Concerned About Your Child's Development?

Concerned About Your Child's Development?

Children develop at different rates. Check out what to do if you have concerns about your preschool child's development. There are a range of services for children who need support. 


Key points about your child's development

  • all children develop at different rates but sometimes delays in development are of concern
  • you know your child best - seek help if you're concerned about your child's development
  • there are a range of services which can provide support for preschool children

What are developmental milestones? 

Skills like learning to crawl or walk, wave or talk are called developmental milestones. All children reach developmental milestones at different times. 

What if my child isn't reaching their milestones?

Although there is a range for children reaching their milestones, some children have delays which are outside the expected range. 

Children can show delays in one or more areas, including:

  • rolling, crawling, walking (gross motor skills)
  • reaching and grasping a toy, threading beads (fine motor skills)
  • peek-a-boo, water play (play skills)
  • understanding what you are saying top them (learning to listen and understand)
  • babbling, saying words, talking in sentences (learning to speak)
  • pointing, waving, clapping, making eye contact (learning non-verbal skills)
  • learning colours and shapes, problem solving (cognitive skills)

Who should I talk to if I'm worried about my child's development?

You know your child best. Get a second opinion if you remain concerned.

If you have concerns about your child's development or behaviour, you could talk to:

  • whānau and others who know your child 
  • your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse (such as Whānau Āwhina Plunket or Whānau Ora)
  • your family doctor - remember, appointments are free for children under 14 at most practices (if your child is enrolled at that practice)
  • a teacher at your child's kōhanga reo, daycare or kindergarten
  • the Ministry of Education, Learning Support (phone 0800 622 222)

What services are available if I need support with my child's development?

There are a range of services for children under 5 who need support with their development in New Zealand. These vary around New Zealand and include:

  • child development services
  • early intervention services provided by the Ministry of Education, Learning Support
  • early intervention services from other providers - these vary from region to region

Child development services

Your family doctor or Well Child nurse may suggest seeing a paediatrician and/or child development team.

There are some differences, depending on where in New Zealand you live. Generally, these services sit within, or alongside, paediatric or community health services within your local health or hospital service.

The child development teams usually include a range of professionals, which may include:

  • cultural support workers
  • dietitians
  • occupational therapists
  • physiotherapists
  • paediatricians
  • social workers
  • family therapists
  • speech language therapists
  • visiting neurodevelopmental therapists
  • psychologists

Child development teams will refer on to, and work with, other service providers such as preschool educational services and Needs Assessment Service Coordination (NASC).

Early intervention services 

Early Intervention services are mainly provided by the Ministry of Education - see Support before your child goes to school.

Early intervention services from other providers

As an alternative to the services provided by the Ministry of Education, some regions have other providers of early intervention services. Ask your family doctor, paediatrician or child development team about your local options. 

This page last reviewed 02 December 2019.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it