With your child’s third birthday, the “terrible twos” are officially over and the “magic years” of three and four begin—a time when your child’s world will be dominated by fantasy and vivid imagination. During the next two years, he’ll mature in many areas. We have gathered most recent information from American Academy of Pediatrics, Office of Child Development, CDC and Triple P. Cornerstone will also provide a list of fun activities that you and your preschooler can do together.

Movement/Physical Development

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to five seconds
  • Goes upstairs and downstairs without support
  • Kicks ball forward
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Catches bounced ball most of the time
  • Moves forward and backward with agility

Fine Motor Development

  • Copies square shapes
  • Draws a person with two to four body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Draws circles and squares
  • Begins to copy some capital letters

Language/Communication Development

  • Understands the concepts of “same” and “different”
  • Has mastered some basic rules of grammar
  • Speaks in sentences of five to six words
  • Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand
  • Tells stories

Cognitive Development

  • Correctly names some colors
  • Understands the concept of counting and may know a few numbers
  • Approaches problems from a single point of view
  • Begins to have a clearer sense of time
  • Follows three-part commands
  • Recalls parts of a story
  • Understands the concept of same/different
  • Engages in fantasy play

Social and emotional Development

  • Interested in new experiences
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Plays “Mom” or “Dad”
  • Increasingly inventive in fantasy play
  • Dresses and undresses
  • Negotiates solutions to conflicts
  • More independent
  • Imagines that many unfamiliar images may be “monsters”
  • Views self as a whole person involving body, mind, and feelings
  • Often cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality

Development Watch

Because each child develops in his own particular manner, it’s impossible to tell exactly when or how he’ll perfect a given skill. The developmental milestones listed here will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older, but don’t be alarmed if his development takes a slightly different course. Alert your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

  • Cannot throw a ball overhand
  • Cannot jump in place
  • Cannot ride a tricycle
  • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and fingers
  • Has difficulty scribbling
  • Cannot stack four blocks
  • Still clings or cries whenever his parents leave him
  • Shows no interest in interactive games
  • Ignores other children
  • Doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Doesn’t engage in fantasy play
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, using the toilet
  • Lashes out without any self-control when angry or upset
  • Cannot copy a circle
  • Doesn’t use sentences of more than three words
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” appropriately

Games and Activities

  • I Spy, this is a great way to work on colors or shapes with your preschooler. While looking at objects in plain view you say “I spy with my eye something that is blue!” Then when he guesses correctly he get a turn to spy something and you guess.
  • Hide and seek. We still play this in our home. Do remind them of certain dangers, places they cannot hide. Counting to 5 or 10 and then saying ready here I come.
  • You can set up a mini obstacle course in your living room. Make pillow stacks to crawl over or lay a blanket over a table to make you preschooler crawl under it. Place chairs in a way that they have to zig zag between them or crawl under them.
  • This is more easily set up than you might think. Go get the masking tape, tape down a line of any length, and have a blast! Challenge your child to only walk on the line all the way to end. And definitely tape down further lines at different angles. Spirals and zig-zags are always fun.
  • Shaving cream and finger paints. You can tape paper to the kitchen table or use big cookie sheets let your preschooler get messy.
  • There are lots of ways to play in water on a hot day besides a kiddie pool and a sprinkler.  Fill a dishpan with water dyed with a few drops of edible food color.   Your preschooler will have a ball painting the driveway using a clean paintbrush!
  • Have them help with baking. For example, making a cake they can help with the ingredients, stirring the batter or greasing the cake pan. When you are done they can help put the icing on and together you can eat some cake.
  • Letting your preschooler help with laundry, sorting, even trying to fold towels.
  • Have your preschooler put the spoons or forks away from the dishwasher.
  • Allowing your preschooler to wash the windows with a vinegar solution or dust around the house, gives them a sense of pride in keeping their home clean.
  • Reading each night before bedtime gives them some quiet time with you and a good night time routine.
  • Simon Says, giving your preschooler instructions on fun movements, then they get a chance to be Simon.

Behavioral Tips

Preschoolers are becoming more independent and want to make some of their own choices and decisions. It is unrealistic to expect a preschooler to always do what they are told. They are still well known for testing limits and some children deliberately do something they have been told not to do just to see what happens. When a parent says “stop” it can be like a dare.

When parents have reasonable expectations and set fair limits and a clear with instructions children are more likely to be cooperative. Giving clear and direct instructions will make it easier for your child to be more compliant, when you phrase your instructions in the form of a question your child may consider the request to be optional. “Maia put your cup in the sink” rather than “Maia will you put your cup in the sink?

It is also important to praise your child for doing something good, “Wow Mommy is so happy you put your shoes in the closet!” For more strategies or ideas visit or click on triple p in the programs section.

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