Development Milestones

At Big Blue Canopy we take guesswork out by using specific assessments and therapeutic tools to identify you child’s individual needs. Now you can use similar tools below if you suspect that something isn’t quite as it should be for your child.

Save the checklist to take with you to your child’s pediatrician.

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Developmental checklist

Is your child on track?

Here are some general guidelines for expectations with Fine Motor Skills Development. If your child is delayed, an Occupational Therapy evaluation may be indicated.

  • Demonstrating a reflexive grasp when objects are placed in hand
  • Reaching for and grasping objects
  • Mastering controlled reach ( 6 months)
  • Holding objects in the palm of 2 hands (3 months) or palm of one hand (5 months)
  • Recovering object dropped within their visual fields, by feel, or hear it within reaching range

  • Reaches, grasps, puts object in mouth
  • Controlled release of objects
  • Static Pincer grasp (thumb and one finger)
  • Picks things up with pincer grasp (thumb and one finger)
  • Transfers objects from one hand to another
  • Drops and picks up toys

  • Builds tower of three small blocks
  • Puts four rings on stick
  • Places five pegs in pegboard
  • Turns pages two or three of a book at a time
  • Scribbles
  • Turns knobs
  • Paints with whole arm movement, shifts hands, makes strokes
  • Self-feeds with minimal assistance
  • Able to use signing to communicate
  • Brings spoon to mouth
  • Holds and drinks from cup independently

  • Strings four large beads
  • Turns single pages of a book
  • Snips with scissors
  • Holds crayon with thumb and fingers (not fist)
  • Uses one hand consistently in most activities
  • Imitates circular, vertical, and horizontal strokes
  • Paints with some wrist action, makes dots, lines, circular strokes
  • Rolls, pounds, squeezes, and pulls playdough
  • Eats without assistance

  • Builds tower of nine small blocks
  • Copies circle
  • Imitates cross
  • Manipulates clay material (rolls balls, makes snakes, cookies)
  • Uses non-dominant hand to assist and stabilise the use of objects
  • Snips paper using scissors

  • Cuts on line continuously
  • Copies cross
  • Copies square
  • Writes name
  • Writes numbers 1-5
  • Copies letters
  • Handedness is well established
  • Dresses and undresses independently

  • Cuts out simple shapes
  • Copies triangle
  • Colors within lines
  • Uses a 3 fingered grasp of pencil and uses fingers to generate movement
  • Pastes and glues appropriately
  • Can draw basic pictures

  • Forms most letters and numbers correctly
  • Writes consistently on the lines
  • Demonstrates controlled pencil movement
  • Good endurance for writing
  • Can build Lego, K’nex and other blocks independently
  • Ties shoelaces independently

  • Maintains legibility of handwriting for entirety of a story

Is your child on track?

Here are some general guidelines for expectations in Gross Motor Skills Development. If your child is delayed, a Physical Therapy evaluation may be indicated.

  • Lifts head when held sitting
  • lifts head and chest when on tummy
  • Visually tracks past midline
  • Brings a toy to mouth
  • Rolling over from front to back or back to front.
  • Bringing feet to hands/mouth while on back.
  • Holding head erect in a support position.
  • Sitting (initially with support).
  • Pushing body off ground with arms when lying on tummy.

  • Roller over from front to back or back to front.
  • Crawling on belly. Sitting independently.
  • Getting up on all fours.
  • Pushing body off ground with arms when lying on tummy.
  • Bringing self into a seated position unaided.
  • Creeping on hands and knees.
  • Transitioning into different positions e.g. sitting, all fours, lying on tummy.
  • Pulling self into standing position.
  • Stands momentarily without support.
  • Walking while holding onto furniture. Taking 2-3 steps without support.
  • Rolling a ball in imitation of adult.

  • Sitting.
  • crawling or walking independently.
  • Getting up on all fours.
  • Creeping on hands and knees.
  • Transitioning into different positions e.g. sitting,
  • all fours, lying on tummy.
  • Pulling self into standing position.
  • Standing without support.
  • Trying to run (running stiff with eyes on floor).
  • Walking while holding a toy.
  • Changing direction while walking.
  • Rolling a ball in imitation of an adult

  • Walking smoothly and turning corners.
  • Running with control (still has wide gait).
  • Climbing onto/down from furniture without assistance.
  • Pulling self into standing position unsupported.
  • Walking up and down steps (with support). Walking while holding a toy.
  • Changing direction while walking.
  • Picking up toys from the floor without falling over.
  • Rolling a ball.

