Child Growth & Development

Understand the stages of a child's growth and development.

An important aspect of parenting is understanding the changes your child will encounter during growth and development. As children advance through a sequence of growth stages they may face several challenges and relatively common problems.

Although no children are exactly alike, there are universally accepted theories of human development and growth patterns most share. Children not only vary in physical appearance, they also express differences socially and mentally, as well as through personality and behavior. How children interact with others and respond to their environment also changes throughout the developmental stages. Generally these changes occur in an orderly manner; however, the rate of progression varies among children.

Gaining an understanding for the series of development helps prepare parents to provide the proper care and attention their child needs.

Child development stages

Children’s growth and development can be divided into four distinct stages including:

  • Infant Development (Newborn and Baby) – Immediately following birth, a newborn will lose approximately 5% to 10% of their birth weight. By the age of 4 to 6 months, a newborn’s weight should double from birth and will slow during the second half of their first year of their life.
  • Toddler Development (Preschool Years) – Between ages 1 and 5, toddlers will gain approximately five pounds each year.
  • Childhood Development (Middle School Years) – Although your child’s growth will remain steady, once he or she begins puberty they will experience a significant growth spurt, approximately around age 9.
  • Adolescent Development (Teenage Years) – A child’s growth will typically peak by mid to late teens when their skeletal system has fully formed.

A child’s nutritional needs will also alter corresponding to changes in growth. As an infant, there is a greater need for caloric intake than that of a preschooler or middle school child. Nutritional needs will increase again as child reaches adolescence.

Proper nutrition is not only important for a child’s health and growth patterns, but also for their mental development. Children may lack energy or feel tired if they do not receive a sufficient diet throughout the day.

Child Growth Chart


Physical /
Motor Skills

Language /

Thinking /

Social /

Birth to 3 Months

  • Makes jerky arm movements
  • Holds hands in tight fists
  • Brings hand within range of eyes and mouth
  • Head falls back when unsupported
  • Raises & moves head side to side when lying on their stomach
  • Begins reflexes including, sucking, grasping & holding their tongue to the roof of their mouth
  • Infants pay close attention to sounds and language
  • Responds to speech by looking at the person speaking
  • Reacts to changes in tone, pitch, volume and intonation
  • Communicates with movements including crying, jabbering and laughing
  • Attempts to mimic sounds
  • Most infants can see within 13 inches clearly
  • Starts to focus & follow moving objects and people
  • Can see all colors
  • Distinguishes tastes involving, sweet, sour, bitter and salty
  • Preference for high contrast items
  • Responds with facial expressions to strong odors
  • Begins to suck fingers
  • Watch and Observe Hands
  • Responds positively to touch
  • Starts to recognize body parts, examples, arms & legs
  • Learns to feel comfort with a familiar adult
  • Will respond to touch
  •  Begins to smile and express pleasure to social interaction

3 to 6 Months

  • Becomes stronger and more alert
  • Begins movements utilizing large muscle groups including rolling over and pushing the body forward
  • Starts to reach for objects
  • Grasps objects and puts them in their mouth
  • Makes discoveries of object’s qualities including the noises they make when moving them
  • Loves to have conversations through exchanging sounds, facial expressions and bodily gestures
  • Recognizes familiar voices of mom, dad and caregiver
  • Listens to conversations
  • Repeats some sounds involving vowels and consonants
  • Begins to recognize faces
  • Can differentiate people by the way they look, sound or feel
  • Reacts to and mimics facial expressions
  • Starts to respond to familiar sounds
  • Starts to anticipate routine events including changing, feeding and bathing
  • Will begin to initiate social interaction
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Starts to recognize their name
  • Can laugh out loud
  • Smiles more freely

6 to 9

  • Babies becomes more mobile
  • Starts reaching and pulling up on furniture
  • Begins motions to crawl
  • Grasps and pull objects towards themselves
  • Transfers items between hands
  • Vocals increase
  • Begins repetitive jabbering
  • Can associate gestures with small words and two word phrases like “hey” and “bye-bye”
  • Starts to use vocal & non-vocal communication to express interest
  • At an early age, babies try to learn how things work
  • Begin to stare longer at suspended objects
  • Can distinguish between nonliving and living objects
  • Uses size of objects to decipher how close or far away they are
  • Begins to show preferences for familiar people
  • Expresses more emotions
  • Will respond to voices & gestures
  • Will display discontentment at the loss of a toy

9 to 12 Months

  • Babies will begin to sit and stand without support
  • Starts walking with assistance
  • Can roll a ball and throw objects
  • Will pick up and drop toys
  • Begins picking up objects using thumb and one finger
  • Children begin trying to talk
  • Babies can recognize the names of familiar individuals and objects
  • Displays understanding by responding with body language and facial expressions
  • Can say a few simple words
  • Understands and responds to “No-no” by stopping
  • Responds to simple questions & directions with gestures, sounds and some words
  • Expresses pleasure when looking at picture books
  • Explores how things work
  • Experiments with physical objects, turning items over and fitting them into larger containers
  • Imitates simple actions
  • Become responsive to their name
  • Will begin to feed themselves finger foods
  • Starts to hold cup with both hands and assistance
  • Expresses apprehension when separated from mom or dad
  • Waves “Bye-bye”

