Birth to five development guidelines

The NHS Choices guide to the milestones in your child’s development from birth to five years old can be  used to see when your child may gain certain skills and learn new things.

The ages given are averages and a lot of children will gain one skill earlier than another.


1-4 weeks. Loves looking at faces. 

Your new baby will enjoy looking at faces and start to recognise their parents.

In their first few weeks, babies like looking at faces. If a face is close they'll focus on it and follow it. By two weeks most babies begin to recognise their parents. It's essential to encourage your child's learning in these early weeks, and talking to your baby is a great way to start. A health professional, usually a health visitor, will carry out a new baby review during these weeks. They'll talk to you about feeding your baby, becoming a parent and how you can help your baby to grow up healthily. As a minimum, your baby should be weighed with no clothes on at birth and again at five and 10 days.

129301968(1).jpg1-4 weeks. Startled by sudden noises

If your baby hears a loud noise they may be startled.

Babies can respond to sights and sounds from an early age. Reacting to loud noises is all part of development. You can help your child learn by holding them close, making eye contact and talking to them. They'll look back at you and begin to understand how conversations work. Even making baby noises will teach your baby how to listen, the importance of words and taking turns in a conversation.

4-6 weeks.  Starts to smile

Your baby will begin to smile and respond to the sounds around them.

Babies begin to smile at around four to six weeks. You can encourage development by making faces and noises, and talking about what's going on around you. Start by saying simple things like ‘Are you hungry now? or ‘Do you want some milk?’

4-12 weeks. Lifts their head

Your baby will try to lift their head while lying on their front.

Babies will try to lift their head while lying on their front, almost like they're doing a mini press-up. They'll soon start to wriggle and kick, and it's not long before they can roll over, back to front or front to back. This means they can roll off beds or changing tables, so take care not to leave them on their own.

6-8 weeks.  Vaccinations and full health check

Your baby is due to have their DTaP/IPV/Hib and pneumococcal vaccinations this month and will also have a full health check.

At six to eight weeks your baby will be given a number of tests and a full health review by a health professional. At eight weeks they'll also be given their scheduled pneumococcal and diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccinations. After the injection your baby may be upset for up to 48 hours. They may have a mild fever and a small lump where they had the injection. This health review is a good opportunity to talk about any concerns you have and ask for any information you need.

3-5 months.  Reaches out for objects

Your baby will start to reach out for objects as their muscles develop.

As they develop their arm and hand muscles babies will start to reach for objects. In order to grow and develop, children need time and attention from someone who's happy to play with them. You don't need expensive toys to help children learn. You can teach them through playing, singing, reading and talking.

3 months.  Vaccinations due

Your baby is due to have their DTaP/IPV/Hib and MenC vaccinations this month.

At three months your baby will be given their scheduled vaccinations for meningococcal conjugate (MenC) and diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib). After the injection your baby may be upset for up to 48 hours and may have a mild fever and a small lump where they had the injection. Scheduled vaccinations are a good time to talk about any concerns you have about your child's health. You can also contact your health visitor or go to the local child health clinic at any time.

4-6 months. Starts making noises

Your baby will enjoy making new and different sounds.

Babies enjoy making new and different sounds, and by six months they'll also make repetitive noises. There are many ways to help their development, through playing, reading, music and more.Have fun singing nursery rhymes and songs, especially those with actions, like Pat-a-cake, Row, row, row your boat and Wind the bobbin up. If you repeat the sounds your baby makes back to them, your baby will learn to copy you.

4 months. Vaccinations due

Your baby is due to have their DTaP/IPV/Hib, MenC and pneumococcal vaccinations this month.

At four months your baby will be given their scheduled vaccinations for meningococcal conjugate (MenC), pneumococcal and diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib).After the injection your baby may be upset for up to 48 hours and may have a mild fever and a small lump where they had the injection. Scheduled vaccinations are a good time to talk about any concerns you have about your child's health. You can also contact your health visitor or go to the local child health clinic at any time.

5 months. Can hold objects

Your baby will lift objects up to suck them.

By five months babies can lift and hold objects, but are unable to let go of them. They will often put things in their mouth to explore the taste and texture. They'll enjoy shaking things that make a noise, so rattles are great. Shake one around in front of your child so they learn how to make a noise with it.

6 months. Hand-to-hand co-ordination

Your baby will learn to pass things from one hand to the other.

At around six months babies learn to pass things from hand to hand. Find toys that they can pick up and move around, as that will help them improve their co-ordination. Singing with your baby is ideal stimulation because it involves language and music. Music without words can be good for young minds at this time too.

6 months. Starts to eat solids

Now is a good time to introduce your baby to solid food.

Health experts agree that around six months is the best age to introduce solid food. Before this, your baby's digestive system is still developing, and weaning too early can increase the risk of infections and allergies. Weaning your baby with healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and yoghurt will increase the chance of them being healthy in the future. There's nothing wrong with the occasional jar of baby food, but be aware that many contain additives, preservatives and sodium (salt).

