Ages 3-5: Developmental Overview

What to Expect

Pre-school children sitting at a table coloring and smiling During this age, children's world expands. They make friends and begin connecting with more adults beyond the family. They become more and more mobile and verbal. They want to explore and learn about everything. It's a critical time in their development, and parenting adults play a central role.

Intellectual Development

  • Imaginary play is a notable milestone of this stage.
  • Children begin to name colors and begin to understand simple counting.
  • It’s important to stimulate your child’s intellectual development by reading aloud to him every day.
  • Kids gradually begin to understand the concept of time.
  • By age 3, preschoolers know 300 words. That expands to 1,500 words by age 4, and to 2,500 words by age 5. Stimulate their language development through reading, talking, and asking them questions.

Physical Development

  • Hopping, climbing, swinging, and doing somersaults begin at this stage. By age 5, many kids can stand on one foot for at least 10 seconds.
  • Children can draw a person with up to four body parts by age 5. They draw circles and begin to learn how to copy a square and some capital letters. They learn how to use scissors.
  • Kids often become frustrated with wanting to do something physically and not being able to do it yet. Thus, they have lots of falls and mishaps.

Social Development

  • Interaction with other children increases.
  • A great deal of social development occurs through fantasy play and imagination.
  • Children this age need to learn how to deal with conflict and how to solve problems without so much emotion.

Emotional Development

  • Kids move easily between fantasy and reality, and can become quite emotional about their imaginary play. They often do not know the difference between fantasy and reality, so imaginary monsters under the bed or in the dark are as frightening to them as a real threat.
  • Take your child’s emotions seriously. Help her make sense of her emotions. Some preschoolers can throw wild, long tantrums. Calm her down and teach her how to deal with her strong emotions.
  • See a pediatrician if your child is extremely aggressive or fearful at this age.