New Hampshire Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders
Putting the Pieces Together in the Granite State
Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones are a set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range.  Pediatricians uses milestones to help check how a child is developing.  Although each milestone has an age level, the specific age when a typically developing child reaches that milestone can vary quite a bit. Because every child is unique, a milestone should be thought of as a benchmark, not as a hard-and-fast rule.

Developmental milestones fall into broad categories, also called developmental "domains".  The following is one way that early childhood professionals describe the different domains:

  • Physical milestones involve both large-motor skills and fine-motor skills. The large-motor skills are usually the first to develop and include sitting up, standing, crawling and walking. Fine-motor skills involve precise movements such as grasping a spoon, holding a crayon, drawing shapes, and picking up small objects.
  • Cognitive milestones are centered on a child's ability to think, learn and solve problems. An infant learning how to respond to facial expressions and a preschooler learning the alphabet are both examples of cognitive milestones.
  • Social and emotional milestones are centered on children gaining a better understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others. These milestones also involve learning how to interact and play with other people.  Smiling when mom approaches or playing simple, pretend games like feeding a doll are signs of growth in this domain.
  • Communication milestones involve both language and nonverbal communication. A one-year old learning how to say his first words and a five year old using pronouns like "I" and "they" correctly are examples of important communication milestones.

Through the Learn the Signs, Act Early Campaign, the CDC has developed checklists that correspond to the recommended ages for well child check-ups. As a parent, you know your child best and bring important information about how your child is doing when you come to each of these visits.  The checklists linked to the left can help you organize your insights and questions before each appointment. Your pediatric healthcare provider is likely to ask about the skills listed as typical for your child's age.  At some visits, the doctor may use a questionnaire as a more formal way to screen your child for any delay. This is routine and does not mean that your child has a developmental problem.  To learn more about early preriodic screening, link here.


Prepared by the CDC, 
English and Spanish:

NOTE: “Learn the signs. Act early.” materials are not a substitute for standardized, validated developmental screening tools. If one of these checklists raises concerns about your child's development, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider about screening.
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LEARN THE SIGNS, Developmental Milestones

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Parenting TIPS: Make the most of Playtime

Interact with your child as much as possible. Read books, sing songs, play with toys, make crafts, do household chores, and play outside together. Talk to your child: label items, point out interesting things, tell stories, comment about what you see and how you feel, and explain how things work and why things happen. Your child may not always seem to be listening, but he or she may be hearing more than you think.

To Learn More:

  • Babies Come into the World Ready to Learn Language, from University of New Hampshire, Cooperative Extension, link here
  • Positive Parenting Tips, from Centers for Disease Control, link here
  • Zero to Three, Early Experiences Matter, link here

I know the signs of healthy child development.
Also available in Spanish (Español), link here
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