Module 4: Promoting Mental Health in Early Childhood

Early Childhood Developmental Checklist

Physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills are closely linked, and strengthen one another. A complete list of developmental milestones is available online.

Physical and self-regulatory skills

  • Continues to develop strength and movement skills (walk, climb, run)
  • Refines hand-and-finger skills (uses crayon, draws simple shapes)
  • Explores and enjoys foods, joins in family mealtime and “table talk”
  • Has regular bedtime routine and can usually settle down for sleep
  • Learns basic self-care skills (feeding, washing, dressing)
  • Becomes developmentally ready for toileting (2 to 2-1/2 years)
  • Can sit quietly and listen to a story for a few minutes
  • Tries to be more independent, does more things without help

Emotional skills

  • Learns to name and express feelings (e.g., happy, angry, sad)
  • Feels good about self and what he/she can do
  • More aware of self as separate from others
  • Finds it hard to control anger and frustration, may have tantrums (2 years)
  • Can usually calm down within a few minutes
  • Continues to learn and practice self-comforting

Social Skills

  • Shows affection, gives kisses and hugs
  • Turns to parents for love and security
  • Usually cooperates with family routines
  • Becomes more aware of others’ feelings
  • Likes to be around other children
  • Plays side-by-side (2 years)
  • Begins playing together with other children (3 years)
  • Gradually learns to take turns and to share (3 years)
  • Gets along with others, can name two or more playmates (4 years)
  • Begins to develop friendships (4 years)

Cognitive skills

  • Is very curious and loves to explore
  • Imitates sounds, gestures
  • Knows functions of household objects
  • Understands and follows simple directions
  • Better able to understand cause and effect
  • Begins to sort by shapes and colors (2 to 3 years)
  • Looks at pictures and names objects
  • Likes to test limits, but accepts them most of the time
  • Talks in simple phrases (2 years) and short sentences (3 years)
  • Tells stories and enjoys pretend play (4 years)
  • Learns basic skills for school success (letters, numbers, sorting, counting)


Checklist is drawn from a variety of sources, including What to Expect & When to Seek Help: Bright Futures Tools for Social and Emotional Development; Bright Futures Guidelines; American Academy of Pediatrics' Health Supervision III; and American Academy of Pediatrics' Caring for Your Baby and Young Child Birth to Age 5.


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