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Check here for specific information about childhood development by age. You can see how your child is growing physically, mentally, and emotionally, along with some parenting tips. If you have questions or concerns about your child's growth or development, use this information to talk with your child's caregiver, pediatrician, or a teacher at your child's school.

0-15 Months          |         16-36 Months         |         3-4 Years         |         Kindergarten

If you have questions or concerns about your child's growth or development, use this guide to talk with your child's caregiver, pediatrician, or a teacher at your child's school.

kindergarten-01Kindergarten is a big transition for children. The following information should help you and your child get ready for this exciting time in your lives. For information about public and private kindergarten opportunities in Boston see the section on Early Education and Care at the end of this document. Look for the following milestones as your child gets ready to enter kindergarten:

  • Plays cooperatively with other children most of the time
  • Uses words suggested by an adult to express feelings, such as "I don't like it when you push me" or "that makes me mad!"
  • Is able to help solve simple problems with adult support
  • Follows 2–3 step directions such as, "Wash your hands, go get your lunch, and wait by the door."
  • Shows hand–eye coordination by buttoning her pants or cutting around a large picture with scissors
  • Recognizes some letters, particularly the letters in his own name
  • Holds a pencil with her thumb and forefinger instead of using a whole hand grasp to draw or write
  • Tells a story about a picture and asks an adult to write it down
  • Can count 10 or more objects, such as the steps leading up to his home
  • Asks questions about everything!

Helpful Activities

These activities can help ease the transition for you and your child into the kindergarten classroom.

  • Spend time with peers: Ensure that your child has lots of opportunities to socialize with groups of children her own age to help her to practice sharing, taking turns, self control and more. If your child is not enrolled in a pre–school program, try joining a free playgroup or library story time, or plan regular visits with friends or neighbors with children of similar ages.
  • Visit your child's new school together: This is a great opportunity to meet the principal and kindergarten teacher and tour the school.
  • If you can, visit the school several times during the summer and let your child play in the playground to become familiar with the school before September.
  • Create routines: Have a set bedtime and wake–up time, and stick to it. This helps children know what to expect and ensures that they get enough rest. Create a morning routine and practice getting ready for school a few times before school starts.
  • Read books about going to school so he can start thinking about his own big day, but also continue to read other types of books with your child just for pleasure.

Parenting Tips

Encourage independence: Nurture independence by allowing your child to make certain choices, such as allowing him to choose his clothing. If he is not already doing it, teach him how to open his own drinks or food containers. Children may bring their own lunch to school, and they will have to open their lunch on their own. Also, if your child will be wearing shoes that require laces, teach him how to tie his own shoes.

Plan for the first day of school: If you can, take the morning off from work and take your child to school. If your child will ride the bus, be sure to put a nametag on her (or in her backpack) and include her first name, your phone number, and grade or classroom teacher name.

Dress your child in comfortable clothing: Have him wear elastic waistband pants (zippers, belts and buttons may be too much during the first few days). This way if he waits until the last minute to use the restroom, it will be easier for him. Also, if your child does not know how to tie his own shoes, have him wear Velcro or slip-on shoes.

Ten Steps to Get Ready!

  • Create a routine over the summer. Give your child a bedtime (7:30 or 8:00 PM is great!) and stick to it.
  • Have your child practice writing his first name. If he can do this, try his last name, or practice lower case letters.
  • Use counting in your daily activities. Count how many steps it takes to get to the mailbox or the park. Count out fruit, placemats, napkins, and so forth.
  • Take your child with you to the grocery store, post office, library, and other errands. Talk with her about what she's seeing, hearing and touching. It's all part of learning!
  • Visit your local library and help your child get a free library card. Then use the card to visit the library each week and borrow a book. Visit www.bpl.org for a list of their 27 locations and hours of operation. Talk about the books you read. Ask questions like:
  • > What was your favorite part of the story?
  • > Which part did you like the least?
  • > Half way through, ask your child what he thinks will happen at the end.
  • Let your child practice her independence by allowing her to make limited choices: "Do you want an apple or a banana?" Encourage her to try new things.
  • Set a limit to the amount of TV your child watches (1–2 hours daily). When possible, watch TV with him and talk about what you see.
  • Prepare a "study spot" for your child in the kitchen or living room and supply it with crayons, paper, scissors and other kindergarten tools. Let your child draw there while you make dinner. Once school starts, this can become the time and place where she does her homework.
  • Help your child know or be able to do the following before he enters kindergarten:
  • > His name, address, and telephone number
  • > Use the bathroom on her own and button and zip her clothes.
  • > Share and play with other children. This will help him to adjust to his new kindergarten classroom.
  • Read, Read, Read! (In English or any native language!)

Celebrate the Transition to Kindergarten

Countdown to Kindergarten offers a number of events throughout the city to help celebrate this important milestone. Learn more about these opportunities at www.countdowntokindergarten.org or call (617) 635-LEARN.


If you have questions or concerns about your child's growth or development, use this guide to talk with your child's caregiver, pediatrician, or a teacher at your child's school.

