The Growing Child: Preschool (4 to 5 Years)

Picture of father listening to his son read a book at bedtime

What can my child do at this age?

As your child continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that your child develops. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

  • 4-year-olds:

    • Sings a song

    • Skips and hops on one foot

    • Catches and throws a ball overhand

    • Walks downstairs alone

    • Draws a person with three separate body parts

    • Builds a block tower with 10 blocks

    • Understands the difference between fantasy and reality

  • 5-year-olds:

    • Jumps rope

    • Walks backward

    • Balances on one foot with eyes closed

    • Uses scissors

    • Begins learning to tie shoes

    • Copies shapes while drawing

    • Dresses self

    • Knows address and phone number

    • Recognizes and recites the alphabet

    • Permanent teeth may begin coming in

What can my child say?

Speech development in children is very exciting for parents as they watch their children become social beings that can interact with others. While every child develops speech at his or her own rate, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

  • 4-year-olds:

    • May put together four to five words into a sentence

    • Will ask questions constantly

    • May know one color or more

    • Likes to tell stories

    • May use some "bad" words (if he or she has heard them spoken repeatedly)

  • 5-year-olds:

    • May put together six to eight words into a sentence

    • May know four or more colors

    • Knows the days of the week and months

    • Can name coins and money

    • Can understand commands with multiple instructions

    • Talks frequently

What does my child understand?

As a child's vocabulary increases, so does his/her understanding and awareness of the world around them. Children at this age begin to understand concepts and can compare abstract ideas. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

  • 4-year-olds:

    • Begins to understand time

    • Begins to become less aware of only one's self and more aware of people around him/her

    • May obey parent's rules, but does not understand right from wrong

    • Believes that his or her own thoughts can make things happen

  • 5-year-olds:

    • Increased understanding of time

    • Curious about real facts about the world

    • May compare rules of parents with that of friends

How does my child interact with others?

A very important part of growing up is the ability to interact and socialize with others. This can be a frustrating transition for the parent as children go through different stages, some of which are not always easy to handle. While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

  • 4-year-olds:

    • Very independent, wants to do things on his or her own

    • Selfish, does not like to share

    • Moody; mood swings are common

    • May be aggressive during mood swings and become aggressive to family members

    • Has a number of fears

    • May have imaginary playmates

    • Likes to explore the body and may play doctor and nurse

    • Might "run away" or threaten to do so

    • Fights with siblings

    • Will often play with others in groups

  • 5-year-olds:

    • Generally more cooperative than 4-year-olds

    • Generally more responsible than 4-year-olds

    • Eager to please others and make them happy

    • Has good manners

    • Dresses self completely without help

    • Gets along well with parents

    • Likes to cook and play sports

    • As child enters school, he or she may become more attached to parent

How to help increase your preschool child's social ability

Consider the following as ways to foster your preschool child's social abilities:

  • Offer compliments for good behavior and achievements.

  • Encourage your child to talk to you and be open with his or her feelings.

  • Read to your child, sing songs, and talk with him or her.

  • Spend quality time with your child and show him or her new experiences.

  • Encourage your child to ask questions and explore.

  • Encourage physical activity with supervision.

  • Arrange times for your child to be with other children, such as in play groups.

  • Give your child the chance to make choices, when appropriate.

  • Use time-out for behavior that is not acceptable.

  • Encourage your child to express his or her anger in an appropriate manner.

  • Limit television watching (or other screen time) to 1 to 2 hours a day. Use free time for other, more productive, activities.


Next Steps