Cognitive Development: The First Five Years (page 2)

— NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Oct 22, 2010

The Three-to-Four Year Milestones

By 4 years the child

  • learns to sort objects by shape, color and size; similarities and differences
  • counts four objects
  • a square and some capital letters
  • draws a human figure with a head, body, arms, legs and perhaps five fingers
  • names three coins
  • knows his age
  • knows about the seasons and related activities
  • knows at least four colors

By five years the child

  • understands a whole object or concept, but not always the relationship of the parts to the whole
  • uses simple reasoning; begin to understand cause-and-effect relationships
  • memorizes things but does not yet have strategies such as rehearsing lists
  • traces numbers and capital letters; may write some numbers and letters on her own
  • counts things

During the first five years, development proceeds at a pace exceeding that of any other phase of life. During this time the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, and children rapidly develop the cognitive capacity that enables them to become intellectually curious and creative thinkers.

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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