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What are developmental milestones for children?

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25 May 2023

Developmental milestones are significant achievements that children reach as they grow and develop. These milestones serve as indicators of a child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Milestones are usually categorised into different stages based on age ranges.

It’s important to note that children develop at their own pace, and there is a wide range of normal development. However, if a child does not meet certain milestones within a reasonable timeframe, it may be an indicator of a developmental delay or disability. Early identification and intervention is crucial in addressing these issues and can improve outcomes for children.

Why are developmental milestones important?

The reason that developmental milestones are important is that they serve as a guide for parents, caregivers, and health professionals to monitor a child’s progress and identify any potential developmental delays or disabilities early on.

Developmental milestones are important indicators of a child’s growth and development and can have a significant impact.. Monitoring these milestones and identifying any potential delays or disabilities early on can improve outcomes for children and ensure they reach their full potential.

What do these developmental milestones cover?

These developmental milestones can be broken down into three categories; physical, cognitive and social and emotional. Each of these categories combined can help identify a child’s development and whether there is cause for concern or not.

Physical developmental milestones involve a child’s gross and fine motor skills, such as rolling over, crawling, and walking. They provide the foundation for other physical activities, such as sports and play, and can impact a child’s independence and ability to perform daily activities. For example, a child who is unable to walk or crawl may have difficulty exploring their environment or playing with other children, which can affect their social and emotional development.

Cognitive developmental milestones provide the basis for academic achievement and success for children later in life. These milestones involve a child’s ability to think, reason, and learn, such as recognising shapes and colours and solving problems. For example, a child who struggles with language development may have difficulty learning to read and write, which can impact their academic progress and future career opportunities.

The final category is social and emotional developmental milestones. This category involves a child’s ability to interact with others, manage their emotions, and form relationships. These milestones impact a child’s ability to communicate, make friends, and develop a sense of self. For example, a child who struggles with social interactions may have difficulty forming friendships and may feel isolated or excluded from social activities.

understanding children's development

Common developmental milestones

Developmental milestones can be broken down into a number of categories, based on the ages of children:

Infants (0-12 months):

During the first year of life, infants typically develop rapidly, learning to roll over, crawl, and walk. They also develop basic communication skills, such as cooing and babbling and responding to their name. Infants will start to grasp objects and transfer them between hands. By 6 months, infants are often able to sit upright without support, and by 12 months, many are able to stand and walk with support.

It’s important to remember that infants develop at different rates. Some infants may reach these milestones earlier or later than others, and that’s okay.

Toddlers (1-3 years):

Toddlers are usually active and curious, and their development often involves exploring their environment and learning how to communicate their needs and feelings. By 2 years old, toddlers can often speak in simple sentences and follow basic instructions. They may be able to run and climb, and start to use utensils to feed themselves. By age 3, many have developed better coordination and balance, and be able to jump, skip, and ride a tricycle.

Preschoolers (3-5 years):

Preschoolers are becoming more independent and developing their social skills. They are usually able to dress themselves and use the toilet independently. They will start to develop more complex language skills, such as storytelling and asking more detailed questions. They will start to play cooperatively with other children and develop empathy for others. By 4 years old, they are often able to hop on one foot, draw a person with a head and body, and use scissors to cut paper.

School-age children (6-12 years):

School-age children will continue to develop their language and social skills. They will also develop more complex reasoning abilities, and start to develop a sense of morality and justice. By age 6, they are generally able to tie their shoes, write their name, and follow more complex instructions. They will also start to develop a sense of independence and self-identity. By age 10, they are commonly able to read fluently, write paragraphs, and perform basic maths operations.

Adolescents (13-18 years):

Adolescence is a time of significant physical, emotional, and social changes. Adolescents will continue to develop their language and reasoning abilities, but will also become more independent and self-directed. They will start to develop their own values and beliefs, and become more interested in peer relationships. By age 14, they are normally able to write coherent essays and understand abstract concepts. They will also now often start to develop their sexual identity and become more interested in romantic relationships.

children's learning and development

How to support your child reaching their development milestone

Parental support is crucial for a child’s overall development, especially in the early years of their life. Parents who actively participate in their child’s developmental milestones can create a positive impact on their child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

As a parent, there are many things you can do to support your child’s development milestones. Our top tips for helping support your child’s development include:

Create a safe and stimulating environment

Making sure your children have access to activities and toys that encourage exploration, creativity and imagination will help them with their development. Furthermore, this encouragement to play offers opportunities for learning and development that help unlock skills, boost happiness and allow children to explore new ideas.

Read and tell stories

Reading and storytelling are great ways to support your child’s language and cognitive development, so make sure to read and tell stories to your child regularly. This attention and involvement in your child’s life will in turn be beneficial for their emotional and social development.

Monitor developmental milestones

Keep track of your child’s developmental milestones, such as crawling, walking, talking, and socialising. If they reach these milestones, do not forget to praise them, as this will help boost your child’s confidence and motivate them to learn and grow. If you notice any delays, you can always consult your doctor or GP.

How can a nursery help support developmental milestones?

One way to help support children’s developmental milestones is enrolling them in a nursery. Attending a Kids Planet nursery can play an essential role in supporting children’s development by providing them with a safe and stimulating environment that supports their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development.

At Kids Planet, we provide children with the opportunity to interact and play with other children, which can help them develop social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and making friends. We also offer support for children’s physical development, which in turn will help their motor skills coordination and strength by providing opportunities for physical activity from a qualified sports coach. We also offer additional support to those children who present with additional needs. We have a SENDCo (Special Education Need and Development Coordinator) based in all the nurseries, as well as a dedicated SEND team (Special Education Need and Development) that supports, guides and advises each SENDCo.

We are particularly proud of our development of the Early Years Foundation Stage, aimed at our toddlers and preschoolers. EYFS is the framework used across England that sets the standard for learning and development in childcare. We regularly assess each child and once we have an overall view of a child’s development, we plan activities to support them during that specific developmental stage and help them to progress to the next stage. 

milestones for children's development

Children’s developmental milestones: Recap

Developmental milestones play a critical role in the growth and development of children. The ability to reach these milestones is a critical aspect of a child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development, which ultimately shapes their future.

Parents, caregivers, and educators can support children in reaching their developmental milestones through various activities and interactions that stimulate their senses, promote their curiosity, and encourage exploration and experimentation. Early intervention programs, such as early childhood education and therapy, can also provide additional support and resources to children who may be struggling with developmental delays.

It is important to remember that all children develop at different rates, and there is a wide range of what is considered normal development. Parents and caregivers should be sensitive to developmental issues and seek guidance from professionals if they have concerns about their child’s development. Additionally, children with developmental delays or disabilities may need additional support and resources to reach their milestones.

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