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Developmental Milestones


Developmental milestones are functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children learn or demonstrate in predictable stages of growth.

How Do They Develop?

Developmental milestones are like stepping stones, with each milestone building upon the previous to support a child’s growth and development. For example, most children learn to crawl and pull themselves up to a standing position before they learn to walk. A child’s development progresses through four major skill areas:

  • Movement and muscle
  • Communication and expression
  • Play and social
  • Thinking and problem solving

In reality, each milestone does not develop in isolation, as development in one area is reinforced and enhanced by growth in others.

Every Child Is Unique!

Natural progression of growth makes it important to understand every developmental milestone as a way to gauge each new stage of development in your child’s life. It is important to keep in mind that every child develops, learns, and plays at their own pace.

What Can I Expect As My Child Develops?

Below are some developmental milestones the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends looking for:

By 6 Months

  • Rolls both ways (front to back, back to front)
  • Sits without support
  • Responds to own name
  • Explores toys with hands and mouth
  • Looks for partially hidden objects
  • Imitates sounds that you make
  • Transfers objects from one hand to the other
  • Makes “happy” and “sad” noises

By 12 Months

  • Scoots or crawls
  • Walks with or without support
  • Babbles and says “Mama” and “Dada”
  • Responds to simple requests
  • Pokes and points with index finger
  • Uses thumb and index finger to pick up small items
  • Has strong preference for primary caregiver
  • Imitates gestures like a wave or a kiss

By 18 Months

  • Climbs onto and down from furniture with assistance
  • Points to pictures in a book with index finger
  • Stacks items such as books
  • Knows three body parts
  • Uses several words including “no” and “mine”
  • Plays with toys by their function (phone, comb, cups)
  • Tries to activate a toy (winding, flipping switch, pushing)
  • Does things for attention and looks for a reaction

By 24 Months

  • Kicks a ball and can walk on tiptoes
  • Begins to run
  • Uses simple sentences of 2 or more words
  • Follows simple directions (e.g., “hand me your book”)
  • Sorts items by color, shape and size
  • Learning to share and take turns
  • Scribbles and may begin to copy vertical lines and circles
  • Recites repeated phrases from well-known books

By 36 Months

  • Catches a ball against chest
  • Undresses and unties shoes
  • Names actions in pictures (e.g., running, crying)
  • Answers “what” and “where” questions
  • Categorizes by group (trucks, animals, foods)
  • Completes 4 to 5 piece puzzles
  • When looking at books, can tell the difference between words and pictures
  • Starts to make friends

By 4 years

  • Steers a tricycle or pedal car around objects
  • Colors within lines and can draw a face
  • Knows opposites (hot/cold, big/little)
  • Asks “when” “why” and “how” questions
  • Uses regular past tense (“ed”)
  • Correctly counts out 10 items (1-1 correspondence)
  • Recognizes name in print
  • Pretends by role playing

By 5 Years

  • Balances on one foot, skips and jumps forward
  • Cuts out shapes with scissors
  • Understands 13,000 words
  • Answers questions about a story
  • Compares amounts using words like “more”, “less”, “same”
  • Plays simple board games
  • Acts out plays and stories
  • Understands rules

Over 5

  • Hops and gallops in a straight line
  • Uses mature (tripod) pencil grasp
  • Can wait their turn
  • Produces all sounds correctly (by 7)
  • Correctly uses past and future tenses
  • Listens to stories without pictures
  • Identifies start and end sounds in words
  • Adds and subtracts simple numbers

Developmental Screenings

As the first step in assessing your child’s developmental progress, you and your child can complete the American Academy of Pediatrics approved Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). The ASQ looks at your child’s strengths and challenges, educates parents about developmental milestones, and incorporates parents’ expert knowledge about their children to learn more about their development.  You can complete an ASQ for FREE online here or pick one up in our lobby. 

Adventure Guide

The Way To Play Adventure Guide is a packet of simple and entertaining play activities designed to help you better understand your child’s developmental milestones, gauge each new stage of growth and encourage emerging abilities in your child’s life.

You will learn how your child’s motor, communication, social and thinking skills are developing. While this guide incorporates Pretend City’s various exhibits, we encourage you to be creative and adapt these skill building activities for your everyday life!

Download guide [English] [Spanish]

In applying for an internship, please send resume and cover letter to volunteer@pretendcity.org.

Community Partners

The Good To Go From Head To Toe initiative is a community collaborative effort of many partners including American Academy of Pediatrics – California Chapter 4, Children & Families Commission of Orange County, Orange County Department of Education and Kaiser Permanente. The strength of our initiative and our ability to reach so many families is a result of our strong partnerships.

Contact Orange County 2-1-1: A comprehensive information and referral system that links Orange County residents to community health and human services and support. www.211oc.org or dial 2-1-1 from your phone.

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To protect the health of Pretend City Children’s Museum community, we ask families to please only come play with us on days that everyone is feeling well.

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