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Ages & Stages

Developmental Milestones: 4 to 5 Year Olds

​​Before you know it, the somewhat calm 3-year-old becomes a dynamo of energy, drive and more out-of-bounds behavior. At the same time, their mind is a font of imaginative ideas. The "monsters" they talk with at school or the "dragon" who helps them across the street are normal tall tales for 4- to 5-year-olds. All of this behavior and thinking will help your child build a secure foundation as they approach kindergarten.

Here are some other milestones you can look for.

Movement milestones

  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer

  • Climbs stairs alternating feet without support

  • Hops, somersaults

  • Swings, climbs

  • May be able to hop on one foot

Milestones in hand and finger skills

  • Copies triangle and other geometric patterns

  • Draws person with at least three body parts

  • Prints some letters

  • Dresses and undresses without assistance

  • Unbuttons and buttons medium-size buttons

  • Uses fork and spoon

  • Usually cares for own toilet needs

Language milestones

  • Recalls part of a story

  • Uses four-word sentences

  • Uses words that are 100% understandable by strangers

  • Uses future tense

  • Tells longer stories

  • Says name and address

Cognitive milestones

  • Can count 10 or more objects

  • Correctly names at least four colors

  • Better understands the concept of time

  • Knows about things used every day in the home (money, food, appliances)

Social milestones

  • Wants to please friends

  • Wants to be like her friends

  • More likely to agree to rules

  • Dresses and undresses without much help

  • Engages in well-developed imaginative play

  • Brushes teeth

  • Shows more independence and may even visit a next-door neighbor by self

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.

The developmental milestones listed here will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older. Don't be alarmed if their development takes a slightly different course. Talk with your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

  • Shows extremely fearful or timid behavior

  • Shows extremely aggressive behavior

  • Is unable to separate from parents without major protest

  • Is easily distracted and unable to concentrate on any single activity for more than five minutes

  • Shows little interest in playing with other children

  • Refuses to respond to people in general, or responds only superficially

  • Rarely uses fantasy or imitation in play

  • Seems unhappy or sad much of the time

  • Doesn't engage in a variety of activities

  • Avoids or seems aloof with other children and adults

  • Doesn't express a wide range of emotions

  • Has trouble eating, sleeping, or using the toilet

  • Can't differentiate between fantasy and reality

  • Seems unusually passive

  • Cannot understand two-part commands using prepositions ("Put the cup on the table," for example, or "Get the ball under the couch.")

  • Can't correctly give their first and last name

  • Doesn't use plurals or past tense properly when speaking

  • Doesn't talk about their daily activities and experiences

  • Cannot build a tower of six to eight blocks

  • Seems uncomfortable holding a crayon

  • Has trouble taking off their clothing

  • Cannot wash and dry their hands

More information

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 7th Edition (Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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