Preschool 3-5 Years

Preschool Years Bring Many Milestones.

Milestones In A Preschooler’s Life

This section contains information on your child’s third to fifth year of development, with information on each age range and what to expect to see and learn from your child at that point in time. Also included are some great parenting links, communication and cognitive skills being developed and help with when to ask questions. 

Check Early Check Often –

Pre-School Stages Ages 3-5

During this stage of early childhood, your child may acquire certain skills referred to as developmental milestones. These skills involve physical, emotional, social and problem solving abilities. Parents who participate with their children in the Ages and Stages questionnaire have a clear understanding of the skills their children are gaining and know when to seek further supports if their children need any extra supports.

This video, produced by FAN features early childhood professionals and parents talking about their experiences with early childhood developmental screening.

Preschooler 30 to 36 Months – What most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends
  • Takes turns when playing
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Displays a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad most of the time
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Dresses and undresses self
  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Can say first name and knows how old they are
  • Knows name of a friend
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Can use toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Can do simple puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • May copy a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 10 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle
Movement/Physical Development
  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step
Activities to Encourage Growth and Development
  • Puzzle time! Your child may enjoy putting a puzzle together. There are a variety of puzzle types. You can use big chunky puzzles, peg puzzles, or puzzles with interlocking pieces (to a maximum of six pieces). You can also make your own puzzle by cutting up a picture into 6 big pieces. You can help your toddler find which pieces go together.
  • Most toddlers like to play with balloons. An alternative to using a ball, you can use a balloon (not filled with hilum) to play soccer. Using a box, or other items as a goal post, you and your child can take turns trying to kick the balloon into the goal. Make sure your child is supervised at all times when playing with balloons. If the balloon does pop, immediately pick up all the pieces and discard.
  • Teaching children about feelings is an important step for them to understand how they and other people feel in certain situations. You can look at pictures and describe how the people in them are feeling. Ask your child how they would feel in the same situation. For example, if you are looking at a picture of a child blowing out her birthday cake, you could say, “this child is feeling happy. Would you feel happy too if it was your birthday?” You can also use bigger words too, such as excited and anxious to describe emotions.
  • You can play a game of opposites. Find similar items that are big and small, hard and soft, and/or long and short. For example, you could have two balls one big and one small. Tell your toddler which is which then ask her which one is big and which one is small.
  • We encourage all children at 3 years of age to have a developmental checkup. Please contact FAN at 1-855-368-3707 to sign up for an Ages and Stages event.
When to Ask Questions:
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Does not understand simple directions
  • Shows a lack of empathy when others are hurt
  • Has shaking or tremors in hands when stringing or drawing
  • Acts overly aggressive or unpredictable
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Does not want to play with other children or toys
  • Eats fewer than 15 different foods

Preschooler 36 to 48 Months – What most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Plays with other children and has favourite toys and playmates
  • May be able to label her own feelings and expresses extreme emotions (laughing, crying, is silly or angry)
  • Uses real-life situations during play (going shopping, going to school etc…)
  • Understands simple rules at home
  • Uses imagination a lot and can be very creative
  • May be bossy at times, as he is becoming more independent
  • May show concern and sympathy for playmates when they are hurt or upset
  • Is starting to take turns, but may still be possessive about a favourite toy
  • Starting to understand danger and knows when to stay away from dangerous things
  • Has a great sense of humour and likes silly jokes
  • Can name three items when asked (for example: “name three parts of your body”)
  • Can describe an object with at least two words (i.e., the ball is big and round)
  • Knows the words to a song or a poem from memory – like the “Itsy Bitsy
  • Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • Tells stories
  • Can say first and last name and knows their age
  • Knows how to use action words like ‘jumping’ ‘sleeping’
  • Knows how to use plurals
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Knows a few colours and numbers
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Can remember parts of a story
  • Draws a person with 2 or 3 body parts
  • Can use scissors
  • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a familiar book
  • Starting to play matching games
  • May start to recognize 1st letter of name
Movement/Physical Development
  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Catches large bounced ball most of the time
  • Can get dressed, uses the toilet and washes hands
  • Can cut (with blunt scissors) with parent supervision
  • Can pour (with some spilling)
Activities to Encourage Growth and Development
  • Encourage your child to dress herself. She can practice dressing teddy bears and/or dolls as well. Give her a variety of fasteners to try, such as buttons, zippers, and velcro.
  • When going for walks, you can use this opportunity to help your toddler count. You can ask them to help you count how many flowers you see, or how many cars you pass. Gyro park in trail has a number of swings, which could be counted. You could also group the swings into two kinds, “big kid” swings, and “baby” swings, and count them by type. “There are 6 swings, 3 of those are ‘big kid’ swings, and 3 of them are “baby swings”.
  • Playing I-spy is a good game that can teach a variety of things. You can use colours or shapes to help them identify what it is being sought. For example, you can look around the room and say, I -spy a square pillow. The child would then have to find that square pillow. Or, I spy a white blanket. Take turns so each of you has a chance to spy out different things. Keep in mind your preschooler may not provide colours or shape clues, and that is ok.
  • Playing with tools is a great way to help your child develop fine motor skills. You can have your child use a hammer to hit some nails (or golf tees) into a piece of high density foam (see picture). You can also let your child use a screw driver to turn screws on furniture/toys or into a cardboard box. Always supervise a child using tools.
When to Ask Questions:
  • Child’s words are not easily understood by parent or caregiver
  • Seems to feel dizzy and can’t stand still with eyes closed
  • Does not jump or hop
  • Child shows a lack of empathy when she hurts others or animals
  • Child cannot follow two-step instructions (i.e., please go to the living room and bring me your doll)
  • Child rarely responds when you call
  • Child responds inappropriately to simple instructions
  • Child avoids contact with other children or plays alone

