What is Typical?

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Typical development for your child varies based on age and type of skill. Below you will find guidelines for understanding what kinds of skills your child should know or be able to learn for ages 3-4 and ages 4-5.

If you have concerns about the development of your child, you can ask a teacher or review information about special needs and consult a specialist for early intervention assistance.

What is TYPICAL for my three to four year old?

Big muscles (Gross Motor)

  • Able to balance on one leg for five or more seconds
  • Walks down stairs, alternating feet, without support
  • Jumps forward with feet together
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals tricycle
  • Reaches down when standing without falling

Little Muscles (Fine Motor)

  • Scribbles with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds a tower of five or more blocks, or a bridge with three blocks
  • Holds a pencil correctly
  • Able to screw jar lids, nuts and bolts on and off
  • Cuts with scissors along a straight or curved line

Language

Speech

  • Follows simple two or three step directions, in order
  • Able to carry on a conversation for two or more turns on the same topic
  • Uses four- to six-word sentences
  • Uses pronouns (I, you, me, we, they) and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Speech is 90% understandable

Reading Readiness

  • Able to describe actions in a picture (e.g., The puppy is sleeping.)
  • Tells parts of a story while looking through a favorite picture book
  • Understands physical relationships ("on," "in," "under," “over,” “with”)

Writing

  • Begins to copy some capital letters
  • Experiments with a variety of writing tools (pencil, crayon, chalk, paintbrush)

Numbers and Shapes (Cognitive/Intellectual)

  • Recognizes rhythm of familiar songs or speech patterns
  • Matches an object in her hand or room to a picture in a book
  • Able to pretend/make-believe with dolls, animals and people
  • Sorts objects by shape or color, understands ‘same’ and ‘different’
  • Completes puzzles with three or four pieces
  • Counts up to three items out loud
  • Stays with a task of own choosing, unsupervised, for five minutes (play dough, drawing, blocks)

Friends and Family (Social/Emotional)

  • Asks for help (asks for a towel to clean up a spill)
  • Waits while others take a turn in games or activities
  • Can identify own name, age and sex
  • Spontaneously shows affection for family and familiar playmates
  • Expresses empathy to peers who are in need, hurt, or upset
  • Separates easily from parents by 3 years old
  • Understands concept of "mine" and "his/hers"

Developmental Health Watch

These developmental milestones outline a general idea of typical behavior and abilities you can expect as your child develops. Each child develops at his/her own pace. Consult your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following, as they may signal possible developmental delay for the 3-4 year age range.
  • Frequent falling and difficulty with stairs
  • Persistent drooling or very unclear speech
  • Difficulty manipulating small objects
  • Inability to copy a circle by 3 years old
  • Inability to communicate in short phrases
  • No involvement in "pretend" play
  • Failure to understand simple instructions
  • Little interest in other children
  • Extreme difficulty separating from mother

What is TYPICAL for my four to five year old?

Big muscles (Gross Motor)

  • Balances on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Runs and changes directions without stopping
  • Hops on one foot
  • Able to do a complete forward roll
  • Gallops, swings, climbs
  • May be able to skip

Little Muscles (Fine Motor)

  • Shows right hand/foot, left hand/foot upon request
  • Draws person with four body parts
  • May copy some letters and shapes
  • Dresses and undresses without assistance
  • Strings large beads with ease
  • Usually cares for own toilet needs

Language

Speech

  • Speaks sentences of more than five words
  • Able to carry on a conversation for seven turns on the same topic
  • Uses future tense

Reading Readiness

  • Can identify own name in print
  • “Reads” familiar signs and words (McDonald’s, stop, Men)

Writing

  • Uses scribbles, shapes, and some letters to write
  • Prints some letters

Numbers and Shapes (Cognitive/Intellectual)

  • Can count 10 or more objects
  • Correctly names at least four colors
  • Groups and sorts objects by one characteristic (shape, size, color,)
  • Able to copy and extend a simple pattern
  • Knows about things used every day in the home (money, food, appliances
  • Stays with an activity of own choosing for ten minutes

Friends and Family (Social/Emotional)

  • Says name and address
  • Wants to please friends and be like them
  • Uses table manners and polite words
  • Verbalizes own feelings

Developmental Health Watch

 

Because each child develops in her own particular manner, it's impossible to predict exactly when or how your own preschooler will perfect a given skill. These developmental milestones outline a general idea of typical behavior and abilities you can expect as your child develops. Consult your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following, as they may signal possible developmental delay for the 4-5 year age range.
  • Exhibits extremely aggressive, fearful or timid behavior
  • Is easily distracted and unable to concentrate on any single activity for more than five minutes
  • Shows little interest in playing with other children
  • Rarely uses fantasy or imitation in play
  • Seems unhappy or sad much of the time
  • Doesn't express a wide range of emotions
  • Has trouble eating, sleeping or using the toilet
  • Can't differentiate between fantasy and reality
  • Cannot understand two-part commands using prepositions ("Put the cup on the table"; "Get the ball under the couch.")
  • Can't correctly give her first and last name
  • Doesn't use plurals or past tense properly when speaking
  • Seems uncomfortable holding a crayon
  • Cannot wash and dry her hands

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