For a parent of a preschooler, every day is filled with challenge and change. While it’s often unnerving for Mom and Dad, kids between the ages of 3 to 5 are establishing themselves as people separate from their parents while making their way through stages of development and adapting to their ever-changing world. That’s a lot to carry on little shoulders. Parents can help their child prepare for each developmental stage by having a general understanding of what to expect and by developing daily routines that provide a sense of stability to balance continual change and help instill a sense of confidence.
Skills at running, balancing, catching, jumping and handling small objects improve at age 3. Three-year-olds can draw circles and like to draw people made up of three parts. By age 4, your preschooler can draw a square, hop on one foot, pump himself on a swing and draw pictures that represent objects. His dexterity improves, he can dress himself, and he loves to endlessly zip, snap and button clothes. Holding a fork and spoon becomes easier. At age 5, your child can spread his bread with butter, draw a triangle and walk heel-to-toe. His motor skills continue to get stronger and sharper and he’s able to kick soccer balls and hit baseballs.
Your preschooler’s language skills are developing at breakneck speed. Because she feels a greater command of words, she wants to express her needs. Sometimes she may delight in expressing a “forbidden” word.
Starting at age 3, your child benefits from being encouraged to express her feelings with words. She begins to joyfully communicate her ideas and will drive you crazy with questions. Stuttering may appear as part of language development in toddlers 3 to 4 years old. Their ideas are developing in their mind at a faster rate than they can express them with words. Stuttering tends to disappear as language skills grow. Three-year-old kids typically use three-word sentences and plural words. Four-year-olds can follow three-step commands and can name colors and enjoy word games and rhymes. Five-year-olds begin to respond to “why” questions and can memorize their phone number.
All preschoolers want to personally experience the senses such as taste, touch, smell and hearing. Your toddler has a rich fantasy life and it’s common to sometimes confuse fantasy with reality. You may find that you have “imaginary friends” joining the family dinner.
At 3 years old, your child’s attention span is increasing and he likes you to read stories to him. He can name and match most colors, and enjoys activities like feeding the pet and raking leaves. Four-year-olds are famous for asking “why” continuously, not only because they are curious, but because they are trying to engage you in conversation. Their attention span continues to increase and they are interested in how things work. They usually love to talk. Counting and stacking blocks are enjoyable activities. By age 5, your preschooler shows understanding of time concepts. He is now entering the “big kid” world of school where his cognitive development grows by leaps and bounds.
Fears begin to develop during the preschool years. Separation from parents or experiencing new places can be scary and your child may have nightmares. As your preschooler starts to feel her independence and individual importance, you will probably see some drama and bossiness going on. While your child enjoys playing with other children, she can be aggressive at times. It’s a time of feeling more freedom and independence, but also for learning to take turns and share with others.
Your 3-year-old likes to be near others and typically will talk to himself or pets. He’s generally affectionate and wants to hold on to his “blanky” or other security item. He enjoys activities in small groups and may just watch, join in or play beside other children. At age 4, your preschooler is more outgoing. Play can be active and aggressive, and minor frustrations often result in meltdowns. Tattling and exaggeration are both common. Five-year-olds show more self-control, can sit for periods of time and understand teachers’ instructions. Minor frustrations can still result in meltdowns, and swings between emotional extremes are common. Parental patience is important because small kids can be hard on themselves. Although they want to be independent, they still enjoy cuddling.