Preschooler 48 to 60 Months – What most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Child enjoys playing with one or two children
  • Understands and can follow simple rules at home
  • Is sensitive to other children’s feelings and can recognize feelings in others “he is happy”
  • Can use some self-control, like taking turns in line-ups
  • Looks for adult recognition and approval – this is very important to him
  • Starting to understand concept of right and wrong. May not always do the ‘right’ thing, but knows the difference between the two
  • Can respond to simple requests
  • Child likes to talk with familiar adults
  • Speaks more clearly
  • Can use future and past tenses (“grandpa will be here” or “grandma was here”)
  • Can make up stories using full sentences
  • Knows full name and address
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Participates and plays in simple games
  • Can name 10 objects or more
  • Can draw a person with four or more body parts
  • May be able to print the first letter of their name
  • Imitates drawing a triangle, circle or square
  • Knows about things used every day like a phone
Movement/Physical Development
  • Can stand briefly on one foot
  • Can hop and may be able to skip
  • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Can use the toilet on her own
  • Climbs playground equipment
Activities to Encourage Growth and Development
  • When reading with your child, have her tell you about the story first. Have her look at the front page and ask, “What do you think this story is about?” Go through each of the subsequent pages and do the same thing. At the end, you can say “ok let’s read the words and see what is really happening”. Make sure when you read you provide a lot of drama and emphasize the characters’ emotions throughout the story.
  • Have your child draw a picture and “write” about what it is she drew. Alternatively, she can tell you what she drew and you can write it down for her.
  • Children can be taught how to dial 911 and when to call 911. Show them the numbers, and get them to practice identifying the numbers 9 – 1 – 1. Show them on the phone where those numbers are, and explain to them when they should be used. Have conversations about what emergencies are and what types of people respond to emergencies (police, fire, and ambulance). It is also a good idea to have them start remembering their phone number and address. You can practice your address by pointing the numbers out on your house and conversely your phone number by showing them the numbers on your phone. You can also make them into songs, rhymes or poems.
  • Create a simple scavenger hunt. Hide a toy or healthy treat in a place that your child can easily access. Then, draw a map or give some verbal clues to your child on where your child can find it. Let your child search for the hidden object.
When to Ask Questions:
  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Has extreme behavior often (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad)
  • Child is very withdrawn and not physically active
  • Reacts to discipline with aggression
  • Doesn’t respond to people
  • Is not able to tell the difference between real and make-believe
  • Doesn’t play a variety of games and activities
  • Can not use plurals or past tense words properly
  • Is not able to brush teeth, wash and dry hands or get undressed without help
  • Loses skills he once had

Parent Links

Healthy sleep habits are important.

Tips for good sleep habits:


Great ideas and tips for healthy eating for preschoolers:


Now that your child is a preschooler, they are well on their way to getting ready to enter school.

Here are some articles to help you encourage their development:

Growing bodies need lots of time for fresh air and play. Here are some great ideas to help get kids the physical activity and development they need to stay healthy.


Good coping skills and a positive outlook can help your preschooler navigate some big emotions.

Ideas for parenting your preschooler:


Is it an emergency? Call 9-1-1

As your child becomes more physically active there are things you can do to keep them safe.

Safety Links: