Watch Me Grow, Years 1 to 5

A year-by-year list of what to expect.

Watch Me Grow, Years 1 to 5


Look At Me Grow!


Think about the difference between a newborn baby and a 5-year-old — it’s huge! The time from birth to 5 years old is when children’s brains develop and they experience the greatest changes. It is also when they learn how to love and be loved, and how to trust and be trusted.

As parents, we play a huge role in the way our children develop, and these first four years are the most rewarding time. We’ve put together a list of what you can expect during these years, and ideas for connecting with your child and helping her grow. Keep up the great work!

The time from birth to 5 years old is the period when children have the greatest learning and changes.

Great job, Mom and Dad!

During the early years, try to:

  1. Talk with your child—and listen to her!
  2. Take your child to regular medical and dental checkups.
  3. Read books together every day.
  4. Give her lots of praise for things well done.
  5. Help your child learn new things. You are her best resource for understanding the world around her.
  6. Create a daily routine.
  7. Eat together and let mealtimes be family time. 

For more tips on what you can do to help your child learn and grow at each age, check out our What to Expect: Year to Year web lesson. 

Eat together, and let mealtimes be family time

15-18 Months

Your child is learning about foods with different textures! At 15-18 months, she will be:

  1. Practicing with a spoon and eating lots of finger foods. Expect a big mess at mealtimes!
  2. Trying foods many times before deciding if she likes them.
  3. Able to choke easily, so be careful. Avoid hard candy, popcorn, pretzels and whole hot dogs, grapes or raw carrots.
  4. Drinking from a cup. WIC has tips to help you wean her off the bottle. 
  5. Eating a lot one day and very little the next. This is OK and normal.  
  6. Playing copycat and wanting to eat what you’re eating. Set a good example for her.
Trying foods many times before deciding if she likes them.

You can expect your child to: 

  1. Stack two or three blocks.
  2. Point to show things to others.
  3. Play simple pretend activities, like feeding a doll.
  4. Say at least five words.
  5. Walk without help and play with pull toys.
  6. Start to run — and enjoy being chased.
  7. Show affection to family and familiar people.
  8. Know what the toilet is but not be able to use it herself yet.

Don’t be surprised if your child:

  1. Likes saying, “No!”
  2. Is afraid of strangers.
  3. Follows simple directions but gets distracted easily.
  4. Gets into everything! You will spend a lot of time keeping her safe while she explores and learns about the world.
  5. Throws temper tantrums when tired, angry or frustrated. 

2 Years Old

Your child is starting to become more familiar with different foods. At age 2, she will be:

  1. Much better at using a spoon and cup but will still make spills.
  2. Picky with her food. This is normal and it may take as many as 15 tries for her to accept a new food.
  3. Playing with her food.
  4. Wanting to eat the same food at every meal. Be patient — this will pass. Don’t force your child to eat a food. Instead, continue to offer new foods with foods that she likes. 
Points to pictures in a book and says the names of objects and people.

You can expect your child to: 

  1. Stack four or more blocks.
  2. Walk, run, jump and climb.
  3. Copy actions and words.
  4. Learn new words all the time and put two or three words together to make sentences or phrases, like “drink milk.”
  5. Repeat words or stutter when trying to tell you something. Be patient and help her learn new words.
  6. Point to pictures in a book and say the names of objects and people.
  7. Touch things that you name, like her eyes, nose, mouth and hair. 

Don’t be surprised if your little helper:

  1. Uses the potty sometimes, but still has accidents. Remember to bring an extra pair of underwear when you go out.
  2. Cannot sit still for long.
  3. Doesn’t like to share!
  4. Shows defiant behavior, like not wanting to nap, but remember, she still needs rest and routines.

3 Years Old

Your child is probably feeding herself. At age 3, she will be: 

  1. Eating with a spoon and fork. But that doesn’t mean she won’t make a mess!
  2. Choosing which foods she likes and creating food habits — keep offering her healthy choices!
  3. Interested in foods in different colors and shapes.
  4. Able to pour liquids from a small pitcher. She may spill a little (or a lot!).
Interested in foods in different colors and shapes.

