Developmental milestones list children's development of physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional skills in a sequential, age-specific pattern, and they explain each new achievement as a progression of the previous milestone. They are useful for parents and paediatricians as a guide to children's typical progression of skills through each stage of development, from infancy, toddler, preschool and school age, to puberty and the teenage years. However, most charts of developmental milestones emphasise that individual children reach specific milestones at varying paces and ages. Therefore attainment of skills may not always follow the sequence that is given.
Physical Developmental Milestones
Milestones for physical development describe attainment of gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills require the use of large muscle groups, such as the neck, back, arms and legs. For example, between the ages of 6 to 9 months, babies achieve the physical skill of sitting up without support. Fine motor skills refer to the child's ability to control their hands and fingers, enabling them to make precise movements, such as picking up objects. The concurrent development of children's hand-eye coordination skills furthers their attainment of physical milestones, such as the ability to feed themselves and dress themselves independently.
Cognitive Developmental Milestones
Cognitive skills are those associated with learning, and include memory, creative thinking skills and the understanding of concepts, such as numbers and time. For example, an important cognitive developmental milestone for a newborn is to recognise his mother's voice, a skill he may have achieved prior to birth, according to the authors of "Lifespan Human Development." The development of children's cognitive skills becomes closely associated with the development of their language skills. Through language, children can begin to structure their thinking, improve their memory and learn about their world. For example, between the age of 9 to 12 months, babies begin to point to objects of interest with their index finger. The achievement of this developmental milestone prompts parents and care givers to name and talk about the objects that babies point toward, thus stimulating the infant's memory and comprehension skills.
Language Developmental Milestones
Language development includes the ability to understand -- receptive language skills -- and to vocalise -- expressive language skills. Language development begins from birth, with the infant listening to the sound of voices around her and communicating her feelings and needs through cries and coos. According to the How Kids Develop website, babies achieve an important speech developmental milestone between the age of 3 and 6 months, when they begin to explore high pitched sounds by making squealing noises. The infant's receptive language skills remain in advance of her expressive language skills, says Dr. Richard Woolfson, in his book "Bright Start." Therefore, although children achieve the language milestone of uttering their first recognisable word at the approximate age of 12 months, they understand much more than they can express through speech.
Social and Emotional Developmental Milestones
Milestones for social and emotional development chart children's success with skills such as independence, self-esteem, interaction and cooperation with others, self-control and emotional security. Milestones range from a 6-week-old baby's first smile and a 10-month-old baby's first wave to a 5-year-old's ability to share and cooperate with his peers at school. According to Woolfson, the emotional attachment and special relationship between babies and their parents, especially mothers, has a "huge influence" on children's later achievement of social and developmental milestones, such as emotional security and friendliness.