Preschoolers are active and more confident in how their bodies move. Here is what you can expect at this stage:

Children this age like to use their fingers to build with blocks, use crayons, and do puzzles.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Alternates between a whole hand grasp and a thumb and fingertips grasp when using crayons or markers
  • 3–3.5 Years: Tries to zip up his jacket and asks for help when the zipper gets stuck
  • 3.5–4 Years: Fits together manipulatives such as large legos or pop beads and/or can dress a doll

You will see great growth in your child's language, imagination, and ability to play with other children.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Describes actions in a book when you ask, "What is happening?" or "What's the dog doing?"
  • 3–3.5 Years: Chooses an activity or place to play because a special friend is there
  • 3–4 Years: Speaks clearly enough that adults and children can usually understand what he is saying
  • 3.5–4 Years: Answers fairly complex questions, such as, "What is this?" or, "How did you do that?"

They are curious about the world and want to understand how everything works. They often ask questions and share their own stories and experiences.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Shows curiosity about almost everything he sees
  • 3–4 Years: Asks questions in order to keep a conversation going

This stage often marks the development of imaginary play and roleplaying, when children create rich and involved fantasies.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Pretends to be a parent by taking care of a doll
  • 3–3.5 Years: Uses a toy as a pretend telephone
  • 3.5–4 Years: Joins in games of dramatic play with other children. For example, playing house and giving roles such as, "You be the mommy and I'll be the daddy"

3-4years-02Busy preschoolers have a growing interest in playing together with other children. All the time you spent encouraging your toddler to take turns now pays off!

  • 3–3.5 Years: Looks through a story book and giggles with a friend as they "retell" the story together
  • 3.5–4.5 Years: Trades a red marker on the table for the green marker that another child is using Preschoolers learn concepts of reading, math, writing, and science as part of their play and everyday routines!
  • 3–4 Years: Responds accurately when asked to put her shoes in the closet, or to cover her baby brother with a blanket
  • 3–4 Years: Scribbles on paper and then tells you what he "wrote"
  • 3–4 Years: Holds books right side up and turns the pages starting at the front of the book
  • 3.5–4 Years: Recognizes some letters, particularly those in her name


  • Look at your child's baby pictures together: Talk about how your child has grown and changed! Let your child tell you about all the things she can do now that she could not do as a baby. Remember that even "big kids" need to cuddle.
  • Have an indoor "family picnic:" Plan an easy-to-make menu and select a theme. For a "Winter Wonderland," you can use sheets for snow and pillows for a snowman.
  • Play pretend and dress-up: Your child can learn about the world around him by pretending to cook dinner, go to work or school, or visit the doctor. Fill a bin with old hats, scarves, shoes, bags, and props for your child to use while playing pretend.
  • Read books about your child's interests.

IMG 1290v4Parenting Tips

  • Let your child see you writing and reading: You are the best role model for your child—if he thinks you enjoy reading, he will, too!
  • Give your child crayons and paper to "work" alongside you. Ask her what she drew or wrote and write down what she says.
  • Do chores together: Develop cooperation and responsibility early by letting your child help out.
  • Be amazed: Let your child know how impressed you are with his accomplishments and abilities. Be specific. Say, "It's great how you filled the whole page with color," rather than, "Great job!"
  • Help her manage feelings: If your child is angry, help her find safe ways to show that she's upset. Encourage her to use words or to find a quiet place to calm down, rather than yelling or hitting. She may need your help to find the words for her feelings.

16-36-01If you have questions or concerns about your child's growth or development, use this guide to talk with your child's caregiver, pediatrician, or a teacher at your child's school.

Toddlers are busy and eager explorers with small bodies and big feelings! Toddlers are trying to do things for themselves but still need to be reassured by the adults in their lives. They are experiencing the world and trying to make sense of it all at the same time. Here is what you can expect to see in the toddler years:

Vocabulary takes off. Toddlers are learning many new words and putting them together.

  • 15–18 Months: Uses several single words, such as "bye" or "nite–nite"
  • 18–24 Months: Points to several body parts when you name them
  • 24–32 Months: Puts several words together, such as "More cookie" or "Go out now"
  • 24–32 Months: Uses personal pronouns such as "we," "they," and "us"
  • 30–36 Months: Uses sentences that are three or four words long
  • 30–36 Months: Answers questions such as "What's this?" when looking at books

16-36-03Toddlers start using words to interact with parents and other people in their lives. This stage is marked by the frequent use of favorite toddler words: "No," "Mine," and "I do it!"

  • 18–24 Months: Points to appropriate pictures in a book when asked, "Where's the ___?"
  • 24–32 Months: Starts asking questions about the story you are reading or the things she sees as you go on walks together
  • 30–42 Months: Talks about something that happened and waits for your response

On the move! Crawling, dancing, rolling, and running all contribute to a toddler's growth.

  • 12–18 Months: Walks upright more often than he crawls
  • 18–24 Months: Can squat down and stand up again with little difficulty
  • 24–30 Months: Enjoys climbing on furniture or small climbing structures
  • 24–36 Months: Throws a ball or rolls it back and forth with a partner
  • 24–36 Months: Runs with ease, and can stop and start easily

Although they often get frustrated, this is a temporary stage. As toddlers develop more language, and an understanding of how things work, their frustrations melt away rather than lead to a melt down.