You can expect your child to:

  1. Dress herself.
  2. Speak in sentences.
  3. Like to play with other children — and maybe have an imaginary friend.
  4. Show concern for a crying friend.
  5. Work simple toys with buttons, levers and moving parts. 
  6. Know her name and age.
  7. Stay dry in the day but need a diaper at night until age 4 or 5.

Don’t be surprised if your little copycat:

  1. Copies you when you sweep, mop or cook.
  2. Enjoys routines — and doesn’t like it when you change them!
  3. Likes to hear the same story over and over and over. Stay patient and keep reading!

4 Years Old

Your child is interested in where food comes from. She will be: 

  1. Asking lots of questions — and enjoying family time during meals.
  2. Wanting to help you prepare foods.
  3. Hungry for three meals and one or two healthy snacks each day.
  4. Wanting to eat the same foods over and over. Keep offering her a variety of foods alongside the foods that you know she likes.
Hungry for three meals and two or three healthy snacks each day.

You can expect your child to:

  1. Skip, catch balls and pedal a tricycle.
  2. Like to scribble and draw pictures.
  3. Speak clearly and be able to tell people her first and last name.
  4. Enjoy rhyming and singing songs from memory.
  5. Understand the idea of counting, and of “same” and “different.” 
  6. Make up stories and games and like to collect things.
  7. Not always know the difference between real and make-believe. She is probably getting more and more creative with make-believe play.
  8. Prefer to play with other children and become better at getting along with others. 

Don’t be surprised if your child:

  1. Is easily influenced by other kids and what she sees on TV and online. Other than video-chatting with relatives, it’s good to limit screen time to less than one hour per day for children under 5 years old. Pay attention even when she’s using your phone.
  2. Has an active imagination and gets scared easily, even by things that are “pretend” play.
  3. Is starting to show a preference for being left- or right-handed.
  4. Needs some help wiping, flushing and washing her hands after going to the potty.

5 Years Old

Your child is becoming more independent at this age. She will be: 

  1. Able to eat with a fork and spoon, and sometimes a table knife. 
  2. Able to serve her own food and make her own plate. 
  3. Influenced by what you and others around her are eating – good role modeling is important!
  4. Excited to help in the kitchen. She can help you rinse produce, stir ingredients and set the table. 
Your child may Want to fit in with her friends and do more things on her own.

You can expect your child to: 

  1. Want to fit in with her friends and do more things on her own. 
  2. Talk about things that happened in the past and what will happen in the future. 
  3. Be able to say her name and address. 
  4. Write some letters and numbers and draw the things she sees. 
  5. Brush her teeth and wash her hands without help.
  6. Use the toilet on her own. 

Don’t be surprised if your child: 

  1. Displays a wider range of emotions – being cooperative sometimes and at other times very demanding.
  2. Shows her independence by talking back to you. Try not to give a lot of attention to this, other than possibly a brief time out. Instead, praise her when she asks for things nicely. 
  3. Becomes more curious about certain interests. For example, if your child loves animals, visit a zoo, an animal shelter or your local park to observe birds and squirrels!

If you are concerned

If you are concerned about your child’s development, resources are available. You can get a free early childhood intervention evaluation to find out if your child is eligible for no-cost or low-cost services. 

If your child is younger than 36 months:

Contact your local Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) provider at 1-877-787-8999 or through the Early Childhood Intervention website
Read more about ECI on this website for families.

If your child is 3 years or older:

Contact your local elementary school. Your child can get evaluated even if they are not enrolled in public school. Call any local public elementary school (even if your child doesn’t go to school there) and say:  “I have concerns about my child’s development and would like to have them evaluated through the school system.” Or visit Navigate Life Texas.

For more information on how to help your child, visit the CDC website.

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