Child Development Milestones

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Child Development Milestones | Kristin Rude

Photo by Layla Mazdyasni

The Preschool Years, Ages 3-5

While all kids grow at their own pace, there are certain child development milestones to be aware of as a parent. Milestones show where your child might need help, but they also give you a heads-up as to what’s just down the road, so you can take a deep breath and get ready. Your preschooler is becoming a “big kid”! He’ll reach many  child developmental milestones during this stage. His brain power will blossom, and he’ll grow socially, emotionally, and physically. Whether or not he attends preschool, you’ll be able to observe and support much of his development.

How will you know what’s normal development and what you should be concerned about? Below is a guide to typical development for 3- to 5-year old children. Use this information to keep track of your child’s progress, making notes of both his strengths and challenges.

Intellectual Development

Your preschooler is growing and learning at a rapid pace. He’s probably excited about learning and is curious about the world around him. He’s talkative and enjoys learning and using new words. At this age, he:

  • Asks a lot of questions, including why, when, how, and where.
  • Can pay attention for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
  • Learns to sort objects by shape, color, and size.
  • Understands similarities and differences, as well as simple opposites.
  • Understands comparatives such as big, bigger, and biggest.
  • Can draw a square and print some capital letters.
  • Can draw a human figure with a head, body, arms, and legs.
  • Speaks clearly, using sentences of at least five words.
  • Describes experiences and simple events in proper sequence.
  • Recites short rhymes and songs from memory.
  • Can answer questions, give information, and express ideas.
  • Tells jokes and uses silly language.
  • Can follow two or three unrelated commands.

Physical Development

Your child has loads of energy and needs to be on the move! His physical coordination is improving.  He can:

  • Jump in place, or jump over an object with both feet.
  • Throw a ball purposely overhand.
  • Catch a ball with both hands.
  • Gallop.
  • Climb up stairs with one foot per step.
  • Put simple parts together (like a puzzle with large pieces).
  • Build a tower out of blocks.
  • Use fine motor skills (such as cutting with scissors).

Social and Emotional Development

Your preschooler begins to understand that he’s part of a group, such as his family, friends, or preschool pals. In general, he’s friendly and wants to please others. Other signs of typical child development are that he:

  • Prefers peers (especially same-sex friends) to adults.
  • Is learning to play cooperatively in small groups.
  • Is more comfortable being away from his mother for short periods, but she’s still key to his security.
  • Needs daily structure and routine to feel secure.
  • Is learning to read the reactions and feelings of others.
  • Responds to both praise and blame.
  • Is learning to argue with words instead of physical aggression.
  • Still reverts to tantrums, bossiness, and stubbornness when he’s on “overload.”
  • Is learning that different situations call for different types of behavior. He may test the limits!
  • Plays creative imaginary games.
  • May have fears and nightmares.

Taking Care of Personal Needs

Your child is becoming more self-reliant. For example, he:

  • Dresses himself fairly well (but still can’t tie his shoes).
  • Can eat using a fork or spoon.
  • Is more independent using the bathroom.
  • Stays dry all day (but may not stay dry overnight).
  • Likes to help with simple chores at home.

You are Your Child’s First Teacher

Remember, you are your child’s first teacher – no teaching credential required! Your devotion to – and understanding of – your child, along with some helpful information, can boost your child’s development and self-confidence. Whether or not your child attends preschool, there are many ways you can nurture his development.

Partner With the Professionals

If you have questions or concerns about child development, don’t think you have to go it alone. If your child attends preschool, his teachers should be able to report on his progress and suggest extra support if necessary. Your child’s pediatrician can also be a source of insight and information regarding your child’s development.

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Kristin Rude | Early Childhood Expert

Kristin Rude


Kristin Rude is the Owner and Center Director of FasTracKids, Del Mar. She previously taught in the Del Mar Union School District. Kristin obtained her teaching credential from the University of San Diego and has her Masters degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on second language learners. When Kristin is not working, motherhood keeps her plenty busy with her 2 children, Connor, age 3 & Katherine, age 2. She looks forward to having her own children benefit from the FasTracKids program. Spending time with her family, golfing, traveling, and continuously learning are among her favorite activities.


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