Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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Developmental Milestones

Written by: Nadia Tanel, University of Alberta




0-3 months Emotional Understanding Attracted to pleasant stimulations and withdraws from unpleasant stimulation
Expresses signals of happiness and distress
Cries in response to another baby’s cries
Shows limited capacity to regulate emotional states
  Attachment Shows ability to grasp, smile, cry, and gaze into the adult’s eyes, help bring newborn babies in close contact with their caregiver (Pre-Attachment Phase)
Responds differently to a familiar caregiver than to a stranger (Attachment in the Making Phase)
  Sense of Self Discovers own hands, feet and legs
Discovers that their bodies can bring pleasure and discomfort
  Social Development Engages in social smiles and eye-to-eye gazes
Engages in reciprocal babbling
Shows that joint attention and shared attention abilities are emerging
4-6 months Emotional Understanding Smiles when interacting with familiar people
Laughs in response to very active stimulus
Shows sadness or distress when distressed, unhappy or in pain
Begins to control emotions by turning away from unpleasant stimuli
Engages in and is sensitive to face-to-face interactions
Begins to expect a response when they gaze, smile or vocalize
  Attachment Responds differently to a familiar caregiver than to a stranger. For example, the baby may smile, laugh and babble more freely with the mother, and may be quicker to settle when picked up (Attachment in the Making Phase)
Enjoys interacting with caregivers and is comforted by them in times of stress
  Sense of Self Continues to discover their bodies
Achieves (around 5 months) ‘the visually guided reach’
  Social Behaviors Directs social behaviors toward another person- looking, smiling, vocalizing, reaching, and touching
Shifts gaze between caregivers (around 4 months)
Recognizes and is sensitive to characteristics of their social partner (around 6 months)
7-12 months Emotional Understanding Laughs at more subtle stimuli
Smiles and laughs at familiar people
Anger reactions increase
Expresses anger through facial expression
Feelings of fear become evident
Stranger anxiety emerges
Understands cause and effect and intentionality
Begins to identify changes of emotional expression and tone of voice in others
  Attachment Shows separation anxiety - upset behaviours when the adult they have come to rely on leaves for a while. At this stage attachment to the familiar caregiver is clear (Clear-cut Attachment Phase)
Becomes highly attached to familiar caregivers
Demonstrates separation anxiety
  Sense of Self Shows awareness of personal needs and begins to express them
Shows awareness that they are separate beings
  Social Behavior Seeks out novel facial expressions
Begins to imitate other people’s actions
Engages in social referencing (around 9 months) by looking at familiar caregivers during uncertain situations
Shows interest in and enjoys coordinated actions with caregivers
Uses individualized gestures
Shows interest in adults’ attempts to get their attention
Points and draws people’s attention by looking in a particular direction or at a particular object (between 9-10 months)
13-24 months Emotional Understanding Smile becomes a deliberate social signal
Understands causal relationships which provoke the development of either happy or sad feelings
Distinguishes between threatening and non- threatening people and situations
Self-conscious emotions begin to emerge
Regulates emotions with more ease
  Attachment Demonstrates rapid growth in understanding and language which helps them to understand some of the reasons why parents come and go and to reliably predict their return. Separation protests often decline (Formation of Reciprocal Relationship Attachment Phase)
  Sense of Self Shows interest in their own self-reflection
Begins to recognize themselves in the mirror
  Social Behaviors Shows interest in social games
Begins to engage in pro-social behaviours
Shows initial understanding that own actions influence other people’s emotions and behaviours
Shows increasing ability to imitate others
Begins pointing to and showing objects to others
25-36 months Emotional Understanding Labels and spontaneously talks about simple emotions
Understands that emotions represent people’s desires
Begins to understand self-conscious emotions
Continues to need external supports to help regulate emotions
Determines whether another person’s emotional state is positive or negative
Tries to change the negative emotions of others
  Social Understanding Grows more concerned with self than those around them
Grows more insistent about wish fulfillment and impulsive behaviours are very powerful
Begins to develop the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective
Begins to use words that describe mental states (around 32 months)
Identifies the causes of emotions in others (by 3 years)
  Attachment Develops some self-soothing and self-protective strategies to help them cope with separation. They use ‘transition objects’ such as blankets or stuffed animals to help them deal with separation. These objects are often used to comfort themselves in the absence of their caregivers or at nighttime when they are left on their own to go to sleep. (Transition from the Formation of Reciprocal Relationships Attachment Phase to the Transition Objects Attachment Phase)
  Sense of Self Differentiates between the self and others
Develops the ‘me’ self - a concrete sense of self
Begins to use pronouns to describe and label their actions and the actions of others
Sees themselves as autonomous beings and want to do things independently
Shows ability to label themselves and others as a boy or a girl (by 30 months)
  Play Engage in pretend or imaginative play and parallel play
Demonstrates the beginnings of co-operative play
37-60 months Emotional Understanding Shows more accurate and complex understanding of emotions
Realizes the interaction between thinking and feeling Understands and identifies typical facial expressions
Begin to show an understanding of false emotions (around age 3)
Shows impulse control improvement (between the ages of 3 to 4)
Regulates and adjusts their own emotions
Begins to accurately explain negative emotions (around 4-5 years)
Responds to the simple emotions and sometimes tries to relieve the negative emotions of others
  Social Understanding Takes the perspective of another person
Begins to understand that others have different beliefs and predicts what others might be thinking (between 4-5 years)
  Sense of Self Shows understanding of external and a concrete sense of self
Begin to show some understanding of psychological characteristics (around 42 months)
Self-esteem emerges
Understands that gender is stable
  Play Engages in more imaginative and complex play
Engages in co-operative play with peers
Peer relationships emerge
Begins to demonstrate an understanding of friendship
Develops sharing, cooperating and turning-taking skills