Children’s growth and development has been analyzed through study and research for decades. Their predicted growth and development have been separated into several milestones to define what the ‘average’ development should look like for a young child.

Some children may reach these milestones later or earlier than others, which is normal. However, if your child has difficulty reaching appropriate milestones by the typical age, you should begin to pay close attention to their development moving forward.

Intellectual Development Milestones

We have listed below the ages which you should expect your child to develop specific intellectual milestones. Following each age and milestone group is a test which you can conduct with your child to observe his/her development.

Children: 3-5 months old

A normal childhood development suggests your baby should:

  • Recognize and react to the sound of your voice
  • Follow objects with his or her eyes
  • Mimic expressions from others
  • Engage in some forms of play with parents

Test: Stick your tongue out and see if your child follows suit

Children: 6-8 months old

  • Have a few big emotional displays/facial expressions (crying, smiles, giggles, etc.)
  • Begin making vowel and some consonant sounds
  • Babble and interact with others
  • Responds to auditory stimuli with auditory responses

Test: Engage verbally with your child and observe his/her verbal response

Children 9-11 months old

  • Engage in back and forth interactions and expressions (sounds, smiles, etc).
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Engage with environment in predictable ways (has favorite toy, is clingy toward parents, is afraid of strangers, etc.)
  • Watch objects as they fall

Test: Drop an object, i.e. a ball, and see if s/he follow the object with his/her eyes

Children: 12-14 months old

  • Interact with environment – waving, pointing, etc.
  • Respond to stimuli in robust ways — reaching for things, grabbing, babbling, etc.
  • Make discernable words

Test: Hold inanimate objects in front of your child and observe his/her reaction

Note: A lot of development occurs between 12-18 months. Your baby should start to develop a personality — i.e. crying when mom or dad leaves the room, laughing at some interactions, showing preference for parents/caregivers in presence of strangers. Pulls self to stand. (Test: Watch their reaction when you leave or enter the room; there should be notable difference in their countenance.)

Children: 15-17 months old

  • Speak a few words or close approximations of words (mama, dada, etc.).
  • Be capable of basic pretend play (feeding a doll, etc.)
  • Understand no, as well as some other basic commands.

Test: Speak affirming and negative words and observe his/her reaction

Children: 18-23 months old 

  • Speak at least 5-10 words
  • Recognize basic objects
  • Point to objects in their environment
  • Understands yes and no
  • Expand vocabulary
  • Show preference for caregivers and parents

Test: Ask your child to point to your significant others and observe his/her reaction

Children: 24 months+ 

  • Make meaningful, original phrases such as, “more water”
  • Turn book pages independently

Test: Engage your child in a conversation, asking simple questions, such as, “What’s your favorite color?” or “How old are you?”

What if My Child Does Not Reach These Milestones?

If your child shows signs of development issues, your doctor will want to run some tests to determine the cause for the delay. Healthcare professionals will often use developmental screening in order to discover if the child is not proactively learning the basic skills they should, or if there are further intellectual issues involved.

What is Developmental Screening?

Developmental screening is completed by a doctor, parent or caregiver in order to determine if a child has developmental delays. During the test, the conductor will measure the way your child speaks, learns, moves and behaves for their age. If after the test, your doctor discovers unusual developmental delays, they will refer you to a specialist who is trained to help your child with their specific setback(s).

At-Home Assessment

Take our milestone quiz to see if your child is on track with their developmental progress.

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