  • Imitating an adult standing on one foot.
  • Imitating simple bilateral movements of limbs (e.g. arms up together).
  • Running with control.
  • Climbing onto/down from furniture without assistance.
  • Climbing on jungle gym and ladders.
  • Pedalling on a tricycle.
  • Changing direction while walking.
  • Walking up and down stairs with alternating feet without support.
  • Jumping with two feet together 5 times in a row.
  • Walking on tip toes.
  • Picking up toys from the floor without falling over.
  • Throwing objects with an overarm action at a target.
  • Rolling a ball.
  • Catching a ball (using body).

  • Standing on one foot for up to 5 seconds.
  • Walking up and down stairs with alternating feet without assistance
  • Kicking a ball forwards.
  • Throwing a ball overarm.
  • Catching a ball that has been bounced.
  • Catching a ball with hands instead of using arms and body.
  • Running around obstacles.
  • Jumping 10 times in a row, maintaining the distance of jumps.
  • Waling on tip toes.
  • Walking along a line.
  • Safely performing a forward roll.
  • Hopping on one foot.
  • Jumping over an object and landing with both feet together.
  • Pedaling a bicycle with training wheels

  • Standing on one foot for 10 seconds.
  • Kicking a rolled ball with direction
  • Walking up stairs while holding an object.
  • Walking backwards heel-toe.
  • Jumping forwards 10 times without falling.
  • Skipping forward after demonstration.
  • Hanging from a bar for at least 5 seconds.
  • Stepping forward with leg on same side as throwing arm when throwing a ball.
  • Walking along a line with hands on hips
  • Hopping on one foot (in place and forward)

  • Running smoothly with arms opposing legs and a narrow base of support (feet not too far apart). Running around obstacles while maintaining balance.
  • Standing on one foot for at least 10 seconds.
  • Skipping independently.
  • Stepping forward with leg on opposite side as throwing arm when throwing a ball.
  • Kicking a soccer ball with accuracy.
  • Walking backwards heel-toe.
  • Walking on a balance beam.
  • Holding and moving across monkey bars without support.
  • Using a skipping rope.
  • Hopping on one foot.
  • Jumping forwards with both feet together.
  • Safely performing a forward roll.
  • Catching a small ball using hands only.
  • Jumping over an object and landing with both feet together.
  • Riding a bike without training wheels

  • Holding and moving across monkey bars without support.
  • Safely performing a forward roll.
  • Running smoothly with arms opposing legs and a narrow base of support (feet not too far apart). Running around obstacles while maintaining balance.
  • Stepping forward with leg on opposite side as throwing arm when throwing a ball.
  • Kicking a football with reasonable accuracy and consistency.
  • Jumping over an object and landing with both feet together.
  • Catching a small ball using hands only.
  • Walking on a balance beam.
  • Walking backwards heel-toe.
  • Standing and maintaining balance on one foot.
  • Using a skipping rope with fluidity
  • Hopping on one foot with good balance
  • Riding a bike with fluidity

Is your child on track?

Here are some general guidelines for expectations in Speech and Language Development. If your child is delayed, a Speech Therapy evaluation may be indicated.

  • Smiles spontaneously in response to others
  • Stops crying after others speak to him/he
  • Turns head toward heard voices and looks for speaker
  • Responds to sounds other than voices (e.g. bells/toys/sirens)
  • Starts to respond to being told “no” (e.g. stopping an activity that may ensue danger)
  • Cries in response to an angry tone of voice
  • Takes turns making vocal exchanges with others
  • Laughs, babbles, vocalizes to express displeasure
  • Sound play when alone or with others
  • Whining with manipulative purpose

  • Attends to sounds and voices
  • Recognizes facial expressions and tones of voice
  • Babbling (e.g. ma-ma, da-da)
  • Takes turns vocalizing with others
  • Recognizes names of a few objects

  • Responds to familiar requests (e.g. come here) and own name
  • Understands gestures (e.g. wave for ‘bye’)
  • Babbling (e.g. ma-ma, da-da)
  • Takes turns vocalizing with others
  • Recognizes names of a few objects
  • Can understand one key word in a sentence (e.g. Where’s your nose?)

