Physical Development
  • Walks alone
  • May walk up steps and run
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Can help undress herself
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Eats with a spoon
What most children do by 2 years:
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
What most children do by 3 years:
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 No image available for this milestone
  • 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
  • Eats with a spoon
What most children do by 4 years:
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
What most children do by 5 years:
Social and Emotional
  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • 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
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step
  • Eats with a spoon

 

These developmental milestones lists come from the Center for Disease Control’s “Learn the signs. Act early.” campaign.
More information can be found at the CDC’s web page.

Families can learn more about early learning & get ideas for fun activities to promote development.
Visit our Play & Learning pages to discover more.

If You’re Concerned – Act Early

If you have concerns about your child’s development, help is available! Explore the tips below to ensure that you find the right resources for your family. For more information, visit the CDC’s “If You’re Concerned” web page or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR

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 your state’s public early intervention program. 

FIRST STEPS

For children under three, Indiana’s First Steps System provides support to families with identified early intervention needs. First Steps brings together families with a local network of professionals from education, health and social service agencies. Services are coordinated to give each child the widest possible array of early intervention resources. First Steps is available in every county in Indiana. Learn more today.

LOCAL SCHOOL SUPPORTS

If you have concerns about your child after the age of 3, you can talk your local school system’s early childhood special education services program.

These programs serve children after their third birthday and are available to every child in Indiana.

Brighter Futures Indiana is brought to you through a partnership with The FSSA Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning and Early Learning Indiana.