Knowing what to expect from your child is essential for their safety and wellbeing. Developmental milestones are the skills that children reach at a certain age, such as taking their first step, smiling for the first time, and saying goodbye. Children develop at their own pace, so it is impossible to know exactly when a child will learn a certain skill. However, developmental milestones give an overview of what changes are expected as a child grows.
Parents, grandparents, early childhood care providers, and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring, which watches how their child grows and changes over time and if their child meets typical developmental milestones by playing, learning, talking, behaving, and moving. If you're worried that your child isn't reaching some milestones, you can tell your doctor. Missing a milestone could be a sign of a problem, so when you take your child to a follow-up visit, the doctor may give your child a brief test or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. Special growth charts may be used for children with certain conditions or who were born prematurely.
In addition to physical development, there are also cognitive and emotional milestones that children reach at different ages. For example, at 6 years old, your child may be able to work things out if another child doesn't want to play a particular game. Rules games sometimes challenge your 6-year-old, and your child may even accuse others of cheating sometimes. Your child is proud of his own accomplishments, wants your approval, and probably won't get along with criticism or discipline.
As infants and children progress through a series of stages of growth, they may encounter common physical or emotional challenges. Here is a list of accomplishments and behaviors that are typical of younger children in three age groups: infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Your child can learn to ride a bicycle, jump rope, balance on one foot for a short period of time, walk downstairs without holding his hand, jumping and catching a big ball. Your child understands simple concepts such as time (today, tomorrow, yesterday), knows the seasons of the year, recognizes some words with the naked eye, and tries to pronounce the words. If the screening tool identifies an area of concern, a formal developmental assessment may be necessary in which a trained specialist analyzes the child's development in depth.
While the developmental milestones listed in this book will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child grows, don't be alarmed if his development follows a slightly different course. If you are concerned about your child's development or if he seems to be lagging behind in more than one of the areas listed below, talk to your doctor.