  • Follows 2 part instructions (e.g. Go to your room and get your shoes)
  • Points to main body parts, clothing items, toys and food when asked
  • Names actions (e.g. go, run)
  • By 2 years vocabulary is 250-300 words
  • By 3 years uses 1000 words
  • Minimum of 2-3 words in a sentence (e.g. Daddy go work
  • Still talks to self in long monologues
  • Talks about present events
  • Regular Plurals – e.g. 1 dog, 2 dogs
  • Articles –‘a’ and ‘the’
  • Progressive –ing – e.g. The boy is jumping
  • Uses Pronouns – ‘you, I, me, mine’
  • Regular Past Tense – e.g. “I climbed
  • Possessive ‘s– e.g. “Daddy’s c
  • Position: on; off; in; out; up; down; under; top; open; shut
  • Size: big; small/little; long
  • Quantity: 1; 2
  • Other: stop; go/start; loud;quiet; heavy; soft; fast; hot; cold
  • Understands and asks What and Where questions

  • Follows 3 part instructions (e.g. point to the cat, the dog and the monkey
  • Understands longer, more complex sentences
  • By 4 years uses nearly 1500 words
  • Minimum of 3-4 word sentences
  • Tells you what they are doing
  • Tells you the function or use of an object
  • Begins to talk about past events
  • Auxiliary ‘is’ – e.g. The girl is skipping
  • Pronouns ‘he/she’ – e.g. “He is running” or “She is drinking”.
  • Connector ‘and’ –e.g. “I want a banana and an apple”
  • 3rd Person Singular – e.g. “He wants the ball”; “It eats grass”; “She reads books
  • Contracted Negative – e.g. isn’t, doesn’t, haven’t, shouldn’t
  • Contracted Copula – e.g. He’s happy
  • Past Participle –e.g. It’s broken
  • Position: bottom; behind; first; near
  • Size:short (length) – emerging; short (height)
  • Quantity:3; every; none
  • Other: hard; slow; light (weight); many colors
  • Understands Who questions
  • Asks What, Why, When and How questions

  • Follows the meaning of others’ conversation
  • Continuing to expand
  • Can generally understand color and shape words (e.g. red, square)
  • Can sort objects into simple categories (e.g. animals, food)
  • Minimum of 4-5 word sentences
  • Talks about past and future events
  • Pronouns ‘his, hers, theirs’ – e.g. “It is his/hers/theirs
  • Comparative –er and Superlative -est: e.g. big, bigger, biggest
  • Use of ‘is’ vs ‘are‘ – e.g. “The monkey is eating a banana” vs “The monkeys are eating the bananas”)
  • Past Tense “to be” – e.g. “I was running” and “They were running”
  • Connector ‘because‘ –e.g. The boy was crying because he fell over and hurt his knee”
  • Adverb –ly – e.g. quickly, slowly, quietly
  • Irregular Plurals – e.g
  • Mid-late 4 years:
  • Position: middle; around; away from; between; through; next to/beside; last
  • Size: short (length); short (height); tall; fat
  • Quantity: 4; most; few
  • Late 4-5 years:
  • Position: in front; in a line; corner; middle
  • Size: thin
  • Quantity: 5 (emerging); pair
  • Other:same; different (size); different (function)
  • Understands How questions
  • Asks meanings of words

  • Follows the meaning of others’ conversations
  • Follows multi-step instructions
  • Vocabulary comprehension increases
  • Vocabulary comprehension increases
  • Uses more complex sentences
  • Uses imaginative language in play – likes to pretend and act out stories
  • Tells several attributes about an object
  • Irregular past tense – e.g. fell, broke, ate
  • Time: yesterday, tomorrow, morning, afternoon, late
  • Uses How and Where questions

  • Ideas are shared
  • Follows multi-step instructions
  • Can classify objects according to more specific traits (e.g. form, colour, use or composition-what it is made of)
  • Gives short oral reports
  • Uses language at a higher level to make jokes, tease, engage in sarcasm, argue point of view, explain complex situations, talk about movies or past events in detail
  • Develops written language skills and ability to write descriptive paragraphs and stories
  • Grammar is mature
  • Position: left; right
  • Other: same; different; season; time of day
  • Can understand the difference between reality and fantasy
  • Able to make predictions, justify decisions, provide solutions and give explanations

  • Can listen for a sustained period of time (e.g. attend to a guest speaker at school)
  • Can express their opinion
  • Can retell both imaginary and real events
  • Uses appropriate grammar in their speech and written work
  • Can problem solve
  • Will ask questions to clarify information

Is your child on track?

