Child Development

Child development is how a child learns, grows, and develops as they get older. This tool kit gives parents and teachers information about child development milestones, parent monitoring, concerns about development, and next steps to take if there is a concern.

children running

Child Development Milestones

Milestones are exciting moments in a child’s life that provide evidence of growth and development. As young children grow and learn, they develop in how they move, communicate, play, and interact with other people.

It can be a celebration when parents notice their child reaches a milestone, such as learning to walk or saying their first words! Whether a child is 6 months old or 4 years old, there are unique milestones they should be meeting. Each birthday brings new milestones to look for and celebrate.

Milestones are exciting moments in a child’s life that provide evidence of growth and development. As young children grow and learn, they develop in how they move, communicate, play, and interact with other people.

It can be a celebration when parents notice their child reaches a milestone, such as learning to walk or saying their first words! Whether a child is 6 months old or 4 years old, there are unique milestones they should be meeting. Each birthday brings new milestones to look for and celebrate.

A good source of information about this is CDC’s Developmental Milestones. On this webpage, you can select the child’s age and see a list of what most children do by that age. Next to each milestone is a photo or video of a child demonstrating that skill. These photos and videos, also shown in Milestones in Action, can help parents identify whether their child is meeting a particular milestone.

Parent Monitoring

Parents and family members are important partners in a child’s development. Parents are a child’s first teacher and know their child best. Just by watching their child play, talk, and move, parents have essential information about how their child is developing.

Parents should take time each year, or more frequently for a child under the age 1, to check their child’s development. Using checklists like CDC’s Developmental Milestones and their new Milestone Tracker app are easy ways for parents to watch their child and check off whether they have met the various milestones for their age. Checking in with milestones regularly is important for a child’s healthy development.

Concerns About Development

Sometimes young children can develop differently (or at different rates) than others. If a child is missing milestones, parents may feel worried or anxious. This is understandable and a natural reaction. Fortunately, there are people who can help. Parents can request a developmental screening from their pediatrician at a regular doctor’s visit by bringing up their concerns about missed milestones they have noticed. CDC’s How to Talk to the Doctor about Developmental Concerns provides helpful suggestions for parents.

Many pediatricians do developmental screenings regularly for all children, just to make sure each child is developing on track. Some doctors wait for parents to request a screening, and that is OK, too. Screenings are quick and simple. For more information about developmental screenings, read IEL’s tip sheet What Is Developmental Screening?

If a child attends childcare or preschool, parents can also reach out to a child’s teacher with questions about development. Teachers may also be trained and ready to do developmental screenings, or they may recommend going through a pediatrician. Either way, after finishing the screening, parents will learn if their child is developmentally on track or may need further assessment.

Parents who are concerned about their child’s development might be interested in some other IEL resources, such as our Is My Child OK? tip sheet or our Challenging Behaviors in Young Children tool kit.

Next Steps if There Is a Concern

If a child completes a screening indicating more assessment is needed, parents can request a referral for an evaluation or comprehensive assessment. Evaluations are more in-depth assessments of a child’s development. An evaluation provides information about a child’s strengths and weaknesses, based on their age. For ages birth to age 3, Illinois parents should contact their local Child and Family Connections office. For ages 3 and up, parents should contact their local school district.

Screenings and evaluations are available at no cost to families of young children in Illinois who require them. Services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy may be available if the evaluation results show a need for specific therapies. Getting support for a child as early as possible is essential to their development. You can learn more about the importance of acting early with CDC’s Why Act Early if You’re Concerned about Development?

To learn more about resources for children under age 3, check out our Early Intervention: Resources for Families, Childcare, and Early Childhood Teachers tool kit and our Early Intervention resource list.

You can learn more about resources for children ages 3 through 5 with our Special Education Assessment tip sheet series.

Parents and Teachers Working Together

It is important for families to work together with their child’s teacher. Being on the same page as parents helps the teacher better understand the child, recognize strengths and challenges in their development, and help them develop skills in the classroom. With positive relationships between parents and teachers, children do better in school and at home.

Parents sharing concerns about their child’s development with the teacher is an important step in promoting effective communication and a healthy parent-teacher relationship. Some tips for effective parent-teacher communication are:

  • Communicate early and often.
  • Set up a meeting during a time where both parties can provide undivided attention, not during drop-off or pick up.
  • When talking, remember that a child may do things differently at home than in childcare or school.
  • Listen carefully to learn from each other.

Parents and teachers can problem-solve and offer ideas to help the child in the classroom. They can take appropriate steps if a screening or evaluation is needed.

For early childhood educators who are interested in learning more about child developmental milestones and talking to parents about their child’s development, CDC’s online training Watch Me! Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns is a great no-cost course to consider and offers a continuing education certificate.

Web Resources

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Child Care Center
  • Family Child Care
  • Home
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
  • Infants and Toddlers (Birth To Age 3)
  • Preschoolers (Age 3 Through Age 5)

Reviewed: 2021
English title: Child Development