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Make the Most of Your Child’s Visit to the Doctor (Ages 1 to 4)

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Content last updated on:
February 21, 2014

The Basics

Kids need to go to the doctor or nurse for a “well-child visit” 7 times between the ages of 1 and 4. A well-child visit is when you take your child to the doctor for a full checkup, separate from any other visit for sickness or injury.

At these visits, the doctor or nurse can help catch problems early, when they may be easier to treat. A well-child visit is also a chance to ask any questions you may have about your child’s behavior, eating habits, or sleeping habits.

Make the most of your child’s visit by:

  • Gathering important information
  • Making a list of questions for the doctor
  • Knowing what to expect from the visit

What about cost?
Well-child visits are covered under the Affordable Care Act. Depending on your insurance plan, your child may be able to get well-child checkups at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider.

How often do I need to take my child for well-child visits?
Young children grow quickly, so they need to visit with the doctor or nurse regularly to make sure they are healthy.

Children ages 1 to 4 need to see the doctor or nurse when they are:

  • 12 months old
  • 15 months old (1 year and 3 months)
  • 18 months old (1 year and 6 months)
  • 24 months old (2 years)
  • 30 months old (2 years and 6 months)
  • 3 years old
  • 4 years old

If you are worried about your child’s health, don’t wait until the next scheduled visit – call the doctor or nurse right away.

How do I know if my child is growing and developing on schedule?
Each child grows and develops differently. For example, some children will take longer to start talking than others.

Your child’s doctor or nurse can help you identify the signs (called developmental milestones) to look for in your child at different ages. This is an important part of the well-child visit.

There are some basic developmental milestones that your doctor or nurse will look for at each visit.

By age 12 months, most kids:

  • Have 1 to 8 teeth
  • Stand up by pulling on a table or chair
  • Walk with help (or on their own)
  • Try to copy animal sounds
  • Say “mamma” and “dada”, plus 1 or 2 other words

By age 15 months, most kids:

  • Bend to reach the floor without falling
  • Put blocks in a cup
  • Make scribbles with crayons
  • Take toys over to show a parent
  • Listen to a story and look at pictures

By age 18 months, most kids:

  • Try to run
  • Climb onto small chairs without help
  • Build towers of 2 to 4 blocks
  • Use a spoon to eat and a cup to drink (with help)
  • Take off simple pieces of clothing (like socks and hats)

By age 24 months, most kids:

  • Turn a doorknob
  • Kick a ball without losing their balance
  • Have at least 16 teeth
  • Can tell someone when they are hungry, thirsty, or need to use the bathroom
  • Understand commands with 2 steps (“Put on your shoes and then get your ball.”)

By age 30 months, most kids:

  • Point to different body parts when asked (“Point to your nose.”)
  • Play simple games, like tag, with other kids
  • Brush their teeth with help
  • Jump up and down in one place
  • Put on their clothes with help

By age 3 years, most kids:

  • Have all 20 “baby” teeth
  • Use the toilet during the day (may still need a diaper overnight)
  • Copy a circle when drawing
  • Ride a tricycle
  • Speak in sentences of 3 to 4 words
  • Ask questions
  • Know their name, age, and sex

By age 4 years, most kids:

  • Hop on one foot
  • Cut out a picture using child-safe scissors
  • Throw a ball overhand
  • Count to at least 4
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Play with imaginary (pretend) friends

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Take these steps to help you and your child get the most out of visits to the doctor.

Gather important information.
Take any medical records you have to the appointment, including a record of shots your child has received. Make a list of any important changes in your child’s life since the last doctor’s visit, like:

  • A serious illness or death in the family
  • A separation or divorce
  • A change in childcare

Use this tool to keep track of your child’s family health history.

Make a list of questions you want to ask the doctor.
Write down 3 to 5 questions before the well-child visit. This visit is a great time to ask the doctor or nurse any questions related to:

  • A medical condition your child has (like an allergy)
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • How to help kids in the family get along

Some important questions include:

  • Is my child up to date on shots?
  • How can I make sure my child is getting enough physical activity?
  • Is my child at a healthy weight?
  • How can I help my child try different foods?

Take a notepad and write down the answers so you remember them later.

Before your child’s visit, talk with others who also care for your child, like a grandparent or babysitter. They may be able to help you think of questions to ask the doctor or nurse.

Know what to expect.
During each well-child visit, the doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your child and do a physical exam. The doctor or nurse will then update your child’s medical history with all of this information.

Questions the doctor or nurse may ask:

  • Behavior – Does your child have trouble following directions?
  • Health – Does your child often complain of headaches or other pain?
  • Safety – Does your child always sit in the back seat using a car safety seat?
  • Activities – What types of games or activities does your child like to do with other kids?
  • Eating habits – What does your child eat on a normal day?
  • Family – Have there been any changes in your family since your last visit?

Your answers to these questions will help the doctor or nurse make sure your child is healthy. See what else the doctor may ask when your child is:

The doctor or nurse will also check your child’s body.
The doctor or nurse will:

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