Developmental Milestones, Ages 3-5

Developmental milestones are based on averages.  But they can be helpful guides for what to expect and what to work on.

Three-year-olds

Social

  • Takes turns in games
  • Understands the idea of “mine,” “his,” or “ours”
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Dresses and undresses self with supervision

Language

  • Follows 2 or 3 step instructions
  • Says first name and age
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you.”
  • Names most familiar objects
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 or 3 sentences and well enough for strangers to understand most of the time

Cognitive

  • Completes puzzle with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals and people
  • Copies a circle
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Sorts objects by shape and color

Gross Motor

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle
  • Walks up and down steps one foot on each step

Fine Motor

  • Strings four large beads
  • Holds crayons with thumb and finger (not fist)
  • Uses one hand consistently
  • Uses a fork
  • Manages large buttons
  • Dresses with supervision

Four-year-olds

Social

  • Would rather play with others than by himself
  • Often can’t tell what’s real versus what’s make-believe
  • More independent
  • Plays “mom” and “dad”

Language

  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory (e.g. “Wheels on the Bus” or nursery rhyme)
  • Tells story
  • Can give first and last name
  • Speaks in sentences of 5-6 words

Cognitive

  • Correctly names some colors
  • Understands the idea of counting and may know some numbers
  • Remembers parts of stories
  • Understands “same” and “different”
  • Plays simple board or card games
  • Follows three step instructions
  • Pretends in play

Gross Motor

  • Stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Hops
  • Catches a large bounced ball most of the time
  • Kicks ball
  • Rides a tricycle

Fine Motor

  • Uses scissors
  • Copies circles and squares
  • Begins to copy capital letters
  • Copies cross/X
  • Writes name
  • Handedness well established

Five-year-olds

Social

  • Wants to be like their friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing and dance
  • Shows concern and sympathy
  • Can tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes cooperative 

Language

  • Speaks clearly
  • Tells simple story using full sentences
  • Uses future tense
  • Can give name and address

Cognitive

  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can draw a person with at least 6 body parts
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Copies simple geometric shapes like triangles and squares
  • Correctly names at least four colors
  • Better understands the concept of time (past, present, future)

Gross Motor

  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or more
  • Hops; may be able to skip
  • Can do a somersault
  • Can use toilet independently
  • Swings

Fine Motor

  • Prints some letters
  • Uses fork, spoon and sometimes knife
  • Cuts out simple shapes
  • Colors within lines
  • Pastes and glues
  • Can draw basic pictures
  • Uses a 3 fingered grasp of pencil
  • Dresses self