How Your Child Develops: Birth to Age 5

Your child’s early years are some of their most important. From the time they are born to the time they turn five, they learn many skills and behaviors that will set them up for success in the future. Understanding your child’s development can help you support them effectively as they grow up. Here’s an overview of the key developmental changes that happen between birth and the age of five.

Birth to Age 1

Children develop incredibly quickly during this time period, and you’ll notice changes happening from month to month. Within the first three months, they’ll learn how to hold their head up unsupported and prop themselves up on their bellies. This is also when they start recognizing faces, imitating the facial expressions of others, smiling, and babbling. They’ll respond to the affection of others as well, and they may even develop some basic hand-eye coordination by reaching for things they see.

By five months, many children learn to roll over, and they continue developing hand-eye coordination by grabbing things and moving them between hands. They also start to learn their own name and will engage with others to try to get them to play. They may start making more distinctive sounds, and they often put objects in their mouths to learn more about them. Between five and nine months, they’ll learn how to sit up, and they will have ‘conversations’ with caregivers by reacting to words with their own sounds. At this point, children often begin to get nervous around strangers and may become anxious when separated from their caregivers.

Age 1 to 2

By the end of their first year, many children can stand up on their own, and some may be able to walk by holding on to furniture. As they approach age two, they can walk without help. They also learn how to do things like drink from a cup and eat from a spoon, color with a crayon, and walk up the stairs. They often learn simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘no’, and may even be able to follow simple directions. They also learn to express frustration and sadness and understand others’ emotions.

Age 2 to 3

This is when children have many significant physical and mental milestones. They learn how to run and may be able to play with balls. They can also learn how to wash their hands, brush their own teeth, and dress without help. They also can play with simple puzzles and start to understand colors and shapes. Their vocabulary expands and they can understand much of what is being said to them.

Age 3 to 4

Between ages three and four, many kids will start wanting to play with others. They’ll also continue to expand their vocabulary and can form sentences. Their motor skills get better, and they can use markers, play with blocks, climb and run without tripping, and even ride a tricycle. Their understanding of colors and numbers gets better, and they can remember and tell stories.

Age 4 to 5

Between ages four and five, many kids start asking complex questions and understand the relationship between different concepts. They can focus on activities for a much longer period of time. Their physical coordination also improves, and they can move much more quickly. They can separate from their caregivers much more calmly and start to develop friendships.