Milestones: Preschoolers (3-5 Years)

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Your Child’s Growth

Measure your child’s growth every 6 months, using your bathroom scale and a tape measure. Ask your child to stand straight with the back smack against the wall. Then hold a book on top of your child’s head and make a pencil mark at the level of the lower part of the book.

The growth pattern of your child may resemble that of other family members. If this is the case, vitamins or other measures are not likely to much change the pattern.

Your preschooler’s appearance will change and by now you may have a glimpse of what your child’s face and physique will be as a grownup.

Your Child’s Development


Improved balance and coordination help the preschooler try more difficult exploits: hopping, jumping, big jumps forward, balancing well on one foot, running and skipping, and climbing on monkey bars.

Many parents introduce their preschoolers to the sports they themselves enjoy: swimming, skating, skiing or imitating hockey and baseball motions with dad or same-age friends. However, this is not the age for team sports.

Hand skills are progressing quickly. Preschoolers throw and bounce balls. They can string beads, cut with scissors, and hold crayons with thumb and two fingers. By now, most children are showing their hand preference very clearly. Do not attempt to change it.

Language and Communication

Preschoolers can produce long and complex sentences and they ask questions beyond ‘what’. Now it is ‘why’, ‘when’ and, by the end of this period, ‘how’. By now, they can use past and future forms of speech. They start to give a beginning, middle and end to what they are trying to convey.

Their stories may sometimes be a mix of facts and fantasy as the child’s imagination grows.

Consult your doctor

  • If your child’s speech is unclear to you or to others.
  • If your child has a small vocabulary.
  • If what is said does not make sense.
  • If your child does not seem to understand what you say.
  • If your child is not able to form long sentences.
  • If your child cannot talk about thoughts or feelings.


Around 4 years of age, many children start to stutter – it is more common in boys. In most cases, stuttering at this age will improve. A physician only needs to be consulted if the stuttering persists for more than a couple of months and interferes with your child’s attempts to communicate.

Cognitive Development

Your child will learn to understand and draw some simple shapes, as well as learn about – and try to draw – the shape of the body and its parts. Children learn that their name consists of sounds – and that the sounds can be put down on paper, like small dots or shapes. They can count by rote, but don’t really understand the meaning of numbers, such as 10 being more than 5.

By now, your child decides it is safe to grow up and move away from you for a while. However, the insecurity about the separation that was experienced as a toddler may surface again if you are lost sight of in an unfamiliar place.

If your preschooler is secure, peer relationships will be explored which require being able to master skills such as taking turns, sharing, being a leader or taking another child’s lead.

This doesn’t mean that the preschooler altogether gives up using physical force, aggressiveness, tantrums or whining to make a point and win. But as well as these flashes of anger and lack of control, your preschooler can show compassion, pride in helping another child and a liking for another child.

Most children of this age are now in group situations such as daycare or kindergarten. They can tolerate the separation from the parents and use other grownups, such as teachers, as substitutes for parents. They are also used to meeting and being with peers in group situations such as play groups, drop-in centres, nursery schools, and daycare centres.

The crucial factor in being ready for school is the ability to separate from parents and relate to other adults and peers.

Taken from The Canadian Baby & Child Care Encyclopedia.

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