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Child development: Know what's ahead

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 24, 2021.

Every child grows and develops at his or her own pace. Still, child development tends to follow a fairly predictable path. Find out what language, social, cognitive and physical milestones to expect from ages 2 to 5.

Age 2

At age 2, your child might have completed these skills:

  • Language skills. Speak at least 50 words. Link two words together, such as "my cup" or "no juice." Speak clearly enough for parents or caregivers to understand about half of the words.
  • Social skills. Show more independence. Become defiant. Copy others. Get excited when with other children. Engage mostly in parallel — not interactive — play with peers.
  • Cognitive skills. Play simple make-believe games. Begin to sort objects by shape and color. Find hidden objects.
  • Physical skills. Walk down stairs holding rail. Stand on tiptoes. Begin to run. Kick a ball.

Age 3

At age 3, your child might have completed these skills:

  • Language skills. Speak 200 or more words. Speak in three-word sentences. Use pronouns (I, you, me, mine). State his or her first name. Speak clearly enough to be understood most of the time by family or close friends.
  • Social skills. Take turns and share. Express affection openly. Easily separate from parents. Get upset with major changes in routine.
  • Cognitive skills. Turn book pages one at a time. Copy a circle. Do puzzles with three or four pieces. Play make-believe.
  • Physical skills. Walk up and down stairs, alternating feet. Climb, run and pedal a tricycle.

Age 4

At age 4, your child might have completed these skills:

  • Language skills. Use sentences with four or more words. Answer simple questions. Tell a personal story.
  • Social skills. Cooperate with other children. Talk about likes and dislikes. Become more creative with make-believe play.
  • Cognitive skills. Print some capital letters or part of their name. Draw a person with four or more parts. Understand the idea of counting. Start to understand time.
  • Physical skills. Stand on one foot for a few seconds or hop on one foot two or more times. Catch a bounced ball most of the time. Use scissors with supervision. Able to learn to swim with instruction and supervision.

Age 5

At age 5, your child might have completed these skills:

  • Language skills. Understand rhyming. Use sentences that give many details. Use the future tense. State his or her full name.
  • Social skills. Want to be like his or her friends. Can follow rules. Aware of gender. Like to sing, act and dance.
  • Cognitive skills. Know about common items, such as food and money. Count 10 or more objects. Copy a triangle and other geometric patterns.
  • Physical skills. Stand on one foot for at least 8 seconds. Hop, skip, swing and do somersaults. Use the toilet on his or her own.

If your child's development isn't progressing in certain areas, share your concerns with your child's doctor.

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