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Checklist of Early Childhood Developmental Skills

author image Sandy Fleming
Sandy Fleming is a writer and educator from Michigan with master's and bachelor's degrees in special education. She has been writing for the Web for more than 10 years and does private tutoring with children and adults. Her areas of expertise include educational and parenting topics as well as how-to articles and informative pieces. Fleming writes for numerous Internet publications and the local newspaper.
Checklist of Early Childhood Developmental Skills
A young baby with his his mother holds a colored pencil. Photo Credit evgenyatamanenko/iStock/Getty Images

Though all young children develop at different rates, you can generally use developmental commonalities to monitor healthy maturation. Parents and caregivers should educate themselves about the major milestones in each of five areas of development: physical, fine motor, language, social and cognitive. This awareness can reassure adults who care for normally developing young children, and can provide guidance about whether or when to seek professional evaluation or intervention.

Physical Development

Babies are born with limited physical control and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are large movements, using the arms, legs, head and trunk, according to First 5 California. A 1-month-old child might raise his head a bit when lying on his stomach. A 3-month-old can make some voluntary movements and will turn his head to see bright colors. Most 4-month-olds roll over. By 12 months, children should be walking with help. Children generally walk by 18 months of age. Most 3-year-olds can ride tricycles and run. By age 4, children should be jumping and balancing on one foot, and 5-year-olds generally can skip, walk backward and manage independently in the bathtub. Not all children meet these milestones at the same age, states HealthChildren.org. You can speak with your child's pediatrician if you're concerned about your child being delayed.

Fine Motor Development

Newborn infants wrap their fingers around an object put into their hand, and sometimes can get their hand to their mouth. Most 3-month-olds can track moving objects and hold a toy. Babies of 6 months generally put things in their mouths, intentionally reach for objects, pick things up and change items from one hand to the other. By 12 months, a child should be able to use her thumb and index finger to pick items up, hold a crayon to make a mark, use cups and spoons and sit unaided. The normal 18-month-old child can turn pages in a book, stack two blocks, scribble and take off his shoes and socks. At 2 years of age, children can string beads, unzip and draw a straight line. By 3, most kids can wash their hands and cut paper and 4-year-olds can unbutton big buttons, trace and copy letters, and draw a person. By the age of 5, most children can fold paper and do simple straight cutting. Each of these milestones can happen at that particular age, or soon after, and that's completely normal, according to HealthyChildren.org.

Language Development

Language skills also develop very rapidly in young children. Newborns express discomfort by crying. Three-month-olds listen to different voices and coo. Six-month-old children generally babble and voice their pleasure or displeasure by using tone. By the time most children are 1 year old, they should be saying a few words and imitating animal sounds. One-year-olds nod for "yes" and wave bye-bye. Most 2-year-olds put two or three words together, know about 50 words, and identify body parts by pointing. Three-year-olds in general can talk about toileting, ask and respond to simple questions, and speak clearly enough to be understood by people who know them. A 4-year-old child should know her own name, gender and age. She should use sentences of five to six words. Most 5-year-olds can tell stories, recite their name and address and use correct syntax when speaking most of the time. Each milestone is estimated and sometimes happens shortly before or after that age, according to HealthyChildren.org.

Social Development

Infants make eye contact almost as soon as they are born. At 3 months, babies understand that their hands and feet belong to them. They know to stop crying when a parent comes near. Six-month-old babies play peekaboo, show fear of strangers and hold their arms out to indicate when they want picked up. A 1-year-old child will play games such as patty-cake and will imitate adults. An 18-month-old child follows one- or two-step directions, knows when others focus their attention on him, and can point to pictures in a book. By age 2, most children begin to attempt to socialize with other children. They indulge in parallel play: playing beside peers but not interacting much. Most children of 3 learn to share and can follow simple rules; some have imaginary friends or playmates. By age 4, kids can show and name emotions, and most 5-year-olds have a concept of time and enjoy playing with others their own age. Social developmental milestones may be reached at varying time, since no two children are exactly alike, suggests HealthyChildren.org.

Cognitive Development

Newborns expect to be fed at regular intervals. and watch objects briefly. Three-month-old babies recognize bottle or breast. At 6 months, a baby begins to examine items, and by 1 year, she will search for hidden or lost items. A 1 1/2-year-old baby recognizes familiar pictures and things, understands that objects have purposes, and knows "up" and "down." Most 2-year-olds know their names, solve simple problems and put things into simple sequences, and most 3-year-olds can repeat phrases, pretend and remember rhymes. By age 4, children can point to six basic colors, understand a few numbers and draw recognizable pictures. Most 5-year-olds can count to 10, understand position words like "behind" and "in," and know at least some letters. Again, the rate at which your child develops his cognitive abilities can be different than other children, according to HealthyChildren.org. Any concerns should be brought to your pediatrician's attention.

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