Here are some general guidelines for expectations in Development of Self Care Skills and Organization. If your child is delayed, an Occupational Therapy evaluation may be indicated.

  • Tracking objects with eyes
  • Coordinating suck, swallow, breath sequence, (tongue is cupped, forward rhythmical movements of the tongue, and jaw consistently moves up and down in a coordinated pattern)
  • Sleeping for 4-10 hour intervals.
  • Communicating hunger, fear or discomfort through crying

  • Playing for 2-3 minutes with a single toy
  • Reaching for nearby objects
  • Tracking objects with eyes
  • Sleeping 10-12 hours with only 1 awakening
  • Tolerating a range of different textured foods
  • Drinking from a cup
  • Holding bottle or cup independently
  • Using tongue to move food around mouth
  • Feeding self small crackers or other small pieces of food

  • Distinguishing between edible and inedible objects (18 months)
  • Looking in the right spot for hidden objects
  • Playing next to children
  • Imitating adult behavior
  • Engaging in imaginative play
  • Has an awareness of a parent’s approval or disapproval of their actions
  • Understanding common dangers of hot objects, stairs, glass
  • Regularly checking in with caregivers
  • Tolerating diaper changes
  • Settling themselves to sleep at night or during the day
  • Attempting to brush teeth
  • Knowing where familiar items are kept
  • Removing own shoes and socks
  • Cooperating with dressing by extending an arm or leg

  • Using toilet with assistance and having daytime control
  • Having an awareness of a parent’s approval or disapproval of their actions
  • Understanding common dangers of hot objects, stairs, glass
  • Settling themselves to sleep at night or during the day
  • Sitting to look at a book independently
  • Unbuttoning large buttons
  • Expressing emotions
  • Tolerating a range of different textured foods
  • Engaging in imaginative play
  • Distinguishing between urination and bowel movements, and names them correctly
  • Using a napkin to wipe face and hands
  • Feeding self simple meals using a fork or spoon
  • Taking socks and shoes off
  • Enjoying/tolerating messy play
  • Knowing where familiar items are kept
  • Attempting to brush teeth

  • Having an awareness of a parent’s approval or disapproval of their actions
  • Understanding common dangers of hot objects, stairs, glass
  • Sitting to look at a book independently
  • Unbuttoning large buttons
  • Expressing emotions
  • Tolerating a range of different textured foods
  • Engaging in imaginative play
  • Distinguishing between urination and bowel movements, and names correctly
  • Using a napkin to wipe face and hands
  • Feeding self simple meals using a fork or spoon
  • Taking shoes and socks off
  • Enjoying/tolerating messy play
  • Knowing where familiar items are kept
  • Attempting to brush teeth
  • Feeding self without difficulty
  • Tolerating different clothing textures, seams, tags etc
  • Independently packing items away
  • Using a napkin to wipe face and hands
  • Toileting independently
  • Knowing where familiar items are kept
  • Dressing and undressing self (only requiring assistance with laces, buttons, and other fasteners in awkward places)
  • Playing with 2 or 3 children in a group
  • Brushing teeth independently
  • Taking turns
  • Settling themselves to sleep at night or during the day

  • Using a napkin to wipe face and hands
  • Settling themselves to sleep at night
  • Independently packing items away
  • Developing friendships
  • Expressing emotions
  • Following rules
  • Knowing where familiar items are kept
  • Toileting independently
  • Choosing weather appropriate clothes
  • Dressing self independently
  • Feeding self without difficulty
  • Taking turns
  • Playing with 4 or 5 children in a group
  • Tolerating different clothing textures, seams, tags etc

  • Dressing independently
  • Morning routine at school (putting bag away, swapping readers, putting drink bottle in correct spot)
  • Feeding self without difficulty
  • Expressing emotions
  • Opening lunch boxes, zip lock bags, food packaging
  • Sitting at a desk, following teacher instruction, and independently doing simple in-class assignments
  • Tolerating different clothing textures, seams, tags etc
  • Coping in busy/noisy environments
  • Settling independently for sleep
  • Packing a bag for school or other outings with assistance

