Development Milestones From Ages 2 To 11
They learn a ton along the way!
You may remember the excitement of seeing your little one achieve baby milestones seemingly out of nowhere—their first heart-melting smile, laugh, and steps, for instance. But they don’t stop there. Child milestones continue all the way up through their teen years, albeit not at the same breakneck pace of hitting their developmental milestones by month. Older kids reach new levels of maturity every couple of years. And, although their development milestones won’t be as spontaneous as their first “mama” or “dada,” experiences like the first time they ride a bike without training wheels can be just as exuberant for you both.
While you likely could find a developmental milestone chart online, we’ll do you one better. Ahead, we’re answering questions such as “what is a developmental milestone?,” as well as breaking down child milestones from ages 2 to 11 years old. Plus, we’re flagging the one stage you want to be particularly attuned to.
What Are Developmental Milestones?
Basically, development milestones are like periodic markers on the road to growing up. Your child progresses from those first wobbly steps to running and jumping, and from holding a toy to learning how to take turns and kick a ball. These new behaviors and skills tend to happen around certain ages—though every child is different, so try not to fret if they don’t precisely hit each one on time. If you are concerned that they’re falling behind in any area(s), however, always speak to your pediatrician.
What Are The Areas of Developmental Milestones?
Both infant and child milestones are grouped by different core areas of your kid’s development. For babies, they include eating, sensory, motor, and communication development milestones. Older child milestones drop eating achievements (your kid likely has feeding themselves down!), but tack on additional categories: cognitive, social, and emotional development.
Sensory development is exactly what it sounds like—development of your kid’s five senses—whereas motor development involves them learning to move in more complex ways both large and small. Communication development is when they learn how to speak and understand more complex language, as well as pick up on the meaning of different gestures and body language.
Cognitive development refers to the evolution of your child’s ability to think, reason, learn, comprehend, and remember. Social and emotional development encompass their ability to relate to others, form relationships, and cooperate. They also entail controlling their emotions and being able to read and respond to others’ emotions.
Knowing what to expect at certain ages can help you ensure you’re addressing all their needs, and are aware of what they are and aren’t capable of at any given age. You, your partner, and other adults in your little tyke’s life play a vital role in their development, as does their environment. So, it’s important that they’re surrounded by stability among the adults they know and that they’re in a safe, stimulating place.
What Ages Are The Most Important For Child Development?
While the goal is always to ensure your child has healthy, stable relationships and a safe environment at any age, there is one period of time that plays an especially crucial role in their development. Research shows that from the moment your little one arrives in this world up to 3 years old, their experiences directly impact the development of both their brain and behavior. While this might sound like an intimidating, fragile time, the best way to approach it is a cinch.
Simply show them that you love them, and be nurturing and responsive. Engage them in activities such as reading and singing together, and encourage them to play and explore. It’s also an opportune time to establish clear routines and boundaries. If you have to address them for something naughty they did (or didn’t do), be firm yet warm in your approach, and use it as a teaching opportunity. You also have a chance during these years to create positive habits such as limited screen time and healthy eating. See? Easy-peasy!
How Many Stages of Development Are There?
Phases of development your kid goes through can be grouped slightly differently, depending on where you look. There’s no right and wrong. However they’re broken out, developmental milestones tend to occur around the same age. Below, we’re going over four of them your child will go through from the time they’re 2 to 11.
2- to 3-year-old development milestones: Ah . . . the twos and threes. This can be a more challenging time of your child’s life due to their increasing desire (and sometimes demand!) to be more independent. The term “terrible twos” didn’t arise out of nowhere. During this time, your kid is going through some pretty major emotional, social, cognitive, and learning changes that prime their interest in exploration and understanding their environment.
They can probably follow two- or three-step directions (yes!), sort things by shape and color, and express a bunch of emotions. This is also when they may imitate you and others from time to time—in both funny ways and unflattering ones. If you teach them to draw a line, they can take their best stab at it, and they can name their body parts and some objects in pictures—and they can likely say their first and last name too. Walking backwards, pivoting, running, and going up and down stairs are all fun new discoveries. And they’ll learn how to dress themself without a lot of your help.
Your child may love one food one day, then want to banish said food the next. It’s OK—totally normal. Instead of letting the constant snack or meal yay or nay bother you, take it as an opportunity to introduce them to new foods by offering tiny tidbits. If you have a picky eater on your hands, head to our article with 12 tips for help.
