YMCA youth members gather hands together

Youth Development Roadmap

As children grow mentally, emotionally and physically, they need support along the way. Learn how you can help them develop in spirit, mind and body — from birth to adulthood.

Youth Development Roadmap

Youth Development Roadmap

We've created a Youth Development Roadmap to show key developmental milestones and opportunities in a child's life. Explore the roadmap to see how you can best support your child as they grow and learn.

Woman holding babydoll during playtime at YMCA

Birth

Child development begins the moment they are born. All children need support as they develop so they are best prepared to progress through their unique journey.

toddlers sitting in playroom at YMCA

Ages 0-4

Cognitive Milestones

  • Has a caregiver that sings, reads and talks to them
  • Actively explores surroundings
  • Develops basic recognition of letters, numbers and shapes
  • Receives effective preschool preparation

Physical Milestones

  • Receives quality prenatal care
  • Achieves basic developmental markers, including crawling, walking and weight gains
  • Has access to lifelong basic dental/health/eye care
  • Has a routine of healthy eating, playing and sleeping

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Forms positive attachment to a caregiver
  • Makes eye contact and responds to social engagement
  • Responds to environmental stimulation

Tip: Help early readers practice how to differentiate one letter from another and to attach a sound to a letter by providing partner reading or reading aloud.

Supports: Cognitive Development

group of children playing in YMCA gymnasium

Grades K-5

Cognitive Milestones

  • Attends kindergarten
  • Reads at grade-level by the end of 3rd grade
  • Sets academic expectations of good grades

Physical Milestones

  • Has access to healthy foods
  • Masters fine and gross motor skills through activity
  • Learns basic safety habits

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Exhibits a desire to learn
  • Forms positive peer relationships
  • Engages in activities that strengthen social-emotional competencies

Tip: The Y ensures that lunches and snacks provided are healthy and nutritious. If children bring their own lunch, post reminders about making healthy choices at home.

Supports: Physical Development

children sitting outdoors doing homework

Grades 6-8

Cognitive Milestones

  • Passes most of their classes
  • Masters a “favorite” subject
  • Masters math and/or science

Physical Milestones

  • Self-directs healthy eating
  • Is engaged in positive physical activity
  • Establishes resistance to risk-taking activities

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Has a positive non-parent adult mentor
  • Has positive peer influence
  • Participates in leadership-building activities

Tip: Ask children to think of a question about their world, create a plan and investigate.

Supports: Cognitive Development

teens sitting in classroom at YMCA

Grades 9-12

Cognitive Milestones

  • Has an expectation of attending college
  • Masters Algebra 1
  • Self-directs part of their learning

Physical Milestones

  • Establishes a peer group that supports healthy habits
  • Engages in activities that promote mental health (service learning, sleeping and faith)

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Develops healthy values, including caring, honesty, respect and responsibility
  • Feels supported by others
  • Feels empowered
  • Connects with community, school and/or faith community

Tip: Provide volunteer service opportunities for children, giving them the chance to interact with community members and give back in a positive way.

Supports: Social-Emotional Development

college students sitting outdoors doing homework

After High School: Four Years

Cognitive Milestones

  • Has a financial plan to support post-secondary studies
  • Makes strong connections with a post-secondary institution
  • Has a career plan
  • Transitions into career of choice

Physical Milestones

  • Establishes a peer group that supports healthy habits
  • Engages in activities that promote mental health

Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Starts working on a career plan
  • Develops time- and stress-management skills

Tip: Connect career-bound teens with a caring professional who can help them plan for their future.

Supports: Social-Emotional Development

woman in career

Career

A teen's development journey continues into adulthood. The support children and teens receive at the Y is important to helping them realize their potential to be active, engaged and thriving members of the community.

Find Your Y

Search for your local Y to learn more about how we support children's development.

Coordinates

Helping Children Grow

Through sports and academic programs, we offer many ways to connect kids to their potential, purpose and each other.

  • Swim, Sports & Play

    Engaging in physical activity with other children is an important component of a child's development. See how we encourage and support a healthy lifestyle.

  • Education & Leadership

    We provide kids with the essential resources they need to thrive, such as leadership programs, mentoring and academic assistance.