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Preschooler development

The normal social and physical development of children ages 3 to 6 years old includes many milestones.


All children develop a little differently. If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk to your child’s health care provider.


The typical 3- to 6-year-old:

•Gains about 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.25 kilograms) per year
•Grows about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) per year
•Has all 20 primary teeth by age 3
•Has 20/20 vision by age 4
•Sleeps 11 to 13 hours at night, most often without a daytime nap

Gross motor development in the 3- to 6-year-old should include:
•Becoming more skilled at running, jumping, early throwing, and kicking
•Catching a bounced ball
•Pedaling a tricycle (at 3 years); becoming able to steer well at around age 4
•Hopping on one foot (at around 4 years), and later balancing on one foot for up to 5 seconds
•Doing a heel-to-toe walk (at around age 5)

Fine motor development milestones at about age 3 should include:
•Drawing a circle
•Drawing a person with 3 parts
•Beginning to use children’s blunt-tip scissors
•Self-dressing (with supervision)

Fine motor development milestones at about age 4 should include:
•Drawing a square
•Using scissors, and eventually cutting a straight line
•Putting on clothes properly
•Managing a spoon and fork neatly while eating

Fine motor development milestones at about age 5 should include:
•Spreading with a knife
•Drawing a triangle


The 3-year-old uses:
•Pronouns and prepositions appropriately
•Three-word sentences
•Plural words

The 4-year-old begins to:
•Understand size relationships
•Follow a 3-step command
•Count to 4
•Name 4 colors
•Enjoy rhymes and word play

The 5-year-old:
•Shows early understanding of time concepts
•Counts to 10
•Knows telephone number
•Responds to “why” questions

Stuttering may occur in the normal language development of toddlers ages 3 to 4 years. It occurs because ideas come to mind faster than the child is able to express them, especially if the child is stressed or excited.

When the child is speaking, give your full, prompt attention. Do not comment on the stuttering. Consider having the child evaluated by a speech pathologist if:
•There are other signs with the stuttering, such as tics, grimacing, or extreme self-consciousness.
•The stuttering lasts longer than 6 months.


The preschooler learns the social skills needed to play and work with other children. As time passes, the child is better able to cooperate with a larger number of peers. Although 4- to 5-year-olds may be able to start playing games that have rules, the rules are likely to change, often at the whim of the dominant child.

It is common in a small group of preschoolers to see a dominant child emerge who tends to boss around the other children without much resistance from them.

It is normal for preschoolers to test their physical, behavioral, and emotional limits. Having a safe, structured environment in which to explore and face new challenges is important. However, preschoolers need well-defined limits.

The child should display initiative, curiosity, the desire to explore, and enjoyment without feeling guilty or inhibited.

Early morality develops as children want to please their parents and others of importance. This is commonly known as the “good boy” or “good girl” stage.

Elaborate storytelling may progress into lying. If this is not addressed during the preschool years, this behavior may continue into the adult years. Mouthing off or backtalk is most often a way for preschoolers to get attention and a reaction from an adult.


Safety is very important for preschoolers.

•Preschoolers are highly mobile and able to quickly get into dangerous situations. Parental supervision at this age is essential, just as it was during the earlier years.
•Car safety is critical. The preschooler should ALWAYS wear a seatbelt and be in an appropriate car seat when riding in the car. At this age children may ride with other children’s parents. It is important to review your rules for car safety with others who may be supervising your child.
•Falls are a major cause of injury in preschoolers. Climbing to new and adventurous heights, preschoolers may fall off playground equipment, bikes, down stairs, from trees, out of windows, and off roofs. Lock doors that give access to dangerous areas (such as roofs, attic windows, and steep staircases). Have strict rules for the preschooler about areas that are off-limits.
•Kitchens are a prime area for a preschooler to get burned, either while trying to help cook or coming in contact with appliances that are still hot. Encourage the child to help cook or learn cooking skills with recipes for cold foods. Have other activities for the child to enjoy in a nearby room while you are cooking. Keep the child away from the stove, hot foods, and other appliances.
•Keep all household products and medicines safely locked out of the reach of preschoolers. Know the number for your local poison control center. Call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


•TV or screen time should be limited to 2 hours a day of quality programming.
•Sex role development is based in the toddler years. It is important for the child to have appropriate role models of both sexes. Single parents should make sure the child has the chance to spend time with a relative or friend who is the opposite sex of the parent. Never be critical about the other parent. When the child has sexual play or exploration with peers, redirect the play and tell the child that it is inappropriate. Do not shame the child. This is a natural curiosity.
•Because language skills develop quickly in the preschooler, it is important for parents to read to the child and talk with the child often throughout the day.
•Discipline should give the preschooler chances to make choices and face new challenges while maintaining clear limits. Structure is important for the preschooler. Having a daily routine (including age-appropriate chores) can help a child feel like an important part of the family and enhance self-esteem. The child may need reminders and supervision to finish chores. Recognize and acknowledge when the child behaves, or does a chore correctly or without extra reminders. Take the time to note and reward good behaviors.
•From age 4 to 5, many children backtalk. Address these behaviors without reacting to the words or attitudes. If the child feels these words will give them power over the parent, the behavior will continue. It is often difficult for parents to stay calm while trying to address the behavior.
•When a child is starting school, parents should keep in mind that there can be big differences among children ages 5 to 6 in terms of attention span, reading readiness, and fine motor skills. Both the overly anxious parent (concerned about the slower child’s abilities) and the overly ambitious parent (pushing skills to make the child more advanced) can harm the child’s normal progress in school.

