Parenting can often feel complicated and overwhelming, especially in families with children of different ages, developmental capacities, and areas of interest. Often, levels and areas of development overlap between these ages, and it can be difficult to keep up with the milestones each child should be reaching–or to even know what those milestones are!
Though this is certainly not a comprehensive list, here are a few simple tasks and skills that are age-appropriate indicators of development. Each child is different, and the best way to encourage healthy development is to recognize and cultivate interests and skills that will continue to grow throughout a lifetime.
The first year of life is full of exciting and rapid growth. As babies come to learn how their own bodies work, they will begin to develop the basic skills of day-to-day movement and following a circadian routine.
- Sit up and crawl without assistance, learning how to assume a position on hands and knees
- Learn to walk with adult assistance or by holding onto furniture, developing a sense of balance
- Grab objects and imitate physical gestures with hands, using grasping muscles
- Go to bed and sleep through the night without crying, developing a physical routine
At two years old, infants are beginning to learn how their body works and how to engage with the world around them. They will learn the fundamentals of communication and the characteristics of familiar objects and people.
- Count from one to ten, starting to understand assigning values to quantities of things
- Use simple, two- to four-word phrases to communicate with people around them
- Know the names basic colors and be able to identify them in common settings
- Sing the alphabet song and begin to understand the fundamentals of their native language
By the time a child is three years old, he or she will already begin to develop a strong sense of independence. Often, this causes angry outbursts because they want to accomplish things on their own and in their own way. Important skills to learn during this year include being able to interact with adults and peers in prosocial ways, developing a sense for self-control.
- Follow simple instructions or steps given by an adult, like how to wash hands with soap or pick up toys and belongings
- Engage in make-believe play with peers, learning how to share toys, take turns, and be kind
- Learn to follow family rules without throwing a tantrum, developing self-control
- Be able to sort physical objects by shapes and colors, either physically or verbally
The preschool age is a fun time, filled with eager exploration of new skills and personal abilities. Four-year-olds love testing their own bodies, learning how strong or fast they can be, and how to complete tasks that require coordination.
- Learn to draw, sculpt, paint, and mix colors for art projects or crafts
- Begin swimming lessons and learn how to swim by holding breath, kicking, and engaging arms
- Safely and accurately cut along dotted lines with scissors
- Recognize fundamental opposites like right and left, hot and cold, light and dark
- Count from one to fifteen and understand how to count physical objects
Most children begin school by age five, which means they begin to interact with peers and adult mentors in a more formal setting. This year is characterized by developing academic and social skills that will lay the foundation for all of the oncoming years of education.
- Catch and throw objects to begin developing a sense of how sports and outdoor games operate
- Ride a bike without training wheels or parental assistance, developing a sense of balance and independence
- Have the coordination and memory to be able to write own first and last name, as well as the letters of the alphabet
- Begin to read and recognize sight words either in children’s books or flash cards
- Tie shoes without adult help, learning simple knots and hand-eye coordination
At six years old, children are entering middle childhood and developing a stronger sense for their personal interests and skills. This is also an important time for them to learn about how to consider new ideas and take care of others.
- Swim independently across a pool without touching the side
- Take care of a pet by feeding it and cleaning up after it
- Independently read age-appropriate books
- Finish a goal that requires 1 month of work
- Memorize addition and subtraction problems up to 10
Seven-year-olds are mature enough to help take care of younger siblings and family chores. They begin to see themselves as distinct members among peer groups, and they start to understand aspects of family and culture.
- Be able to articulate simple personal beliefs and family values
- Learn how to play board games independently
- Know basic camping and outdoor skills, like starting a fire
- Complete simple household tasks, like doing laundry and washing dishes
- Learn to do long addition and subtraction problems
- Write and mail letters to friends and family members
During the last year of middle-childhood, kids become increasingly accountable for their own actions. Eight-year-olds have the coordination and cognitive capacity for multifaceted tasks and abstract concepts.
- Learn how to save and manage personal money, up to $100
- Dive into a pool, tread water, and swim competitively
- Play team sports and be able to follow/explain rules
- Have moderate outdoor skills like pitching a tent or doing yardwork
- Read chapter books or books on topics of interest
- Follow a recipe and prepare simple meal
- Memorize multiplication tables up to 12
Heading into late childhood, by nine years of age a child should be able to identify the ways that their own sphere of experience fits into a larger world of ideas, peoples, occupations, etc. At this age, it is important to begin developing basic professional skills and increased physical aptitude.
