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An introduction to developmental milestones


Over the past few months, our blog and social media posts have explored various developmental areas - social, physical, language, intellectual, creative and emotional domains or, as we call them "S.P.L.I.C.E." Our content and suggested activities have provided ideas and ways you can support your child in achieving their optimal development, but you may be asking yourself “is my child hitting their developmental milestones when they are supposed too?”


First, what is a developmental milestone?

A developmental milestone is a functional skill or task a child can perform at a certain age within the developmental domains. For example, walking is a major developmental milestone and usually occurs somewhere around one year of age, but what happens if your baby is older and still not walking? Before you panic, consider what your baby IS doing. Can your baby crawl, pull themselves up, or stand? These are all signs your baby is developing their motor skills and indicate that walking will soon follow.



While children typically grow and develop in a similar sequence, they may develop certain skills at their own pace either before or after their peers. For example, a child 18-24 months (about two years) old will typically be able to use approximately 50 words. This means that you may see a child 18 months (about one and a half years) old using 50 words while a child 22 months (about two years) old is still using only 20 different

words. While this may seem like a significant difference, both children are within the appropriate range for their age. Another thing to consider is the environment a child spends most of their time in. In the previous example, the younger child may have older siblings or extended family, creating a language-rich environment, while the older child may be an only child with a quieter family and home life.


One step at a time

Milestones develop sequentially, meaning a child needs to develop basic skills before they can expand on them and develop new skills. A perfect example of this is a child’s ability to draw a human. The first step to achieving this skill happens around age one when the child picks up a tool and creates random marks or scribbles on paper. As early as age two, lasting until around age four, a child will start to make more intentional scribbles that resemble a person, usually with a head, arms, legs, and face. Soon after, they will begin adding details to their drawings and, by age five, can usually draw a person with many different elements such as fingers, toes, hair, and other familiar objects such as pets, demonstrating their intellectual development. To accomplish these artistic skills, the child must also refine and develop their pencil grasp (how they hold a pencil) to establish more control over their fine-motor (small muscle) movement, demonstrating their physical development.


The above photos show the difference in skill between two developing age groups. The toddler (left) is focused primarily on the experience of moving the paint around the paper with his brush while using his palmer grasp. The preschool children (right) are using their refined tripod grasp to paint purposeful marks that represent objects they are familiar with.


Whether your child is beginning to show their development through drawing, stacking blocks or naming objects, their brain is continuing to develop rapidly and observing these types of milestones is important to understanding your child’s growth and development. However, as with other benchmarks, not all children will develop these skills at the same time.


Ages and Stages Questionnaire

If you would like to learn more about where your child is developmentally or if you have any concerns, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is a great screening tool that provides a snapshot of a child’s current strengths and identifies areas they may need a little extra support. There are different types of ASQs available based on your concerns. If you are interested in completing one with your child, call (780) 471-373 and ask to speak with one of our intake facilitators about doing an ASQ.


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