6-8 months. Sits without support

Your baby is getting stronger and can now sit without assistance.

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As your baby gets stronger they'll start to sit without assistance. If your baby is not able to sit unsupported by nine months, talk to your health visitor or GP. It's a good time to remove cot bumpers as your baby may use them to pull themselves up and could fall out of the cot.

6-9 months.  Teething starts. 

Your baby will start to get their first milk teeth.

Most babies get their first milk tooth at around six months, usually in the front of their mouth at the bottom. During teething your baby may become restless, but there are ways to relieve the discomfort. Give your baby something hard to chew on, such as a teething ring, a crust of bread or breadstick, or a peeled carrot. Stay nearby in case of choking. For babies over four months old, rub sugar-free teething gel on their gums or give them sugar-free baby paracetamol or ibuprofen.

6-9 months.  First aid for babies

Starts trying to crawl

Your baby is learning to become more mobile. Some babies learn to crawl backwards before they crawl forwards. Some learn to walk without ever crawling. Others are bottom shufflers. As soon as your baby can crawl, fit safety gates to stop them climbing and falling down stairs. Don't allow your baby to use a baby walker. They are dangerous and can cause serious accidents.


6-9 months.  Can pull themselves upright

Your baby can use furniture to help them stand.

At this stage of development children will start to pull themselves up and can stand while holding on to furniture. Before you know it your toddler will be eager to discover new things and trying to climb. Make sure low furniture is kept away from windows and that windows are fitted with locks or safety catches to stop babies climbing out.

7 months.  Responds to your voice

Your baby can respond to very quiet noises if not distracted.

Babies will now turn to you when they hear your voice across the room. They can also respond to very quiet noises on either side if not distracted by something else. The more you chatter with them, the better their vocabulary and communication skills will become. Babies under 12 months pick up the tone and warmth of the voice and listen to the tune of your conversation.

9-11 months.  Learns to drop things

Your baby can now let go of things or hand an object to someone.

Babies will now enjoy letting go of things or handing toys to someone. Encourage this new skill by playing with them. To grow and develop children need time and attention from someone. You can start to teach your child about shape when they're around 12 months old. Toys that require your child to put different shapes through matching holes are useful. Talking about each shape helps, for example, ‘That was the round one’, or ‘This is a square’.

10-18 months.  Walks alone

Although a little unsteady, your baby will start trying to walk on their own.

When babies start to walk they can be unsteady on their feet but can move very quickly. They trip and fall often. Teach your child how to climb stairs, but never let them go up and down on their own. Encourage your child to walk with you (using reins for safety) as soon as he or she is able. It might slow you down, but it's a great way for you both to get some exercise. If your child is not walking by 18 months talk to your health visitor or GP.

11-12 months.  Enjoys finger foods

Your baby will love trying to feed themselves with finger foods.

Even if your baby doesn't have any teeth you can encourage them to chew by giving them finger foods. These are small pieces of food they can pick up and hold in their hands. Try breadsticks, cucumber or chunks of cheese. By giving them finger foods, children will learn to feed themselves.

12 months. Responds to their own name

Your baby can say words like mama and dada.

When children start to use words they will learn meaning from you. Try repeating words to them while they play. Using repetitive language, like saying ‘Where's it gone?’ each time you hide something, helps to embed words in their mind. They will also love repetitive games, like peekaboo, or hiding something and bringing it out again.

12 months. Health review due

Your child is due for a full health check.

Your child will have a second full health review, covering language and learning, safety, diet and behaviour. This is a time for you and your partner to discuss any concerns you have with a health professional and to prepare for toddlerhood. During the review you will have the opportunity to discuss your baby's progress or ask for information.

olek cup 360 - olek kubek 360.jpg12-13 months. Vaccinations due

Your child's MMR, pneumococcal and Hib/MenC vaccinations are due now.

At 12-13 months, your child will receive three jabs - Hib/MenC; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); and pneumococcal vaccines - in a single visit. About one in 10 children will develop a fever six to 10 days later, as the measles part of the MMR vaccine starts to work. Some also develop a measles-like rash and go off their food. If you're concerned about side effects contact your health visitor or GP.

12-18 months. Takes an interest in words

Your child may start to say words and understand them.

As well as saying between six and 20 recognisable words, children will start to understand many more. They may also start to use language in play, for example when pretending to feed a teddy or doll, or talking on a toy telephone. Talk to your child about the things they can see, and read to them regularly. With toddlers you don't have to read the story as it happens in the book. Sitting down together and talking about the pictures in the book is enough.

13-15 months. Gains more independence

Your child will begin to feed themselves and want to take off their own clothes.

