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Child Developmental Milestones: A Guide

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In the February issue of Frederick’s Child, we described how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting child development referrals to the Maryland Infants and Toddlers program. How do you know whether your child is developing as he or she should. The following guide offers child developmental milestones for what to look for with developmental behavior, language, motor and social skills.


Take note of changes in sleep patterns, eating habits and tantrums. When should tantrums raise concerns? “Parents have expectations of their child’s ‘normal’” when it comes to tantrums, says Dr. Mary L. O’Connor Leppert. Leppert is a member of the medical staff at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s department of neurodevelopmental medicine and serves as director of its Center for Development and Learning and co-director of its Infant Neurodevelopment Center.

If tantrum behavior has increased or gotten more aggressive, “talk to your pediatrician,” Leppert advises.


“Language is one of the most sensitive streams of development,” Leppert says.

  • By 18 months, children should be able to say 10 words, in addition to following commands and responding to pointing.
  • By 24 months, everything a child says should be “50% understandable” and they should be able to use two-word sentences.
  • At age 3, says Leppert, “language explodes.” Children are expected to have at least 250 words in their vocabulary and be able to spontaneously put together three-word sentences. They should know their colors and start to use pronouns and prepositions.
  • By age 4, the average child should know around 3,000 words and be completely understandable when speaking.

Motor Skills

As a rule, says Leppert, kids should be walking at 12 months, running at 15 months, and able to ride three wheels at age 3.

Social Skills

In infancy, children should maintain good eye contact, smile at 2 months and coo in response to interaction at 6 months. At 1 year old, children should babble with social intent. By age 2, children are parallel playing, pointing, following someone else’s point and imitating other children or parents. By age 3, kids should be initiating and reciprocating social overtures with other children and, in general, be “interested in other children,” according to Leppert.

Parents can foster their child’s developmental and overall health, says Leppert, by adhering to routines that include regularly scheduled meal and sleep times. Any concerns? Contact your pediatrician. “Early intervention is so important,” says Leppert. “We know it makes a difference.”

About Erica Rimlinger