Parents, guardians and caregivers play a vital role in a child’s development, not just by ensuring their needs are met but also by acting as a lifelong role model. So, you and the people in your child’s life are going to have a huge impact on your child’s development milestones. Understanding those milestones will help you make sure that the impact is as positive as it can be.  We want to give you the resources to ensure that your child’s development is on track, and give you some ideas on how to help them along. So here are some vital child development milestones you should know about, and some external factors that can influence your child’s development.

Child development milestones

You’ll see so many amazing milestones in your child’s development, but it’s important to remember that every child moves at their own pace. So it’s important not to rush them through their early year’s development. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help give them a little push and positive influence in their development. 

Here are some of the milestones your child will experience as they develop. 

A list of child development milestones for 18 months+

Cognitive Milestones

Cognitive development includes things like learning, thinking and problem solving, in addition to language and social skills. So it covers some of the most fundamental areas of your child’s development. 


From newborn to three months your child may

  • See people and objects between 8-12 inches away from their face

  • Be sensitive to nearby sounds

  • Can kick and flail their arms

  • Follow moving objects with their eyes

  • Start to watch faces

  • Recognise people they’re familiar with

  • Cry or fuss out of boredom.


Up to eighteen months your child can:

  • Turn their head to follow movements

  • Communicate if they’re happy or sad

  • Reach for toys and objects

  • Use their hands and mouth to explore the world

  • Transfer objects from one hand to another

  • Look for an object if you hide it from them

  • Enjoy playing “peek a boo”

  • Start to use their fingers with a bit more dexterity, using their thumb and index finger to pick things up

  • Understand gestures, like waving and smiling

  • Learn to put objects in containers (and take them out again)

  • Can start learning to use objects like hair brushes and cups

  • Start scribbling with pencils and crayons

  • Understand simple instructions.


Those are some of the very early cognitive developments your child will experience. From two to five years old your child may be able to:

  • Play with building blocks

  • Start to recognise and sort shapes and colours

  • Follow more complex directions and instructions

  • Learn names of people and objects

  • Develop their imagination and create stories

  • Turn door handles

  • Start counting and possibly writing

  • Recognise their own name in writing, and possibly even write it themselves. 


Motor Development Milestones

Motor development refers to your child’s ability to move their body, it’s also referred to as physical development. 


From newborn to three months your child may:

  • Turn their head

  • Bring their hands to their face

  • Blink at bright lights

  • Raise their head off the floor when lying on their tummy

  • Start to move their legs and arms more smoothly

  • Begin to move their legs and arms more vigorously.


Up to eighteen months your child can: 

  • Start to hold their head up without support

  • Push down with their legs if you place their feet on a hard surface

  • Roll over from their tummy to their back

  • Start to sit up with a little help, eventually sitting without support

  • Start to crawl

  • Pull up using your help or objects to stand

  • Start to take some steps.


And in their first five years, your child’s motor skills will develop even more, so they could:

  • Pick up and throw objects, like a ball

  • Get even better at walking and start to run

  • Can start to climb the furniture or play equipment

  • Learn to walk up and down stairs

  • Jump

  • Attempt to (and maybe even manage to) catch objects thrown to them

  • Use the toilet on their own.


Communication Milestones

So much of a child’s development depends on their ability to communicate with others. They’ll learn a lot of communication from you and the people they spend their formative years with. 


Up to three months your child can: 

  • Mostly communicate through crying

  • Yawn when overstimulated

  • Communicate that they’re hungry by moving their hands to their mouth or smacking their lips

  • Make cooing sounds

  • Start to chuckle

  • Start to make gurgling noises.


From three to eighteen months your child will:

  • Imitate sounds and babble

  • Respond to their own name

  • Start to make consonant sounds, like “b” or “m”

  • Start saying “mama” or “dada”

  • Copy gestures like nodding or shaking your head

  • Start waving

  • Be able to respond to simple yes or no questions with head shakes.


From eighteen months on your child may:

  • Possibly know three or more words

  • Start to imitate simple, short phrases of two or three words

  • Be able to say “no” and shake their head.

  • And in their first five years of communication your child will be able to: 

  • Use up to two or three words together

  • Understand more words and point to objects or people when they’re named

  • Understand and follow simple instructions

  • Start to make very short three word sentences and carry on a conversation

  • Understand and say their name

  • Learn the names of other family members and friends

  • Ask simple questions

  • Tell stories or recall parts of stories

  • Start to learn more words and use them correctly, with basic grammar knowledge

  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by strangers

  • Start to use tenses in their communication.


Social and Emotional Milestones

Your child’s emotional development is something that will come very naturally for them, and making sure that they socialise from an early age will really help with this. 


Up to three your child will be able to:

  • Show their emotions and feelings through crying

  • Be able to express emotions through their facial expressions and body movements

  • Calm in response to your touch

  • Begin to smile at you

  • Calm in response to your voice

  • Begin to smile at others


From three to eighteen months your child may: 

  • Show excitement through waving their arms and legs

  • Imitate frowns and smiles

  • Look at themselves in a mirror

  • Make specific sounds to indicate happiness or discomfort

  • Show greater range of emotion through smiling, crying and pointing

  • Be shy around strangers and show attachment to you

  • Show a preference to certain people

  • Imitate sounds, gestures or actions to get your attention

  • Start to show an interest in other children

  • Show more feelings through temper tantrums or affection with familiar people.


