Preschooler Development Milestones

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Here is a quick view of preschooler development milestones to help you keep track of your son's 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
  • 4-Year-Olds

  • 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
  • 5-Year-Olds

  • runs in an adult manner
  • walks on tiptoe, broad jumps
  • walks on a balance beam
  • skates and jumps rope

  • 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
  • 4-Year-Olds

  • copies crosses and squares
  • prints some letters
  • uses table utensils skillfully
  • cuts on a line
  • 5-Year-Olds

  • hand preference is established
  • laces (but cannot tie) shoes
  • grasps pencil like an adult
  • colors within lines
  • cuts and pastes simple shapes

  • 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
  • 4-Year-Olds

  • uses a 1,500-word vocabulary; speaks in relatively complex sentences ("Mommy 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
  • 5-Year-Olds

  • speaks fluently; correctly uses plurals, pronouns, tenses
  • very interested in words and language; seeks knowledge
  • understands and names opposites
  • uses complex language
  • still confuses fantasy and reality at times
  • thinking is still naïve; doesn't use adult logic

  • 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
  • begins to notice other people's moods and feelings
  • 4-Year-Olds

  • takes turns, shares, and cooperates
  • expresses anger verbally rather than physically
  • can feel jealousy
  • may sometimes lie to protect himself, but understands the concept of lying
  • enjoys pretending and has a vivid imagination
  • 5-Year-Olds

  • distinguishes right from wrong, honest from dishonest, but does not recognize intent
  • plays make-believe and dresses up
  • mimics adults and seeks praise
  • seeks to play rather than be alone; friends are important
  • plays with both boys and girls but prefers the same sex
  • wants to conform; may criticize those who do not

  • Your are looking for more than preschooler development milestones? Check out our parenting preschoolers page!

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