The only child: how is quarantine affecting kids without siblings? (From The Guardian Article)

If you believe the negative stereotypes, only children are innately insular and maladjusted. If you believe the science, practically no developmental differences exist between only children and kids used to squalling with siblings. But when it comes to how only children are weathering social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s hard to know what to believe.

Are self-sufficient only children unusually capable of hunkering down with their own company for months or, with play dates cancelled and school on hiatus, is one really the loneliest number, after all?

The answer (as you perhaps anticipated) hinges on the unique personality of every individual child. According to the writer Megan Lane, so far, isolation has been a non-issue for her nine-year-old daughter Simone. “From the outside looking in, she is the same happy child she was prior to lockdown,” says Lane. “She has yet to mention loneliness.”

Oliver, a 12-year-old only child living in Brooklyn, has also been even-keeled throughout quarantine. Sure, he found seeing all his friends cancelling their birthday parties kind of sad, but on the other hand, he’s been using his extra time to take up photography. “It’s a little bit hard [being an only child during lockdown] because I only have myself to hang out with,” he admits, before sensibly adding: “But it’s probably a good thing because we’re living in a New York City apartment, and if we had one more person, it would probably be too tight.”


According to the child clinical psychologist Dr Henri-Lee Stalk, parents of only children need not worry too much about the long-term effects of childhood social isolation at this point. “We’re expecting that a lot of kids who are coming out of this [lockdown] will continue to be resilient and adaptive,” says Stalk. That’s especially true if parents are “modeling calmness and providing solid consistency and structure throughout their kids’ days” by communicating well with their child and striving to provide sufficient activities.

Of course, it can be tricky being your child’s sole friend and playmate – especially when you’re a parent juggling work, household responsibilities and your own anxieties.

“The biggest challenge for us as parents with an only kid is the entertainment factor,” says Sara Gillooly, a realtor and mom of five-year-old Alina. “Normally she would have kids at daycare to play with, or you’re able to socialize with your friends who have kids, and now she doesn’t have any of that. So you feel bad. You’re like, OK, well, I’ll play Barbies or Legos or whatever it is. You know, after three hours of play, you’re kind of done, right? We were thinking of getting a dog to have a break, which is crazy, because a dog’s not a break.”



Older only children, like Simone and Oliver, can be quite capable of keeping themselves busy. “I’ve seen Simone happily turn a cardboard box into an owl costume – a two-hour project that she completed on her own, while I took care of household chores,” says Megan. But that’s not to say older kids are necessarily having an easier time with all this – in fact, Stalk says, kids in their preteens and up are “potentially the age group that would have the hardest time being away from their friends, because friends play such a big role in their life at that age, as they’re understanding their identities as individuals apart from their families”.

Because maintaining friendships is important for older children, Stalk encourages parents to support whatever methods of socialization their kids gravitate towards. For Oliver, that’s looked like playing a lot more Call of Duty. “That isn’t, you know, my favorite activity,” says Melissa, Oliver’s mom. “But it’s kind of amazing that he has never had any interest in video games before and just realized all of his friends were there playing together. So he’s like, OK, I’m going to play some video games.”

Although kids are generally resilient, Stalk notes that mental health and behavioral issues can be exacerbated by the stress, strangeness and stagnation of the pandemic. “If you have a child with a tendency to be more socially anxious around their peers, we would expect that their anxiety would potentially worsen with less peer exposure,” says Stalk. “The same goes for a child who is more prone to low mood or at risk of depression.”

Some children may develop new behaviors while sheltering in place – for example, Sara noticed Alina, regularly a very happy kid, has become a bit anxious. “You can’t leave the room now without her panicking when before, she really wouldn’t care,” she says. According to Stalk, it’s perfectly normal for children with no history of behavioral issues to express unprecedented anxiety, anger or sadness in response to the stresses of lockdown. Fortunately, Stalk believes kids will probably recover from such feelings within a few months of resuming their regular social patterns.

“I think as we start to move towards six months [of quarantine], we might be looking at more difficulties,” says Stalk. “Social development for kids is a lot like scaffolding. You have to build it up. And if there are gaps, that can be a little hard [to recover from]. If we are facing longstanding cultural changes and we’re not really able to create as much social interaction as we like, that could potentially cause some difficulty for kids as they develop. Their development might look less focused on individual interaction and potentially might move towards more comfort with virtual interaction,” she says.

Whether they have siblings or not, kids today are coping with stress, strangeness and isolation during a formative time. One day, they will tell us exactly what kind of an impact the pandemic had on their lives.