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Developmental Milestones - Three Months to Five Years

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Updated May 16, 2014

Young father with male newborn and little daughter sitting on sofa at home.
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Sometimes it’s not enough to define what something is; we also need to explain what it’s not. This is certainly true of gifted children. It’s just not always enough to explain what it means to be a gifted child; we also need to explain what a gifted child is not. In other words, parents of gifted children need to be aware of the developmental milestones of average children to understand the advanced development of their gifted children.

Here is a list of some basic developmental milestones from ages three months to five years. Although most children will reach these milestones at approximately the time noted, there is considerable variation, with some children reaching them a little earlier and some children reaching them a little later. Gifted children, however, tend to reach several milestones weeks, months, and even years earlier than average children.

Three Months:

  • Lifts and turns head from side to side when lying on stomach
  • Grasps rattle when placed in hand
  • Smiles when smiled at
  • Follows moving object or person with eyes
  • Turns head toward bright colors and lights and toward the sound of a human voice
  • Makes cooing and gurgling sounds
  • Reacts to peek-a-boo games

Six Months:

  • Holds head steady when sitting (with some help)
  • Reaches for and grasps objects
  • Helps hold bottle during feeding
  • Explores by mouthing and banging objects
  • Pulls up to sitting position if hands are grasped
  • Opens mouth for spoon
  • Babbles and makes sing-song sounds
  • Knows familiar faces

Twelve Months:

  • Drinks from cup with help
  • Grasps small objects with thumb and forefinger
  • Puts small blocks in and out of a container
  • Sits unsupported
  • Crawls on hands and knees
  • Pulls self up to stand
  • Takes steps while holding on to furniture
  • Stands alone momentarily
  • Walks with one hand held
  • Moves body to music
  • Begins to use objects, like a comb, correctly
  • Babbles, but with inflection, which sounds like talking
  • Says first word
  • Responds to another’s distress by showing distress/crying
  • Understands simple commands

Eighteen Months:

  • Turns pages in a book
  • Stacks two blocks
  • Walks without help
  • Scribbles with crayons
  • Identifies object in a picture book
  • Begins to sort by shapes and colors
  • Follows simple, one-step directions
  • Says 8-10 words others can understand
  • Repeats words heard in conversation
  • Looks at person speaking to him or her
  • Uses “hi,” “bye,” and “please” when reminded
  • Asks for something by pointing or using one word
  • Acts out familiar activity in play (i.e. pretending to eat)
  • Recognizes self in mirror or pictures

Two Years:

  • Drinks from a straw
  • Feeds self with spoon
  • Builds tower with 3-4 blocks
  • Opens cabinets, drawers, boxes
  • Walks upstairs with help
  • Likes to take things apart
  • Explores surroundings
  • Begins to make believe play
  • Can and will follow directions
  • Enjoys looking at the same books over and over
  • Has vocabulary of several hundred words
  • Uses 2-3 word sentences
  • Comforts a distressed friend of parent
  • Refers to self by name and uses “me” and “mine”
  • Points to eyes, ears, or nose when asked

Three Years:

  • Builds tower of 4-5 blocks
  • Walks up steps, alternating feet
  • Turns pages in a book one at a time
  • Pays attention for about three minutes
  • Remembers what happened yesterday
  • Knows some numbers, but not always in the right order
  • Looks through a book alone
  • Likes to be read to
  • Counts 2-3 objects
  • Follows simple one-step commands
  • Uses 3-5 word sentences
  • Asks short questions
  • Names at least one color correctly
  • Knows first and last name
  • Recognizes & understands most common objects & pictures

Four Years Old:

  • Starts copying letters
  • Tries to write name
  • Builds tower of 7-9 blocks
  • Puts together simple 4-12 piece puzzle
  • Walks downstairs using handrail and alternating feet
  • Knows some basic colors
  • Sorts by shape and color
  • Counts up to 5 objects
  • Follows three instructions given all at once
  • Has large vocabulary
  • Wants to know “why” and “how”
  • Knows own age and name of hometown
  • Asks direct questions
  • Speaks well enough for strangers to understand
  • Has large vocabulary
  • Uses sentences of 5 or more words

Five Years Old:

  • Uses knife and fork well
  • Walks downstairs without a handrail, alternating feet
  • Balances on one foot for five seconds
  • Prints some letters
  • Copies shapes and patterns
  • Knows most basic colors
  • Wants to know what words mean
  • Recites own address and phone number
  • Copies own name
  • Identifies some letters of the alphabet
  • Counts up to 10 objects
  • Interested in cause and effect
  • Uses 6 words in a sentence
  • Uses “and,” “but,” and “then” to make longer sentences
  • Invents make believe games with simple rules
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