Children will start to feed themselves with a spoon around now, though it will be messy. They may be fussy about what they eat and always eat the same favourite foods, but as long as your child eats some food from each of the five food groups you don't need to worry. Gradually introduce other foods or, after a while, go back to the foods your child didn't like and try them again. Your child will also try to take off easily removed clothes like loose socks or tops.

15-18 months. Begins to build with bricks

Your child will enjoy playing and building with bricks.

Your child will gradually learn to entertain themselves for some of the time, but they have to learn from you first. Spend time playing with your child to help them learn the skills they need. It can be hard to find time to play with your child, especially when you've got other things to do. The answer to this can be to find ways of involving your child in what you're doing. Children learn from everything they do and everything that's going on around them.

Learns to kick or throw a ball

Your child will start kicking and throwing balls.

As they develop new skills, encourage your child and tell them they're doing well. You'll see them respond by laughing and getting excited. If you want to encourage good behaviour it's important to be as positive as you can around them. At this age children should undertake around 30 minutes of structured activity and at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity each day.

Puts at least two words together

Your child will know a range of single words and talk in short sentences.

By the age of two a child will be able to say a range of single words and many children will be talking in short sentences. If your child is trying to say a word but gets it wrong, say the word properly. For example, if your baby points to a cat and says ‘Ca!’ say ‘Yes, it's a cat’. Don't criticise or tell them off for getting the word wrong. Your child may also be able to point to parts of their body.

2-2.5 years. Full health check

Your child is due to have their third full health and development review.

This health review will be carried out by a member of the Healthy Child team (usually your child's health visitor, nursery nurse or children's nurse). The check will cover general development, growth, behaviour, teeth brushing, sleeping habits, safety and vaccinations. This review is a chance for you and your partner to ask questions and get ready for the next stage of your child's development. The health professional carrying out the review will encourage you to talk about how things are going and listen to any concerns you may have.

Starts to have bladder control  

Your child may be ready for potty training.

Most parents start thinking about potty training around now, but there's no perfect time. Every child is different. You can't force your child to use a potty, but you can try to work out when your child is ready. There are several signs that your child is starting to develop bladder control. They will know when they've got a wet or dirty nappy or when they're passing urine. They may also tell you in advance if they need a pee.

Learns to hold a crayon

Your child will enjoy painting or scribbling with a crayon, paint or pencils.

Children love scribbling and painting. At first you'll need to show your child how to hold the crayon or paintbrush. Use crayons, felt tips or powder paint and try talking to your child as they do it. Name colours by saying, for example, ‘This is red’. This will help your child to understand the concept of colour. You can make powder paint thicker by adding washing-up liquid as well as water. Use old envelopes and the inside of cereal packets for paper.

3-4 years. Starts free early years education

Your child is entitled to free early education.

Learning how to make friends is one of the most important things your child can do. Going to nursery and spending time playing with other children is a great way to do this. Most nursery schools accept children from the age of three. All children under five in England are entitled to at least 12.5 hours of free education a week for 38 weeks a year. These free sessions are available in a variety of settings in the public and private sectors, including nursery schools and classes, day nurseries, childminder networks and playgroups.

3-4 years.  Talks well in sentences

Your child can chant rhymes and talk clearly enough to be understood.

If your child is already talking, try to use sentences that are a word or two longer than the sentences they use. You can also increase your child's vocabulary by giving them choices such as, ‘Do you want an apple or a banana?’ If your three-year-old is hard to understand mention this to your health visitor.

3-4 years.  Starts to draw people

Your child can draw a recognisable person with a face and maybe arms and legs.

Your child's drawing will depend on how much practice and encouragement they get. This is also a good time to try other creative play like modelling and dressing up. TV can entertain your child and give you a bit of time to do other things, but try not to have it on all the time. Aim for no more than two hours a day. Always make sure you know what your child is watching.

3-5 years.  Starts to use a knife and fork

Your child is learning to eat independently.

Your child may be a slow eater so be patient. Remember to praise your child for eating, even if they only manage a little. Try to make mealtimes enjoyable and not just about food. Sit down and have a chat about other things. If you know any other children of the same age who are good eaters, ask them to tea.

40 months. Vaccinations due

Your child is due to have their MMR and DTaP/IPV vaccinations this month.

Your child will be given the MMR vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella as well as the DTaP/IPV against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). About one in 10 children develop a fever six to 10 days later as the measles part of the vaccine starts to work. Some also develop a measles-like rash and go off their food. If you're concerned about possible side effects contact your health visitor or GP.

4-5 years. Full health review

Your child is due to have a full health review where their weight and height is measured.

Your child will have a full health review. Their weight and height will be measured and their vision and hearing tested. Once your child reaches school age the school nursing team and staff will help monitor your child's health and development. They'll work with you to make sure your child is offered the right vaccinations and health checks as well as providing advice and support on all aspects of health and wellbeing, including speech, social skills and behaviour, hearing and vision.