What your child might be doing at different stages

This section provides information on what your child might be doing at different ages as well as tips to help you help them.

It is important to remember that children develop at different rates. Don't worry if your child hasn't reached certain milestones that other children the same age have.

Preschool-aged children will be developing more socially, have real friendships and understand the causes of feelings. Physically they are much more coordinated in high energy activities such as running and climbing and may have progressed to riding a tricycle.

All children develop at different rates; however, in this age range there are some skills that are especially important for your child’s self-esteem and learning. For example, being able to speak clearly is important in order to be understood by others.

At three to four years

A child aged three to four is becoming more independent and will be very adventurous. They will want to be involved in everyday activities like cooking and shopping.

At three to four years your child might be:

  • socialising with a broader range of people
  • understanding how to share and play well with other children
  • developing a sense of humour and concern for others
  • using hands and fingers skilfully
  • holding a pencil in a mature grip using preferred hand
  • speaking well
  • decreasing temper tantrums.

Here are some ideas to help you support your child’s development at three to four years:

  • Play games that involve sharing and taking turns.
  • Encourage your child to draw and talk about their picture.
  • Give your child lots of opportunity to play outdoors – spend time running, tumbling and rolling.
  • Read to your child and ask them questions about the story.
  • Get your child to help you with cooking, shopping or gardening.

At four to five years

Your child’s personality will be shining through and they will be dealing with new changes to their routine – like going to kindergarten. They are making friends and building their independence and asking lots of questions.

At four to five years you child might be:

  • asking complex questions
  • improving walking, running and climbing skills
  • using a bicycle with training wheels
  • improving drawing skills and learning to write some numbers and letters
  • understanding the meaning of numbers
  • developing relationships with peers
  • showing independence but maybe becoming frustrated when tired, angry or embarrassed
  • showing confidence and increasing skill and speed in physical abilities
  • having extended conversations.

Here are some ideas to help you support your child’s development at three to four years:

  • encouraging them to explore, experiment and try things
  • talking about what is happening and encouraging your child to talk
  • finding out answers to questions together
  • reminding your child of events that have happened before
  • making suggestions about imaginary play, for example asking ‘What would it be like to be small like a mouse?’, or providing props to use for play
  • sharing songs, stories and rhymes, both new ones and old favourites.

Talk to your Maternal and Child Health nurse about:

  • language development, the sorts of sentences your preschooler uses and how easy they are to understand
  • emotional development, whether your child is affectionate and if they come to you for comfort
  • your preschooler’s developmental milestones such as being able to draw a simple figure or circle
  • your child’s play and how they interact with other children
  • your child’s speech and any issues such as stuttering.