Developmental Milestone Series: Ages 4 and 5

Journey Through Early Learning: Preschool Milestones

Client families know that the nannies we represent are not only experienced and professional, but knowledgeable about the various developmental milestones that children experience. Monitoring these milestones determines whether a child’s development is on track, and can provide warning signs for developmental delays. It also can explain children’s behavior (what is healthy development versus concerning), and give you direction for age-appropriate activities to reach those milestones. This is the last in our milestone series because 90% of a child’s brain develops by age five!

Here are some key milestones to be aware of for children ages 4-5 years, although there are many more:

  • Social/Emotional: At this state, children become more independent, wanting to do things on their own. They also show affection, comfort others who are hurt or sad, are interested in playing with other children (or imaginary friends), and can pretend to be something else during play such as a teacher, a superhero, or a dog. They also start to avoid danger (like jumping from tall heights), enjoy being a “helper”, and can change their behavior based on where they are (church, library, playground). By five, they can follow rules, take turns when playing games with other children, sing, dance, or act for you. They can be selfish and not like to share, have mood swings, fight with siblings, and have a number of fears. However, they also can be eager to please others, do simple chores at home (like matching socks), and have good manners.
  • Language/Communication: Children may start by forming sentences with four or more words, saying some words from a song or story, and answering simple questions. Eventually, they can tell a story with at least two events, sing a song, answer simple questions about a book or story you read, keep a conversation going, use or recognize simple rhymes, talk frequently, and start asking a lot of questions. Heads up that they also may try out some “bad” words (if they have heard them spoken repeatedly).
  • Cognitive: At this age, children can name a few colors, tell what comes next in a familiar story, notice a difference between genders, write some letters in their name, name some letters when you point to them, and draw a person with three or more body parts. Eventually, they can count to 10, name some numbers when you point to them, obey parents’ rules (but do not understand right from wrong), pay attention for 5 to 10 minutes during activities (screen time does not count), recognize and recite the alphabet, write their first name, put together six to eight words into a sentence, know more colors, understand time (yesterday, tomorrow, morning, night, days, months).
  • Movement/Physical Development: A 4-year-old child can typically ride a tricycle, catch a large ball, serve themself food or pour water with adult supervision, start to dress/undress themselves, use safety scissors, walk down stairs alone, and hold a crayon or pencil between their fingers and thumb. By five, they can typically hop on one foot, jump rope, walk backward, begin learning how to tie shoes, start to lose their baby teeth, and balance on one foot for at least 5 seconds.

While each child is on their own pace, and there is no formula to make sure each child hits every milestone on time, there are some ways to encourage the child’s development in years 4-5, including:

  • Talk, Talk, Talk! Discuss the day’s activities or books you have read together, sing songs, and answer the numerous questions. Speak to them in complete sentences and grown-up words, and help them to use the correct words and phrases.
  • Reading Love: Keep books, magazines, and other reading material where kids can reach them. Continue to read to the child, and nurture their love for books by taking them to the library.
  • Social Skills: Encourage the child to play with other children, such as playgroups, with siblings, or at the park. This helps them to learn the value of sharing and friendship.
  • Independence and Responsibility: Let the child help with simple chores. Give the child a limited number of simple choices (for example, deciding what to wear, when to play, and what to eat for snack).
  • Physical Activity: Move and engage in physically active play such as running, jumping, tumbling, kicking/hitting a ball, or using playground equipment. Use age-appropriate play equipment, like balls and plastic bats. Try structured, adult-led activities such as “Duck, Duck, Goose” or “Follow the Leader,” or freeze dance. Kids can be active even when they’re indoors with games such as a scavenger hunt or obstacle courses.
  • Positive Behavior: Be clear and consistent, explaining and showing the behavior that you expect. Offer compliments for good behavior and achievements.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Encourage children to talk to you and be open with their feelings. Encourage the child to feel their feelings and express their anger in an appropriate manner. Help the child to solve their problems when they are upset.

Safety and Health Tips:

  • Watch the child at all times, especially outside.
  • Tell the child why it is important to stay out of traffic (and why not to play in the street or run after stray balls).
  • Keep children on the sidewalk and away from the street and always have her wear a helmet when on a tricycle.
  • Check outdoor playground equipment. Make sure there are no loose parts or sharp edges.
  • Be safe around any body of water (including kiddie pools).
  • Teach the child how to be safe around strangers.
  • Keep the child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer (a booster seat is next) and they should still be in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Eat with the child and let them see you enjoying fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at meals and snacks. Children should eat and drink only a limited amount of food and beverages that contain added sugars, solid fats, or salt.
  • Set limits for screen time for the child to no more than 1 hour per day (if any) of quality programming, at home, school, or afterschool care.
  • The recommended amount of sleep for 4 to 5-year-olds is 10-12 hours at night. Those who get enough rest may no longer need a daytime nap and can benefit from some quiet time in the afternoon.

Remember that while each child develops at their own pace, encouraging language, social skills, independence, safety awareness, and healthy habits nurtures their holistic development during these formative years.