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The Growing Child: Preschool (4 to 5 Years)

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

Children progress at different rates. They have different interests, abilities, and personalities. But there are some common milestones many children reach from ages 4 to 5.

What can my child do at these ages?

As your child grows, you’ll notice him or her developing new and exciting abilities.

A child age 4:

  • Sings a song

  • Skips and hops on one foot

  • Catches and throws a ball overhand

  • Walks downstairs alone

  • Draws a person with 3 separate body parts

  • Builds a block tower with 10 blocks

  • Understands the difference between fantasy and reality

 A child age 5:

  • Jumps rope

  • Walks backward

  • Balances on one foot with eyes closed

  • Uses scissors

  • Begins learning to tie shoes

  • Copies shapes while drawing

  • Dresses himself or herself

  • Knows his or her address and phone number

  • Recognizes and recites the alphabet

What can my child say?

Speech development in children is very exciting for parents. They can watch their children become social beings that can interact with others.

A child age 4:

  • May put 4 to 5 words together into a sentence

  • Will ask questions constantly

  • May know 1 or more colors

  • Likes to tell stories

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

 A child age 5:

  • May put 6 to 8 words together into a sentence

  • May know 4 or more colors

  • Knows the days of the week and months

  • Can name coins and money

  • Can understand commands with multiple instructions

  • Talks often

What does my child understand?

As a child's vocabulary gets larger, so does his or her understanding of the world around them. Children at this age begin to understand concepts and can compare abstract ideas.

A child age 4:

  • Begins to understand time

  • Begins to become more aware of people around him or her

  • May obey parent's rules, but doesn’t understand right from wrong

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

A child age 5:

  • Has more understanding of time

  • Is curious about real facts about the world

  • May compare rules of parents with that of friends

How will my child interact with others?

An important part of growing up is learning to interact and socialize with others. This can be a frustrating transition for the parent. Children go through different stages. Some of these are not always easy to handle.

A child age 4:

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

  • Is selfish, and doesn’t like to share

  • Is 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

A child age 5:

  • Is generally more cooperative than 4-year-olds

  • Is generally more responsible than 4-year-olds

  • Is eager to please others and make them happy

  • Has good manners

  • Dresses himself or herself completely without help

  • Gets along well with parents

  • Likes to cook and play sports

  • May become more attached to a parent as he or she starts attending school

How can I encourage my child's social abilities?

You can help boost your preschool child's social abilities by:

  • Offering compliments for good behavior and achievements

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

  • Reading to your child, singing songs, and talking with him or her

  • Spending quality time with your child and showing him or her new experiences

  • Encouraging your child to ask questions and explore

  • Encouraging physical activity with supervision

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

  • Giving your child the chance to make choices, when appropriate

  • Using time-out for behavior that isn’t acceptable

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

  • Limiting TV time (or other screen time) to 1 to 2 hours a day, and encouraging free time to be used for other activities

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 4/29/2014
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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