A better Medway

Milestones for 1 to 3 year olds

Here are the development milestones you should be looking out for if your child is aged between 1 and 3 years old:


  • understand words and their meaning like ‘cup’, ‘milk’ and ‘daddy’
  • understand frequently used words like 'all gone', 'no' and 'bye-bye'
  • understand simple instructions like 'give to nanna' or 'stop'
  • recognise and point to objects when asked about them
  • focuses on an activity they have chosen themselves and finds it hard when moved away from this activity
  • listens when talked to but finds it hard to pay attention when something else is interesting
  • feels frustrated when they are not understood
  • uses words and actions to let you know how they feel
  • learning to have conversations but jumps from topic to topic
  • likes to pretend play like 'putting the baby to bed'
  • likes to listen to simple stories and can understand what is happening with the help of pictures
  • uses the sounds ‘p’, ‘b’ and ‘m’
  • pronounces ‘l’, ‘r’, ‘w’, ‘y’, ‘f’, ‘th’, ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘dz’ and ‘j’
  • pronounces words with more than one syllable like ‘banana’ and ‘computer’.

Older children will be able to understand longer sentences like ‘find your coat’.

Personal, social and emotional

  • beginning to understand how to wait their turn
  • learning how to control their feelings when they want something
  • learning how to talk about and manage their feelings
  • some make-believe play like tea party and offering others food
  • interested in other people, asking questions about differences in hair colour, age and gender
  • observes others playing around them but does not join in
  • plays alongside other children but not together.

Older children will be:

  • demonstrating symbolic play like using a box as a boat
  • starting to use more words to explain their feelings like 'I'm sad because...' or 'I love it when...'.


  • wants to eat independently.

Older children will be:

  • learning how to use a knife and fork
  • beginning to show you that they are ready to use the potty.


  • claps and stamps to music
  • explores and moves around in spaces they can fit into such as large boxes, dens and tunnels
  • learning how to kick, throw and catch balls
  • learning to walk by themselves.

Older children will be:

  • finding different ways to support themselves
  • walking, running, jumping and climbing
  • learning to use the stairs independently
  • able to spin and roll
  • able to use ropes independently, like tyre swings
  • able to sit on a push-along wheeled toy
  • able to use a scooter or ride a tricycle.

For support to help your child reach these milestones, see our support for your child's development page.