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Social Emotional Development

Family Image During the first three years of life, your child will develop crucial intellectual, emotional and social abilities, learn to give and accept love, to be confident and secure, to show empathy, to be curious and persistent—all abilities that will enable your child to learn, relate well to others and lead a happy and productive life. This is an exciting period in your child's life!

Each child grows and develops differently. This gives you general information about what a child from birth to age five might be doing at a certain age.

If you have concerns about your child's growth and development, you may want to consult with your pediatrician, family physician or other healthcare provider.

Your child may benefit from Early Intervention. If your child is between birth to age 3, and you have concerns about his or her development, view the Child and Family Connection agency (CFC) Web site or contact 1-800-843-6154 to find an agency near you.

2 - 4 weeks:

  • Raises head momentarily when prone
  • Fixes on human face and follows with eyes
  • Responds to parent's face and voice, smiles spontaneously
  • Responds to sound by blinking, crying, quieting, changing respiration or showing startle response
  • Has flexed posture; moves all extremities
  • Can sleep for three or four hours at a time; can stay awake for one hour
  • Can be consoled most of the time by being spoken to or held

2 months:

  • Grasps rattle placed in hand
  • Social smiles, smiles responsively
  • Coos and reciprocal vocalization
  • Shows interest in visual and auditory stimuli
  • Demonstrates social interaction, follows moving person with eyes
  • When prone, lifts head, neck and upper chest with support of forearms
  • Some head control in upright position

4 months:

  • Holds head high, raises body on hands when prone, sits when supported
  • Controls head well
  • Rolls prone to supine
  • Plays with hands, holds rattle, reaches for objects, holds own hands
  • Looks at mobile, arms active
  • Follows object 180 degrees
  • Smiles, coos, laughs, babbles; initiates social contact, turns to voice
  • May sleep at least six hours
  • Able to comfort self, e.g., fall asleep by self

6 months:

  • Rolls from front to back; sits with support
  • Bears weight, stands with support
  • Transfers objects hand to hand
  • Turns to sound and voice; may show stranger anxiety
  • Raking hand pattern; grasps and mouths objects
  • Vocalizes single consonants ("dada," "baba"); may imitate sounds of speech
  • Babbles reciprocally; reacts socially by smiling in response to someone else's smile
  • Shows recognition of parents; shows interest in toys
  • Starts to self-feed
  • First tooth may erupt

9 months:

  • Sits independently
  • Reaches for objects with one hand
  • Bangs, throws and drops objects
  • Finger feeds, starts to use cup
  • Imitates vocalizations; babbles
  • May say "dada" and "mama" nonspecifically
  • Responds to own name
  • Understands a few words, e.g., "no-no," "bye-bye" - combines syllables
  • Can sleep through the night
  • May show stranger anxiety
  • Enjoys interactive games, e.g., peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Turns toward sound with eyes and head movement

12 months:

  • Pulls to stand, stands alone, cruises, may take a few steps alone
  • Has precise pincer grasp
  • Points; indicates wants
  • Has vocabulary of one to three words; uses "mama" and "dada" correctly
  • Recognizes caregiver's voice
  • Obeys simple requests; waves "bye-bye"
  • Feeds self; drinks from a cup
  • Actively looks for hidden or dropped objects
  • Shows emotions (fear, anxiety, affection)
  • Imitates

15 months:

  • Walks alone, bends over, may run
  • Crawls up stairs
  • Stacks two blocks
  • Can point to one or more body parts
  • Feeds self with fingers, drinks from cup
  • Understands simple commands
  • Listens to a story
  • Has vocabulary of three to six words
  • Indicates wants by pointing or grunting
  • Imitates activity
  • Can remove some clothing

18 months:

  • Likes to climb and run, walks backwards; climbs into chair, sits in chair
  • Throws/kicks ball; stacks three or four blocks
  • Has a vocabulary of 15-20 words, uses two word phrases, imitates words
  • Uses a spoon and cup, can remove clothing
  • Listens to a story, looking at pictures and naming objects
  • Plays with toys appropriately, e.g., pulls a pull toy, cuddles a doll
  • Answers simple questions by pointing, follows simple directions
  • Scribbles spontaneously, imitates crayon strokes
  • Dumps object from bottle without demonstration
  • Shows affection, hugs and kisses

24 months:

  • Climbs up and down steps holding on with one hand
  • Jumps, runs, throws overhand
  • Stands on one foot with little support
  • Can stack five or six blocks
  • Has a vocabulary of 50+ words, two word phrases, understands pronouns
  • Speech should be intelligible to parents
  • Parallel play dominant
  • Possessive with toys
  • Can follow two-step commands, can name some body parts
  • Makes or imitates horizontal and circular strokes with crayon
  • Imitates adults
  • Increasing attention span
  • Separation anxiety from parents
  • Brushes teeth with help, puts on clothing, washes hands

3 years:

  • Jumps in place, kicks a ball, balances on one foot, stacks blocks
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Alternates feet ascending stairs
  • Knows name, age and gender
  • Copies circle and cross, visually discriminates colors
  • Has some self care skills, e.g., feeding and dressing self
  • Demonstrates speech that is mostly intelligible
  • Pretend play well developed
  • Can follow directions
  • Names colors

4 years:

  • Hops, jumps forward, alternates feet when climbing stairs, balances on each foot, climbs
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Builds tower of 10 or more cubes, plays board/card games
  • Throws overhand
  • Ability to cut and paste
  • Draws a person with two or three parts; copies circle, cross and square
  • Can sing a song
  • Can talk about daily activities
  • Can distinguish fantasy from reality
  • Make believe play, imaginary playmates
  • Puts away own toys
  • Dresses and undresses self, brushes teeth with no help

5 years:

  • Dresses self without help, ties shoelaces
  • Balances on each foot, heel-to-toe walk, can count on fingers
  • Knows own address and phone number
  • Recognizes colors and common shapes
  • Copies simple shapes (e.g., triangle or square), able to print a few letters and numbers
  • Draws a person with head, body, arm and legs
  • Speaks in phrases that are understood by others
  • Plays make believe and dress up
  • Plays and shares with others
  • Understands opposites
  • Recalls parts of stories

Kindergarten Checklist:

There is no simple method for determining that a child is ready for kindergarten, but this list from a child-development specialist may help parents evaluate their children’s developmental level. These developmental skills are important for a child if he or she is to function happily in the kindergarten classroom.

Speech and language:

  • Asks meaning of words
  • Describes pictures and experiences
  • Uses appropriate verb tense and grammar
  • Recognizes simple jokes, riddles, absurdities (Do cats fly?)

Gross motor coordination:

  • Walks downstairs, using alternating feet
  • Hops on one foot
  • Jumps along a 6-foot line with both feet
  • Walks scissor steps across a line
  • Begins to skip, alternating feet

Fine motor coordination:

  • Can use scissors to cut a straight line
  • Copies a circle, square and cross
  • Draws a person fully with body and four limbs
  • Traces within lines

Social and emotional:

  • Can handle snaps, buckles, buttons, zippers and begins to tie shoes
  • Independent toileting
  • Dresses and undresses independently
  • Able to function in structured group with rules
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Initiates sharing and taking turns

For Healthy Start/Grow Smart Brochures for your newborn and each month of your infant's first year of life.


Resources for girls:

Maternal and Child Health

 Need Assistance?

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

JB Pritzker, Governor • Theresa Eagleson, Director

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