Orangutans Urmston Day Nursery | Developmental milestones ages 3 through 5


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Developmental milestones ages 3 through 5

Knowing what to expect as your child grows can reassure you that your child is on track with his peers or alert you to potential concerns. Below are some developmental milestones to watch for during the preschool years.

Since birth, you’ve watched your child grow and develop. You’ve noted his height and weight, when he crawled, stood, and walked, even when he spoke his first words — and perhaps compared these developmental milestones of his infant and toddler years to the “norms.” The preschool and early school years are also full of changes. From three to five your child’s motor skills, language, thinking, and social development change dramatically.  Knowing what to expect as your child grows can reassure you that your child is on track with his peers or alert you to potential concerns.  Below are some milestones to watch for during the preschool years.

Milestones: 3-year-olds

Motor development: gross motor skills

  • •Walks with an agile, almost adult style
  • •Runs around obstacles
  • •Catches large balls and throws overhead
  • •Climbs ladders; uses slide independently
  • •Rides a tricycle
  • •Alternates feet when climbing stairs

Motor development: fine motor skills

  • •Assembles simple puzzles
  • •Manipulates clay; finger paints
  • •Copies simple shapes, such as a cross or circle
  • •Stacks blocks up to nine high

Language and thinking development

  • •Understands most of what is said and 75 percent of speech is understandable
  • •Speaks in complete sentences of three to five words
  • •Matches pictures to objects
  • •Learns by doing and through the senses
  • •Understands concepts of “now,” “soon,” and “later”
  • •Begins to recognize cause-and-effect relationships

Social and emotional development

  • •Follows simple directions; enjoys helping with household tasks
  • •Begins to recognize own limits — asks for help
  • •Likes to play alone, but near other children
  • •Does not cooperate or share well
  • •Able to make choices between two things
  • •Notices other people’s moods and feelings

Tips for parenting 3-year-olds

No longer a toddler, your 3-year-old takes in knowledge about himself and the world around him.

  • •Transitions are difficult at this age. Provide warning of changes so your child has time to shift gears: “We’re leaving in 10 minutes.” (Change to bullets throughout)
  • •Rituals are important. Household routines and schedules give your 3-year-old a sense of security.
  • •Point out colours and numbers during everyday conversation: “You’re wearing your blue shirt” or “We made six cupcakes.”
  • •Encourage independent activity to build self-reliance.
  • •Provide lots of sensory experiences for learning and developing coordination — sand, mud, finger paints, puzzles.

Milestones: 4-year-olds

Motor development: gross motor skills 

  • •running is more controlled; can start, stop, and turn
  • •turns somersaults; hops on one foot; gallops
  • •can easily catch, throw, and bounce a ball
  • •can brush teeth, comb hair, wash, and dress with little assistance

Motor development: fine motor skills 

  • •copies crosses and squares
  • •prints some letters
  • •uses table utensils skilfully
  • •cuts on a line

Language and thinking development 

  • •Uses a 1,500-word vocabulary; speaks in relatively complex sentences (“Mummy opened the door and the dog ran out.”)
  • •Understands words that relate one idea to another — if, why, when
  • •Continues to learn through experience and the senses
  • •Understands, mostly, the difference between fantasy and reality
  • •Understands number and space concepts — more, less, bigger, in, under, behind
  • •Thinks literally; starting to develop logical thinking
  • •Begins to grasp that pictures and symbols can represent real objects
  • •Starts to recognize patterns among objects — round things, soft things, animals
  • •Grasps the concepts of past, present, and future but does not understand the duration of time

Social and emotional development 

  • •Takes turns, shares, and cooperates
  • •Expresses anger verbally rather than physically
  • •Can feel jealousy
  • •May sometimes lie to protect herself, but understands the concept of lying
  • •Enjoys pretending and has a vivid imagination

Tips for parenting 4-year-olds

Silly, imaginative, and energetic, your child loves to try new words and new activities.

  • •4-year-olds crave adult approval. Provide lots of positive encouragement.
  • •Display calendars and analogue clocks to help your child visualize the concept of time.
  • •Play word games to develop his growing vocabulary; overlook his fascination with bad words.
  • •Offer opportunities for sorting, matching, counting, and comparing.
  • •Provide lots of play space and occasions to play with other kids.