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Preschool : Development

Updated: 8 hours ago

All children develop at their own rate, generally in the same sequence but at completely different times.

Many things influence a child’s development – genes, environment, temperament, relationships, nutrition, health and physical activity. Some of these things you can control such as diet and environment, others you cannot.

Physical Development & Motor Skills

Below are some of the major physical milestones most children may overcome during their preschool years.

Between 3-4 years:

  • Running and jumping with more grace and control, but may still have trouble landing on two feet.

  • Climb stairs using railings or walls for support.

  • May find it easier to manoeuvre around objects and show more special awareness.

  • Run in a straight line and around obstacles at a steady pace and stop and change direction more easily.

  • At 3 years preschoolers can generally walk without watching their feet.

  • Learn to walk and/or run backwards in a straight line.

  • Your preschooler’s balance will be developing, and they may be riding trikes, bikes, scooters or rollerblades with more confidence.

  • Preschoolers can usually roll sideways and enjoy tumbling.

  • Improving their ball-play and hand-eye skills and coordinating their movements they can throw, catch and kick with more precision.

  • Refining their hand-eye skills by using scissors, staples, pens, crayons etc.

  • Around the age of 4 preschoolers may begin to show a preference towards being either right or left-handed - but many are still ambidextrous.

  • Preschoolers by the age of 4 are generally capable of hand washing, brushing their teeth, dressing and undressing and feeding themselves – with ongoing encouragement and occasional assistance from you.

Between 4-5 years:

  • May physically play for longer as their stamina and energy levels develop.

  • Generally running, climbing and jumping with greater ease and coordination.

  • May be walking evenly - heel to toe, judge their footing while climbing and hop on one foot both forwards and backwards.

  • Spatial awareness is further developing, and school age children generally avoid colliding with others.

  • By 5 years most children are better at writing, drawing and using fine tools.

  • May be drawing shapes and objects which are recognisable.

Social & Emotional Development

Preschoolers naturally feel more secure with familiar adults around them when they are playing, as they still need security and reassurance and may still ask grownups for help when problem arise. Their independence is steadily growing, and they will begin to show interest in friendships with other children.

Socially, your child is generally happy to play alongside other children during their first year of preschool and may start to include or ask other children to play around the age of 4 or 5. They may approach other children and show an interest in joining them in their activity but may still look to grownups for encouragement to get involved.

It is common for preschoolers to mimic and copy other children’s actions, expressions or behaviours. This will assist with their ability to express feelings using tone of voice, facial expressions as well as help them with learning to read other people. During this time preschoolers are usually starting to develop coping strategies for their feelings, such as talking about it or writing or drawing.

Between the ages of 3 and 4, most preschoolers at this age tend to want to help others or comfort those in need but may not do so appropriately as they try to understand what will help. Empathy is still being developed and preschoolers are beginning to realise that not everyone feels the same about things as they do. By the time they reach 5 tears preschoolers may be offering solutions to minor problems and may be learning to comfort and sooth others more appropriately.


Between the ages of 3 and 5 years, your preschooler may be managing longer and more complex sentences about many different topics.

Below are some of the major speech and language milestones most children may overcome during their preschool years:

  • May have basic understanding of grammar.

  • By 4 years may be able to say between 500 and 1000 words, but will understand. hundreds if not thousands more.

  • Learning connecting words such as “if” “because” or “and”.

  • May use more plurals or collective names.

  • By 4 years your preschooler may know the names of colours, shapes and symbols.

  • May be using descriptive words such as “longer” “shorter” or “further”.

  • By 4 years your child will usually order words correctly.

  • May tell stories which have more cohesive structure, including a beginning and an end.

  • Preschoolers may be using more language in play - giving instruction, taking turns, or acting out characters.

  • By 5 years your preschooler may be able to say between 1500 and 2000 words but will be able to understand hundreds or thousands more.

  • Preschoolers may be using many connecting words with ease.

  • Preschoolers may use more complicated descriptive words about their feelings such as “embarrassed” or “confused” with a clearer understanding of their meaning.

  • May start to join sentences together in different ways.

  • Begin to make jokes and use language to playfully tease another person.

  • By 5 years preschoolers may be forming sentences of up to 9 or 10 words.

  • Preschoolers may be talking about past or future events instead of only current events.

  • Using adjectives, past tense and plurals.

  • Pronunciation may almost fully develop by the age of 5.

  • Your preschooler will still be developing their storytelling structure.

  • By the age of 5 your preschooler may be better at turn taking in conversation.

  • Appropriate volume and pitch being used more consistently in conversation.

  • Preschoolers may be using their manners more often on their own accord without being prompted or reminded.

All children develop at different rates. The information above is a guide only. You know your child better than anyone, if you are unsure, or concerned or you have received advice but want a second opinion, do not hesitate to contact a professional for guidance and advice.