  • Opening lunch boxes, zip lock bags, food packaging
  • Independently getting self to sleep and sleeping through the night
  • Eating a range of food and tolerating different textures
  • Showering independently
  • Packing a bag for school or other outings with little assistance/prompting
  • Expressing emotions
  • Morning routine at school (putting bag away, swapping readers, putting drink bottle in correct spot)
  • Independently toileting during the day and at night
  • Coping in busy/noisy environments
  • Telling the time
  • Feeding self without difficulty
  • Knowing where their body is in time and space to coordinate body movements for ball skills
  • Playing with 4 or 5 children in a group
  • Inhibiting the need to talk/ask questions
  • Preparing simple meals (e.g. cereal)

  • Opening lunch boxes, zip lock bags, food packaging
  • Packing a bag for school or other outings with little assistance/prompting
  • Recalling events and describing them
  • Expressing emotions
  • Remembering a sentence to write that was just thought about or told
  • Attending for longer periods of time
  • Sitting still (e.g. in class, at mealtimes)
  • Coping in busy/noisy environments
  • Showering independently
  • Taking on more responsibilities e.g. chores
  • Understanding money
  • Telling the time and displaying time management skills
  • Inhibiting the need to talk and ask questions
  • Preparing simple meals e.g. cereal, sandwich

Is your child on track?

Here are some general guidelines for expectations for Play and Social Skills Development. If your child is delayed, an Occupational or Speech Therapy evaluation may be indicated.

  • Establishes eye contact for a few seconds
  • Responds with a smile when socially approached
  • Recognizes parent visually
  • Discriminates strangers
  • Laughs in response to play
  • Distinguishes between friendly and angry voices
  • Manipulates and explores objects
  • Manipulates a rattle
  • Imaginative play actions are absent or random

  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Participates in clapping when prompted
  • Lifts arms to parent
  • Responds to facial expressions
  • Extends toys to others
  • Manipulates and explores objects
  • Imitates an adult’s actions
  • Places doll with head upright and vertical to the ground
  • Imaginative play actions are absent or random

  • Has toy preferences
  • Identifies self in mirror
  • Imitates adult behaviour
  • Likes repetitive actions such as putting objects in and out of boxes and scribbling on many pages
  • Imitates a pretend play action (e.g. giving a drink)
  • Demonstrates play related to their body (e.g. sleeping, eating)
  • Spontaneously performs one action with a doll (e.g. hugs doll)
  • Uses a similar looking object for the needed object (e.g. uses paper as a blanket)
  • Is unable to share and competes with other children for toys
  • Looks for hidden objects
  • Begins to play next to other children
  • Observes other children playing around them but will not play with them
  • Engages in imaginative play
  • Says “hi”, “bye” and “please” without prompting

  • Has a strong sense of ownership
  • May begin cooperative play
  • Treats doll or teddy as if it is alive
  • Plays alongside others but will not play together with them
  • Begins to use symbols in their play such as a stick becoming a sword
  • Play themes reflect less frequently experienced life events (e.g. visiting the doctor)
  • Play actions are detailed and logical with “No”
  • Uses or plans story-line
  • Has an awareness of a parent’s approval or disapproval of their actions
  • Will express emotions
  • Will verbalise their desires/feelings (e.g. “I want a drink”)
  • Begins to obey and respect simple rules

  • Plays with mechanical toys
  • Takes turns with other children
  • Plays with 2 or 3 children in a group
  • Play themes expand beyond personal experience (e.g. fireman rescuing people)
  • Talks about their feelings
  • Feels shame when caught doing the wrong thing

  • Begins taking turns and negotiating
  • Plays together with shared aims of play with others
  • Usually prefers playing with other children than playing by themselves
  • Plays imaginatively (e.g. playing in the home-corner, dressing up, cooking)
  • Enjoys playing games with simple rules (e.g. hide and seek)
  • May change the rules of a game as the activity progresses

  • Play themes include themes never personally experienced (e.g. going to space)
  • Plays and negotiates with others during play
  • Play is well organised

  • Enjoys playing in small groups and making up their own games with rules
  • Enjoys playing co-operative games but has difficulties coping with losing
  • Likes to play with other children of their own gender
  • Enjoys using and understanding rules in play

*The information presented in these checklists were gathered from the CDC, HELP, ASHA, AOTA, APTA, and the Big Blue Canopy staff, and various other resources. This chart was designed to serve as a functional screening of developmental skills. It does not constitute an assessment nor reflect strictly standardized research.

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