1 to 2 Years

  • Self-initiated movements become easier
  • Begins to walk alone
  • Will try to walk backwards
  • Picks up objects while standing
  • Can seat self in children’s chairs
  • Pushes and pulls objects
  • Can walk up & down stairs with assistance
  • Moves in response to music/singing
  • Begins to scribble using fisted hand
  • Starts to repeat & understand many words & simple phrases
  • Follows series of simple directions
  • Can communicate a few words clearly
  • Can say single words to explain an event or request for an object
  • At 18 months children begin learning about 9 words a day
  • Spends a great deal of time observing and imitating adult’s actions and language
  • Understands words & instructions by responding correctly
  • Begins matching like objects
  • Starts recognizing characters in books & movies with help
  • Can distinguish between “you” & “me”
  • Will begin to recognize themselves in pictures and the mirror
  • Obeys few commands
  • Begins to play by themselves & mimic adult behaviors during play
  • Shows pleasure in new accomplishments
  • Expresses negative feelings
  • Starts to help with small tasks

2 to 3

  • Become more comfortable with motions, increased speed and coordination
  • Begins movements such as, running, jumping with both feet, walking on tip toes and kicking
  • Can stand on one foot with support
  • Turns pages of books
  • Holds drawing utensils with thumb and finger, not fist
  • Children are able to maneuver small objects with more control
  • Starts to join words to form short sentences
  • Begins to use modifiers (adverbs and adjectives)
  • Begins to point to familiar objects as they are named
  • Names objects based on their descriptions
  • Responds to simple questions including “where?” and “what?”
  • Enjoys listening to stories and reading books
  • Starts to recall and explain events that occurred that day
  • Begins to group objects by category
  • Identifies themselves in the mirror or pictures
  • Chooses picture books
  • Starts to identify objects by sound or picture
  • Enjoys role-play and imitating adult actions, for example playing house
  • Can stack items in order of their size
  • Relates what they are doing to what others are doing
  • Starts to identify gender differences
  • Indicates the need to “potty”
  • Assists with dressing and undressing themselves
  • Is assertive about their preferences
  • Uses “I” “me” and own name
  • Illustrates fear of things
  • Becomes defensive of possessions
  • Participates in activities such as singing, clapping and dancing

3 to 4 Years

  • Children have improved movements & balance including, walking in a line, running around objects, balancing on one foot and steering push toys
  • Begins to ride tricycle
  • Starts to throw and catch a ball
  • Can build towers with blocks
  • Begins drawing shapes
  • Can use slide without help
  • Language becomes more complex
  • Able to communicate more understandably
  • Uses more correct grammar such as plurals and tenses
  • Understands & recognizes size comparisons involving big and small
  • Understands time concepts and narrates past occurrences
  • Can sing songs and repeat nursery rhymes
  • Begins sorting objects based on physical attributes, including matching colors and shapes.
  • Organizes materials without help
  • Can identify parts of a whole
  • Starts to learn how to write their own name
  • Can tell you their full name & age
  • Can attend to an activity for an extended amount of time
  • Begins to follow directions
  • Can wash hands & blow nose when reminded
  • Begins to share toys & take turns
  • Uses term “we”
  • Initiates or joins other children in playing
  • Starts to create own games
  • Plays pretend (example, acting as animals, parents or objects)

4 to 5 Years

  • Children are more confident with large movements including walking backwards, skipping, jumping forward, hopping on one foot, and walking up & down stairs alternating feet
  • Begins turning flips and learning somersaults
  • Can use children’s scissors and cut in a continuous line
  • Copies more complex shapes
  • Children can start writing a few letters
  • Tries to retell stories, sometimes confusing a few facts
  • Combines thoughts to form sentences
  • · More curious, starts asking “when?” “how?” and “why?” questions
  • Can follow a series of unlike commands
  • Understands sequencing of events and comparatives using “er” & “est”
  • Begins using words like “can,” “might,” “will,” “should,” and “shall.”
  • Can mimic and make sounds of letters
  • Begins to make rhymes with words
  • Can point to and name colors
  • Comprehends order and processes
  • Learns to write name
  • Describes pictures
  • Can draw a person with details
  • Counts to five
  • Is able to articulate their street address and town
  • Shows understanding of good & bad behavior
  • Begins to compare themselves with others
  • Acknowledges others feelings
  • Develops friendships
  • Begins imaginative play
  • Curious of opposite sex & other children’s bodies
  • Becomes Competitive


If you are concerned about your child’s growth and development, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled pediatricians.

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