- Identify states and countries on a map relevant to home
- Start a lemonade stand or learn how to sell something online
- Run a race or be able to run multiple consecutive miles
- Develop basic technological skills, like photography, videography, and keyboard typing
- Learn the basics of how governments function
- Set and complete a long-term goal (up to 3 months of focused effort)
Ten-year-olds love being one of the “big kids” among groups of children. To encourage mature behavior, allow your ten-year-old to assist with adult tasks, and encourage them to independently explore academic interests.
- Pump gas into the car
- Use the basics of office computer programs and website creation
- Do strength and endurance exercises like pushups and skiing
- Learn about other countries and travel with family if possible
- Write a poem or a creative story
- Learn to change a younger sibling’s or cousin’s diaper with a parent’s assistance
Concluding late childhood, the eleventh year of life is full of deepening intellectual discoveries and new levels of self control. These milestones are important foundations for the lessons that will be learned during the teenage years.
- Swim across a pool underwater
- Mow the lawn without help from parents
- Read sheet music and understand rhythm
- Identify basic constellations, the North Star, and the Milky Way
- Create a budget and follow it for a month
Some of the most important milestones for early teens involve activities and practices that help adolescents become aware and considerate of those around them. Twelve-year-olds are beginning middle or junior high school, and thus need all of the encouragement and positive affirmation possible in order to remain confident among their peers.
- Learn basic First Aid skills, like bandaging wounds and performing CPR
- Start a simple business and learn how to manage earned money
- Understand how local government works and attend a city council meeting
- Keep an online calendar and learn how to organize a personal schedule
- Respond to peer challenges regarding personal or family beliefs
- Write a 5,000-word research report on an assigned or chosen topic
As puberty begins, thirteen-year-olds are experiencing a whole range of new things, from physical and mental changes to social and emotional changes. This is a time when children begin to learn how to make their own choices, develop their own views, and engage with finances and academic materials in an adult-like way.
- Learn how to change a car tire and check the oil level
- Participate in a debate and learn how to respectfully disagree
- Open a bank account and learn how to save money for long-term goals
- Abstain from food or drink by choice; be able to resist peer pressure
- Write a 10,000-word report on an assigned or chosen topic
- Learn the basics of sewing; make a pillow or a bag
- Read classic literature and important historical documents
By age fourteen, teens have the capacity to originate and consider abstract, complex thoughts, as well as the ability to engage in enhanced levels of problem solving. Though they are more self-conscious and insecure than ever before, fourteen-year-olds can also become self-aware in positive, successful ways.
- Be able to safely replace a light fixture
- Read the news and develop an informed opinion of current events
- Paint a room or a large object without drips or uneven layers
- Learn how to dance with a partner; salsa, waltz, slow dance, etc.
- Create a bucket list or a vision board
- Earn money from a job or passive income source
At age fifteen, most girls will be physically mature and most boys will be continuing to physically develop. Though peer groups are still important at this age, self-esteem becomes increasingly important, as eating disorders and other insecurities are particularly common. Help your fifteen-year-old be confident in who they are by helping them focus on skills and milestones that extend beyond the present.
- Read and understand classic authors like Shakespeare (with academic instruction)
- Have a basic conversation in another language of study
- Be able to iron a shirt and sew/replace a button
- Take a parent on an outing for practice modeling a date
- Learn how to make basic financial investments
Sixteen-year-olds are excited by new levels of independence, such as personal transportation and going out with people of interest. This is also an important time to focus on academic success, as the final years of high school largely dictate levels of success in early adulthood.
- Take a driver’s education course and qualify for a driver’s license
- Be able to run several mile consecutively or competitively
- Learn basic car mechanics and how to negotiate the price of a car purchase
- Take a concurrent credit course in school or observe a college class
- Write 8 to 10 pages of researched or original content
- Initiate a date or outing with a person of interest
- Save $5,000 and have a passive income source
During the final year of high school, teenagers begin to show defined work habits and skill sets, as well as new levels of concern for and interest in the future. Some of the best ways to help your seventeen-year-old feel loved and understood involve allowing them to make their own decisions, and listening to their thoughts and opinions.
- Learn the basics of cutting hair
- Know how to complete simple home repairs, like patching drywall
- Write proper memo, email, resume, and job application
- Have approximately $10,000 saved in a personal bank account
- Pay for personal car expenses and be able to complete personal car maintenance
- Take a few credits of college classes
As childhood comes to a close and adulthood is on the horizon, kids of eighteen years of age should be confident, stable, and ready to live independently. These milestones and skills are important in laying the foundation for adult life in the real world.
- Have approximately $15,000 saved in a personal bank account
- Be able to plan and organize a social event by coordinating with other people
- Know how to call and schedule appointments with a doctor or dentist
- Be able to pay personal bills and stay out of debt
- Be prepared to live independent of parental assistance