  • 12–18 Months: Cries when another child takes a toy from her
  • 18–24 Months: Stacks a set of cardboard boxes, knocks them down, and then stacks them up again
  • 18–24 Months: Runs to get her favorite book for you to read at predictable times such as naptime or bedtime
  • 24–36 Months: Knows that the rectangle shape belongs in the rectangle–shaped hole in the box and turns it until it fits
  • 30–36 Months: Calls for help, instead of hitting, after another child grabs a toy away from him

Toddlers are straightforward, concrete thinkers who truly believe a kiss and hug can make things all better!

  • 18–24 Months: Looks worried or sad when another child is crying
  • 24–36 Months: Pats another child on the back and says, "It's all right," when the other child cries because his mommy just left


16-36-02Parenting Tips

Be patient with your little explorer: Toddlers need to repeat activities many, many times.

Acknowledge feelings: Give your child words for what he is feeling. "I know you are sad." He has to know you understand before he can listen to you. Help your child understand how others feel: "Edney feels sad when you take his blocks. Let's use these ones instead so you can both play."


  • Redirect: Head off a tantrum by offering another activity when you see your child is getting frustrated.
  • Choose your words: Your toddler will repeat everything you say. In her presence, use only words you want her to learn and say only things that you don't mind being repeated to others.
  • Get her ready: Before you start a new routine, tell your child what will happen so that she can prepare herself. Use simple words, such as, "Tomorrow we're going to visit the library for story time." Keep it simple and be ready to answer her questions.

Can your child share yet?

  • One year-olds are not ready to "share," but you can help your child learn to wait and take turns, which will help him prepare for tre sharing when he's older. Help your child learn how to ask for a turn and wait for his turn. Encourage him to say, "May I have a turn?" and then offer to help him pass the time while he waits, by suggesting another toy or offering to read a short book.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's growth or development, use this information to talk with your child's caregiver, pediatrician, or a teacher at your child's school.


Infant development is amazing! At the end of 12 months, your baby can be three times his birth weight and twice his birth length. Babies follow a similar path of development, yet each is unique. Here is what you can expect to see during the first 15 months of life:

Babies first gain control over their heads and then their bodies in the early months of life.

  • 1–4 Months: Holds her head up and steady when you hold her on your shoulder
  • 5–8 Months: Uses his arms to pull his body along on the floor

Rolling over, sitting, crawling, walking, and moving with a purpose can happen over the course of the first 12–15 months.

  • 5–8 Months: Rolls from her back onto her stomach
  • 6–8 Months: Sits up with minimal support
  • 8–12 Months: Crawls, easily switching from crawling to sitting and back again
  • 10–15 Months: Pulls to stand at the edge of a low table and may "cruise" around the edge

Babies are like sponges, soaking up all of the talk around them. Thus, talking, singing, reading, and interacting with your baby become critical to the development of language. Television and videos are not a substitute for face-to-face interaction with a loving caregiver.

  • 1–4 Months: Pays attention to what is happening around him by looking around the room when held on someone's shoulder
  • 3–5 Months: Makes babbling or cooing sounds or waves her arms or legs when someone speaks to her or smiles at her
  • 6–8 Months: Looks toward the sound of a familiar voice calling from another room
  • 8–15 Months: Follows a direction, such as, "Please give me the cup."

Babies coo and babble, but the main way they communicate is by crying. Babies' cries can change when they are hungry, tired, wet, frightened, or overwhelmed. Responding to crying and holding your baby often develops a sense of trust.

  • 1–4 Months: Fusses or cries to gain attention of familiar adults
  • 1–4 Months: Snuggles and relaxes when rocked
  • 4–8 Months: Understands emotions from your tone of voice
  • 8–13 Months: Reaches to a familiar adult to be picked up when a stranger says hello
  • 8–15 Months: Looks for his caregiver's reaction before deciding if he should act hurt after falling down
  • 8–36 Months: Actively clings, cries or tries to follow when her parent starts to leave
  • A little girl guides a younger sibling through a play tunnelActivities

Parenting Tips

  • Have a daily routine: Provide a predictable schedule for your baby, with regular meal bath, nap and bedtimes. This gives your baby a sense of security and safety.
  • During routines, talk about what you are doing: "When your bath is over, we'll put on your pajamas and then read a book before bed." "Let's make sure you are buckled in safely before we start the car."
  • Respond to your baby's cries: Immediately tuning in to your baby's needs develops attachment and trust. You cannot spoil your baby by responding right away.
  • Make sleep–time safe: Avoid toys, blankets, and pillows in your baby's sleeping area and always put your baby to sleep on her back.

Baby wants to move:

  • Help her get ready for walking, but don't rush her. Keep safe objects within her reach to use for pulling up. Put a toy on a sturdy chair or the couch so she will want to pull herself up to reach it. Later, give her a push and pull toy or even a cardboard box to push in front of her to help her practice walking.

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