The Preschool Years (Ages 4 and 5): What Happens Developmentally? (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Motor Development--Moving is Exploration and Adventure

Between four and five the child actively explores his environment and enjoys moving and new ways of discharging physical energy.


Her coordination and control of her body are improving and she can:

    jump in place
    walk down stairs
    balance on one foot for ten seconds
    throw a ball purposely overhand
    catch a ball with hands
    jump over an object with both feet
    walk backward toe/heel
    climb stairs with one foot per step
    put simple parts together
    copy a circle
    build a tower
    build constructions using imagination

    Fine motor abilities such as cutting with scissors and coloring within lines are improving

Language and Communication--Language is Power

Between four and five the child's ability and desire to communicate expand rapidly. He likes to experiment with new words and asks numerous questions.


By four years the child can:

    use connected sentences
    tell experiences or simple events in sequence
    reproduce short verses, rhymes, songs from memory
    speak clearly
    argue with words
    use jokes and silly language
    use sentences of at least five words
    act out simple stories
    in conversation, can answer questions, give information, repeat, convey ideas
    ask why, when, how, where questions
    understand implications of key words such as because
    follow three unrelated commands
    understand comparatives such as pretty, prettier, and prettiest
    listen to long stories, but may misinterpret the facts
    understand sequencing of events

By five the child refines these skills and can:

    use an expanded range of language and show more variability in speech
    use words more precisely
    use more complex grammar and use plurals and tense correctly
    express herself in a varied tone of voice and inflection

Helping children establish self-control

With the explosion of new skills and experiences, preschoolers may appear to understand social rules and they can be reasoned with, but when overloaded may lose self-control. They may test the rules, refuse to cooperate with family routines, become aggressive. Some strategies are useful at this age.

Parents can use language to help solve problems. Help the child learn to use words, rather than actions, to express how she feels.

Negotiation, such as offering the child certain realistic choices, enables her to feel she has some control. Example: Rather than asking a four-year-old if she wants to go to the doctor, ask her what toy she wants to take with her.

Keep in mind that prevention goes a long way. As parents get to know their child's trouble spots, preparing children in advance for what's going to occur can help them manage the situation And remember, praise and rewards trump punishment.

Preschoolers and Lying--Telling a Tall Tale From a Lie

At times it may seem as though the preschooler is lying. Many children of this age love to exaggerate and they may make up tall tales. A tall tale is an expression of the child's imagination, not a lie. When challenged in a playful way, she will show that she knows the real situation and is having fun with embellishing it. Respect and praise her imagination, but help her identify what's real and what's fantasy.

Why do some kids lie? To try and correct the situation, first try and find out what the motive for the lie is. One possible motive may be the use of lying to avoid punishment. Perhaps he broke a rule, or was too rough in play, or accidentally broke something. The child may think that the lie will cover up the offense and is less serious. Make it clear that you think lying is a more problem than the actual offense. If he acknowledges that he lied, make the punishment less severe than if he insisted on the lie.

Children of this age don't really understand the concept of a white lie, which is usually an attempt to be tactful, since their thinking is all-or-nothing. It's best, if possible, to avoid telling white lies, since the distinction to the preschooler is not clear.

Let child know you won't tolerate lies. Set clear limits and be consistent with consequences.

View Full Article
Add your own comment
Recommended Learning Products
Trust to find smart things kids love
Unlimited Workbooks and Worksheets
90% of Students Understand Concepts Better Since Using PLUS
Reading and Math Program for Kids 3-7
300+ games and activities. Try it for free!