All parents want to make sure their children are hitting their developmental milestones, which tells them their child is growing healthily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (like crawling, walking, or jumping).”
According to the CDC, as a child progresses to the early childhood years, her world will start to open up and widen. “They will become more independent and begin to focus more on adults and children outside of the family. They will want to explore and ask about the things around them even more. Their interactions with family and those around them will help to shape their personality and their own ways of thinking and moving.”
Your preschooler’s developmental milestones (3 to 5 years old)
While not all kids develop at the same pace and may exhibit accomplishments that are different from other kids, these developmental milestones can serve as a baseline to help parents track their child’s growth — and know when something is wrong.
The CDC cites the following milestones most children are expected to be able to achieve by the time they are in the preschooler stage (between 3 and 5 years old):
View herself as a person with her own body, mind, and feelings
Frequently unable to distinguish reality from fantasy
Again, each child develops a different pace, so it is also difficult to pinpoint how or when a child will master certain skills exactly. According to the AAP, if your child displays any of the following signs, you might have to reach out to your pediatrician, as these can signal that your child is experiencing a developmental delay for his age.
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Unable to throw a ball overhead
Unable to jump in place
Unable to ride a tricycle
Unable to grasp a crayon between her thumb and fingers
Unable to stack four blocks on top of one another
Unable to practice self-control (lashing out when she is upset or angry)
Unable to copy a circle
Difficulty with scribbling
Clinging or crying whenever her parents leave
Showing no interest in interactive games
Ignoring other children
Resisting activities like using the toilet, dressing, and sleeping
Not responding to people who are not part of her family
There are many ways for you to help in ensuring the healthy and stable development of your little one. The CDC suggests, first and foremost, continuing to read to your child and providing her with plenty of reading material. Allowing her to assist at home by doing simple age-appropriate chores is another thing you can do to further develop her newfound skills.
When your child is in the presence of other children her age, encourage her to play with them as this will help her learn and appreciate having friends and sharing with her peers. Speak to her in full sentences and don’t be afraid to use “grown-up” words that she might not necessarily understand yet. Don’t forget to also help her how to use certain phrases and words properly.
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In disciplining your child, the CDC recommends being clear and consistent. “Explain and show the behavior that you expect from her. Whenever you tell her no, follow up with what [she] should be doing instead.”
Finally, allowing your child the chance to make simple choices for herself — such as what she wants to wear for the day, when she wants to play, and what she wants to eat for a snack — can help hone her cognitive development further.
The CDC also emphasizes the importance of taking measures to keep children safe, especially as they are starting to become more independent and to spend more time outdoors. First, take the time to talk to her about not playing out in the street or running after balls that might end up outside of your house, as well as the importance of staying out of traffic. When letting her go biking, remember to have her wear a helmet and to keep her on the sidewalk at all times, where she is safe from the street.
When you take her to your community playground, check whether the equipment there have any sharp edges or loose parts. Keep your eye on her at all times while she is playing. The same goes for when you take her to a pool or an area where there is a nearby body of water. Even if she might know how to swim, make sure she is always watched by you or a guardian you trust. One more reminder to keep in mind is to teach your little one how to stay safe when she is around strangers.
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When traveling in a vehicle, remember to keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. When she becomes too big for the car seat, the CDC suggests having her travel in a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
Finally, the CDC provides a few reminders for parents to ensure their children’s health. These include eating with their kids whenever possible (so they will see you enjoying healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, both as meals and as snacks), limiting screen time to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day (and making sure they access high-quality programming), and giving their kids age-appropriate toys and play equipment and allowing them to choose when they want to play and what they want to play with.