Just in case any new foods cause an upset tummy, it’s wise to keep a bottle of Childrens’ Mylicon Multi-Symptom Tummy Relief on hand. These tasty chewable tablets help quickly treat multiple symptoms from gas and indigestion to discomfort from overeating. On the other hand, if they just have gas, try our gas drops in either the dye-free or original formula—they’re the #1 pediatrician-recommended brand. And don’t be thrown off by the name, they can be used for children ages 2 to 11, as well as babies and newborns. They quickly break gas bubbles up to help your kid naturally expel them through a burp or toot. Just follow the dosage instructions on the package.
3- to 5-year-old development milestones: Now, the world is really opening up to them. Your kid is getting more independent by the day, which translates into doing things on their own and an increased interest in people—young and old—outside of the family. (Try not to take it personally.) The physical differences between boys and girls will also be intriguing to them, and they’ll show interest in playing with other children—a great way to learn how to share and value friendship.
Exploration and inquisitiveness really take hold at this time, and they’ll likely want to investigate and learn more about their surroundings. Their unique life-long personality starts to mold itself based on their interactions with you, your family, and others around them.
And bring on the fun! This is the time for tricycle-riding, skipping, hopping on one foot, and crafts using safety scissors—maybe even a bike with training wheels. Drawing stick figures with a few features also comes into play, as does remembering parts of stories and singing. The same goes for rhymes and word play. Concepts like size and time start to become understandable to them. They’ll also start recognizing written words, laying the groundwork for reading and writing. So, keep reading to them, and even take a trip to the library or a bookstore together!
Around these ages you can also enlist them as a little helper to do simple chores like picking up after themself. (Hallelujah!) Let them make simple choices such as what snack to eat or what to wear. You can also help develop their language skills by using “grown up” words and speaking to them in complete sentences. And, you can stoke their problem solving skills by helping them work through an issue to find a solution.
6- to 8-year-old development milestones: Your school-aged child is now navigating the world without you—with supervision, of course. They grow so fast! Learning new mental, social, and physical skills is a snap for them now. This is also an important time for them to develop confidence by interacting with friends and other kids, and engaging in schoolwork or extracurricular activities; you can help this along by praising their accomplishments. Speaking of friendships, they’re now more important every day.
The fact that they have a future will become apparent to them, and they may start to throw out professions they want to be when they grow up; encourage this by asking questions about them. They’ll start to understand that they have a place in this world, and be better adept at describing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Feelings of empathy also develop, and they’ll start to show concerns for others besides themself—super touching to see.
This is a perfect time to help them start developing a sense of responsibility. Ask them to help out with household chores like making their bed. They’re also capable of more self-control, so teach them patience like finishing homework before watching TV. Help their reading skills develop by taking turns reading something together.
9- to 11-year-old development milestones: Wow, can you believe how big they are? That need for independence is—no surprise—even stronger now. They may regularly choose hanging with friends over family time, so it’s probably a good idea to meet their friends’ families; we know, it’s likely not what you’d prefer, but healthy friendships are of the utmost importance when growing into a well-balanced adult. The bad news, though, is that your kid is much more susceptible to peer-pressure around this time. So, be sure to talk to them about it and encourage them to stand strong—confidence is key to their resistance to it. And, believe it or not, signs of puberty may start to show up, especially for girls—be sure to have an open discussion about them. Rember: Middle school is right around the corner.
Classroom topics at school will begin to become more complex, but, luckily, your child has a much better attention span now than when they were little. Altruism also starts to develop, as they start being able to see things from other people’s perspectives. You can also help boost your child’s sense of responsibility even more than before by having them help with more involved housework like laundry, cooking, and cleaning.
This is also a prime time to start encouraging your kid to set goals, including thinking about what it will take to achieve them, such as certain skills or abilities. When they accomplish them or anything else, be sure to recognize the wins; an effective way to help teach them to make smart choices when you’re not there to praise them is to tell them they should be proud of themselves—rather than you saying you’re proud of them—so they learn to ultimately to the right thing for themself, instead of you. Making the wiser choice and being proud of it may also ultimately help them resist peer-pressure. Who couldn’t use a weapon like that in their fast-approaching teen years?
Next: Middle school can be a challenging time for anyone. Learn how to tell the difference between a regular tummy ache and stress-induced one.