And from eighteen months to five years your child can:

  • Show excitement to play with other children

  • Show more independence when playing (and possibly show some defiance)

  • Show affection for you and familiar people without prompting

  • Separate from you more easily

  • Show a wide range of feelings and emotions

  • Can learn routines and get upset when they change

  • Verbalise what they need if they’re hungry or need the toilet

  • Start to prefer playing with other children rather than alone

  • Express likes and dislikes

  • Become more creative in make-believe play and games

  • Show an understanding and agreement to rules

  • Start to sing, dance and act

  • Want to be like their friends and enjoy spending time with them. 

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Helping with your child’s development milestones

Helping your child with cognitive development can be as simple as providing them with toys – sensory toys like rattles are a very good start to getting them used to sight and auditory sensations. As they get older, you can move on to things like shape sorting toys, so they can start to recognise shapes and sort them. 

Other aspects of cognitive development will likely come naturally. Talking around your child and talking to your child will help their language development and recognise faces (as will socialising with friends and family). Of course talking around and to your child as they grow will naturally help them with communication, social and emotional milestones too. Singing to your child, and teaching them songs and nursery rhymes that they can join in with will also really help.

While motor development is something that will start to develop naturally as your child grows, there are some ways you can encourage their development. When they’re babies you can practice some “tummy time” so they get used to pushing themselves up, letting their muscles develop, and place toys around them so they’re encouraged to reach for them. As they get older you can provide more complicated toys with moving parts that stay attached that will help them develop fine motor skills, along with things like colouring supplies that’ll help get them used to using stationary and writing.

Ensuring that your child gets enough social interaction can be a huge factor in their emotional development, and can play an important role in getting them ready for school and their reception year. You can do this by introducing your child to other family members, friends and, if you can, other children. 

External factors that affect a child’s development

Generally the majority of children will experience the same development milestones at similar ages. But, there’s so much that makes every child develop in their own unique way, and a lot of your child’s development milestones can be influenced by external factors. 

Things like their community, their race, the people they spend time with, nutrition and their education can have a very big impact on the way children develop.



Families provide the most direct impact on a child’s development. Whether they’re raised by parents, grandparents, foster parents or any caregiver, the unconditional familial love and care that children are provided with will help children develop in every aspect – psychologically, socially and physically.

At home, children will develop their early motor and cognitive abilities, they’ll begin to learn to communicate and show their emotions. As a parent or guardian when your children get older you’ll be able to teach them lifelong lessons that’ll form an important part of their development, like encouraging them to try out mental health activities for kids or talking about difficult things like racism. This can have a huge impact on their communication and cognitive development.

Of course it’s important to know when a child needs to develop on their own. Helicopter parenting, the act of always hovering around your child ready to do what’s best and make decisions for them, can have a bit of a negative impact on their social developments as they become too heavily dependent on you. So know when it’s time to let them be free a little – let them make friends, let them go out and play and pick up bumps, bruises and scrapes, it’s all part of being a child and will help them develop in a healthy way that’s all their own.



It’s important to try and socialise your child early on, not just with your family and friends but also with children their own age if you can. Of course it’s good to socialise your child with people around your age, like your friends and family, as it can help them develop emotional maturity and get them comfortable with being around people of different age groups. 

But by three years old, the friendships your child has with children of their own age or similar can start to influence their behaviour and social development. Befriending other children can teach your child to develop effective communication (both verbal and non-verbal), reasoning and cooperation. Children will also learn to effectively communicate likes and dislikes, which can be influenced by their friends. 



You probably won’t be surprised to hear that nutrition can play a huge role in a child’s development. Ensuring your child gets the calcium they need for healthy teeth and bone development, along with protein and fats to ensure they have energy to help them grow is very important as part of their development, in early years and beyond. 

It’s important to teach your child to have a healthy relationship with food early on, so that when they do get older and have some more freedom with their food choices that they make healthy choices (not just stocking up on sugary drinks and junk food). To do this as part of their development, why not get them involved with your food preparation? You could also look at ways to make cost-effective, family friendly meals that are easy to make that’ll get your children excited about food, like Jack Monroe recipes.  

School and tutoring for child development

School and learning is probably one of the biggest factors in a child’s development milestones. After all, it’s where they’ll do most of their socialising for most of their developmental years, so it’s bound to have a huge impact on their social and emotional development, while their cognitive and motor development are improved through lessons and physical education. 

Tuition could really help with your child’s cognitive development if they’re struggling with school in their early years. Our tutors are here to get to know your child, understand where they might be struggling with their development and help them develop learning goals that’ll see them through those important development years in school. 

You can find a tuition centre near you or make use of our online tuition. Why not see if tuition could help your child get off to a flying start with the development in school?

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