Children’s Developmental Milestones Changed (For the 1st Time in Decades)

Recently the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics updated the developmental milestones guidelines. This is the first update to the guidelines since they were first announced in 2005. These milestone guides and resources can help identify delays and give parents the means to start conversations about their concerns with their pediatric providers. It is important to note that the changes were evaluated and finalized in 2019 before the pandemic even began.

Illustration of a baby's development to a toddler

Skills such as taking the first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye-bye” are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in playing, learning, speaking, acting, and moving (crawling, walking, etc.). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have updated the developmental milestone guidelines for the Learn the Signs. Act Early. program, which is the first update to the guidelines since they were announced in 2005! The Learn the Signs. Act Early. program helps parents identify autism and developmental delays in their children.


  • Identify what 75% of children can be expected to exhibit at a certain age
  • Checklists for 15-month and 30-month well-child visits
  • Emphasis on social-emotional milestones
  • Easier for families of different social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds to observe and use
  • Elimination of “warning signs”
  • Inclusion of more open-ended questions
  • Inclusion of information on how to act earlier if there are concerns

We have all the information and guidance you need regarding these changes from our trusted providers at CapitalCare Developmental Pediatrics. CapitalCare Developmental Pediatrics is in full support of these updated milestones. Our team believes that early screening, especially for early markers in social and emotional milestones, has been a standard of practice for our group prior to these revisions. At CapitalCare Developmental Pediatrics, our goal is to continue providing the most up-to-date care for the patients and their families. These revisions will help our care team continue to be at the forefront of evidence-based practice in our office. These milestones were also translated into Spanish. One of our registered nurses at the office, who is a Certified Spanish Interpreter, can help provide clarity and understanding to patients, families, and providers throughout the community.

Why the change?

The goal of these updates is to make it easier for parents, caregivers, as well as healthcare providers, to catch conditions like autism early on and give them a clear baseline against which to measure milestones. As part of the changes, the CDC and AAP raised the percentage of kids who typically meet milestones from 50% to 75%, indicating that most young children develop according to their age. In the new guidelines, the CDC added checklists for milestones in 15-month-olds and 30-month-olds to help make social and emotional development markers clearer. At 15 months, a toddler should clap when excited, hug their dolls or toys, and show you affection with hugs, cuddles, and kisses. At 30 months, children should be using words like “look at me” to show you what they can do. Further changes that the CDC and AAP implemented include:

  • Identified additional social and emotional milestones as part of the checklists.
  • Removed vague language to make certain milestones clearer.
  • Removed duplicate milestones.
  • Added open-ended questions caregivers can use during well-visits with their pediatrician.
  • Updated tips and activities caregivers can use to promote development.

The big Q. How will this help parents and children?

The goal of this revision was to identify evidence-informed milestones (based on data, developmental resources, and clinical experiences) and help in clarification of when most children can be expected to reach a developmental milestone and support clinical judgment regarding screening between the recommended ages. The earlier screening and surveillance can help appropriately identify children with developmental delays or disabilities early, help timely interventions, and ideally improve outcomes. These changes hope to discourage the “wait-and-see” approach, which many parents (understandably) don’t like. Eliminating the “developmental warning signs” with children not achieving milestones that most (greater than or equal to 75%) are expected to reach should help warrant more in-depth surveillance and consideration for developmental screening.

To print the complete milestone checklist, click here. Or visit the CDC’s Developmental Milestones website and click on your child’s age above to complete the checklist online.

If you have any questions about the changes to the developmental milestones guidelines, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! That’s why we’re here! Our team at CapitalCare Developmental Pediatrics is devoted to the special care of children with developmental disabilities. We offer high-level clinical diagnostic services to help parents gain the knowledge and capability to care for their children.

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