The CDC Changes Kid’s Developmental Milestones For The First Time In Almost 20 Years


We all know the drill. We take our kids to the pediatrician and the doctor asks us a series of questions about our kids’ development. They want to make sure our kids are meeting the developmental milestones at the right time. But honestly, it sometimes feels like a test for the parents, not the kids. 


As parents, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help our kid develop properly, and we don’t want to mess up. But developmental delays are common, and, thankfully, there are many early intervention programs to help.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just changed their guidance for kids’ milestones for the first time since 2005. And, most people think it’s about time.

What’s the purpose of the new guidelines?

The update is to help parents identify developmental delays in their children quicker than before, so they can get the help they need. Child experts agree that the earlier the intervention, the better. This new checklist may help parents and doctors identify delays like autism, much sooner than before.

“I believe, had I been provided with more definitive milestones, I could have been able to obtain a diagnosis earlier on and provide my son the additional resources he needed,” Amanda Palo told The Washington Post. “I didn’t know the possible autism signs or markers to look for regarding a possible diagnosis. No one does the research unless you have to do it, and you don’t know what you don’t know.”

You’re probably familiar with some of the big milestones: crawling, walking, and talking. The new milestones don’t include crawling and the age limits have been pushed back for certain milestones. Also, there’s more of an emphasis on social and emotional development.

young boy at doctor appointment for developmental milestones
Photo credit: Adobe Photo Stock

What developmental milestones have changed?

The CDC worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to revise their developmental checklists for kids.

According to the AAP, the goal of this was to identify evidence-informed milestones to include in CDC checklists, clarify when most children can be expected to reach a milestone (to discourage a wait-and-see approach), and support clinical judgment regarding screening between recommended ages.”

The AAP put together a group of 13 pediatric development experts to review the current guidance on milestones and recommend changes. Here are the AAP’s top changes to developmental milestones:

  • Adding checklists for ages 15 and 30 months; now there is a checklist for every well-child visit from 2 months to 5 years.
  • Identifying additional social and emotional milestones (e.g., Smiles on their own to get your attention, age 4 months).
  • Removing vague language like “may” or “begins” when referring to certain milestones.
  • Removing duplicate milestones.
  • Using new, open-ended questions to facilitate discussion between pediatricians and families. (Example: Is there anything your child does or does not do that concerns you?).
  • Revising and expanding tips and activities for developmental promotion and early relational health.

You can see the full checklist of developmental milestones here or you can download the CDC’s free Milestone Tracker app for Apple and Android.

Remember: milestones aren’t everything. There’s more to parenting than just making sure your kid hits a predetermined goal.

“Parents should also trust their own knowledge about their kids, including what brings them joy, what overstimulates them, and when parents feel most connected to their children,” Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, told CNN Health. “These aspects of parent-child relationship are not measured through milestones, but are crucial to children’s mental wellbeing.”



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