10 baby milestones to watch out for

Developmental signs that show baby is growing up well.


Toddlers develop at their own pace, but it’s hard to stay relaxed when you’re surrounded by kiasu mums bragging about how advanced their little one is. Developmental studies on children around the world have found that children show a similar pattern of development across most, if not all, geographical regions, says Joanne Khaw, a teaching fellow at NIE’s Early Childhood & Special Needs Education Department. Two factors influence the pace at which developmental milestones are achieved. The first is nurture - that is, exposure to a skill and opportunities to practise and master it, and the second - nature. So, how do you know if your child is developing as nature intended? Here are 10 milestones to look out for.

Hold a pencil

By the time they reach 1, most tots develop the “pincer movement” ¾ using the thumb and one finger to hold a fat crayon. By 18 months they use a fist or dagger-like grip. At 2, toddlers gain more control, and by 3, they begin to hold a pencil in the proper position. Some children won’t hold a pencil with precision until they’re 4 or even 5. It’s best to avoid pushing her, or she may revert to using her fist again.

Draw a picture

One-year-olds scribble indiscriminately. They love finger painting and progress to wobbly circles at around 2. By 3, they can copy (messily!) simple shapes, such as circles, lines or crosses.

Ride a bike

From 18 months to 2 years, tots can scoot along on ride-on toys. They progress to trikes, mastering the pedal action by around 3.


Between 1 and 2, toddlers begin to know the names of numbers, often through nursery rhymes. Between 2 and 3, they can count from 1 to 10, but by rote. Real counting, knowing about ‘two-ness’ or ‘three-ness’ (for example, give me two apples) comes later, at about 4 years.

Recognise letters

Little ones won’t recognise individual letters until they’re at least 3, often later. At 3 or 4, they start to identify familiar letters, like “a” for “apple” or “m” for “mum”.

Photo: INGimage

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