Is my child on track? Understanding child development

If you are like many parents, you may have moments where you feel overwhelmed by the amount and variety of messages about what is “true” or “right” or “best” for your child.

Parents all want the same thing: For our children to grow to be healthy, happy and strong, find success in what they do, and have everything they need to meet their potential. But how do we know if our children are on track to reach these goals?

Luckily, there are some concrete questions you can ask to help understand if your child is on track.

While all children develop at different rates, most children will reach certain milestones (like walking, talking, or playing with other children) around certain ages. If your child is not meeting their milestones, this is nothing to be ashamed of and is not a sign that you are a bad parent. 

In Ottawa, one out of every four children in senior kindergarten is behind in at least one area of their development. If your child is part of this 25-per-cent, it could mean that he or she would benefit from a little extra attention in that area. And there are many organizations in Ottawa that provide support to parents.

The first step is to figure out if your child is on track.

Did you know that you can book a special checkup to have your child’s development at 18 months of age assessed with your child’s doctor? This is available for all children living in Ontario. 

Also, there are free online checklists used by health-care providers across Canada that make it easy to get an idea of how your child is developing:

The  Nipissing District Development Screen is a free online checklist for parents and caregivers of children aged one month to six years. It is a screening tool that helps you measure your child’s development in eight areas. It includes the following milestones:

  • Emotional
  • Fine Motor (skills including use of hands and fingers – for example, drawing)
  • Gross Motor (skills including use of legs and arms – for example, running)
  • Social
  • Self-Help
  • Communication
  • Learning and Thinking
  • Vision and Hearing

This tool does not diagnose medical issues or developmental delays. Be honest when completing the checklist and talk to your child’s health care provider about any concerns you might have.

Sometimes parents just need support to help their child reach their milestones. The eNDDS includes tips to help your child learn new skills.

Complete the form online to see how your child is doing at

NutriSTEP® is a free online tool to help you check your child’s eating and physical activity. It is a 17-question checklist for kids 18 months to five years old. 

When you finish answering the questions, you will get personalized tips on how to help improve your child’s habits. 

It is important to help your child to start healthy eating and activity habits from a young age. It can affect their growth and development, behaviour, and success in school for a long time.

Complete the form online and get immediate personalized feedback at

Do you have more questions? There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa:

  • Speak with a Public Health Nurse. Call 613-PARENTS (TTY: 613-580-9656)
  • Email
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on our Facebook page
  • Visit with a Public Health Nurse at one of the Parenting in Ottawa Drop-ins