The toddler years is a time of rapid change where not only does changes in physical development occur but also in areas such as cognitive, emotional and social development. Babyspace will start off with the following table which highlights the important milestones in child development.

Personal, Social and Emotional Communication Physical Thinking
6 months

● Holds eye contact for 5 or more seconds

● Recognizes the main person taking care of the him/her

● Smiles when smiled at, shows distress when hearing another crying

● Turns his/her eyes and/or head towards you when you speak

● Smiles and moves around to interact

● Tries to communicate with known adult through making sounds when spoken to

● Makes smooth movements with arms and legs, this will gradually become more controlled

● Explores hands and fingers by looking at them, pressing hands together, clasping hands

● Picks up and explores objects

● Shows interest in new things like new toys

● Repeats actions for example, kicking or shaking a rattle to create movement

● Looks forward to routines including seeing familiar objects like spoons, stroller before a walk

12 months

● Shows attachment to special people by crying when separated

● Follows with gaze when an adult directs attention to an object

● Begins to babble for example by saying, ‘ba-ba-ba’, ‘ma-ma-ma’

● Points to objects and people

●  When sitting, can lean forward to pick up small objects

● Cooperates when requested for example lies still, or helps hold legs

● Watches and tries to find hidden toy

● Struggles to get objects that are out of reach and pulls object when it is closer

18 months

● Uses other people to help achieve a goal – for example, to get an object that’s out of reach

● Shows awareness of other people’s feelings – for example, looks concerned if hears crying

● Uses approximately five different words without any help

● Identifies many objects and pictures when asked questions – for example, “Where’s the ball?”

● Takes first few steps – feet wide apart, uneven steps, arms raised for balance

● Signals wet or soiled nappy or pants

●  Engages in simple pretend play with soft toys – for example, hugs and kisses teddy

● Matches shape of piece to hole – for example in a shape sorter.

2.5 years

● Goes away to play and interact with others, but returns for a cuddle if becomes anxious

● Wants to do things independently, says “No” to adult, and so on

● Shows understanding of some rules

● Says two words together – for example “teddy sleeping”

● Joins in with songs and actions – for example, ‘The Wheels on the Bus’

● Says three words together – for example, “go park today”

● Starts to help with dress and hygiene routines

● Holds pencil between thumb and two fingers

● More control in holding and using objects, books

● Can organise and categorise objects – for example, putting all red things and all blue things in separate piles

● Operates mechanical toys – for example, turns the knob on a wind-up toy

● Completes simple puzzle board

3.5 years

● Recognises self in mirror or photo – for example, if sees dirt or food on face, tries to wipe it off

● Shows independence in selecting and carrying out activities.

●  Listens eagerly to short stories

● Uses a range of tenses – for example, “play’”, “playing”, “will play” and “played”.

● Catches a large ball

● Washes and dries hands

● Is more organised, gathering together the toys they want to play with before starting play

● Draws person with head and one or two other features or parts

5 years

● Mimics behaviour of adults out of curiosity for example, removing shoes and socks before going on slide after seeing others doing this

● Works as part of a group or class, taking turns and sharing fairly

● Uses longer sentences to link more than one idea, for example “We walked to the park and we watched the ducks”

● Can pick out the first sound in a word

● Reliably dry and clean during the day

● Dresses and undresses independently

● Concentrates and listens for more than ten minutes in adult-led activities that they enjoy

● Shows flexibility in trying different ways of tackling problems

While these developmental milestones usually happen at fairly predictable ages, not all children stick to these exact age ranges. However, keeping a close eye and contacting your paediatrician if you do see a drastic deviation is important as it could be due to a developmental delay.

A developmental delay might be specific to one particular area. For example, a child with muscular dystrophy which is a genetic disorder affecting the muscles, will have specific delays in their physical development. Or if a child is slow in reaching two or more milestones in all areas of development, then the child may be described as having a Global Developmental Delay (GDD).

Some children may also show a delay which is temporary usually in the case of certain issues like;

  • A severe illness where they may appear to regress and no longer be able to do things they previously did or due to
  • A family event such as the arrival of a new baby or death of a close family member

In such instances where the child’s progress slows for a while and there seems to be a reason, it is not necessarily a cause for concern. But if the delay is persistent or happens for no obvious reason then it is important to seek professional advice.

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