Social and Emotional Developmental Milestones: By the End of 3, 4, and 5 Years

— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Is your child on track? To find out what's typical in terms of social and emotional development by the end of 3, 4, and 5 years old, read on!

By the end of 3 years (36 months): Social

  • Imitates adults and playmates
  • Spontaneously shows affection for familiar playmates
  • Can take turns in games
  • Understands concept of "mine" and "his/hers"


  • Expresses affection openly
  • Expresses a wide range of emotions
  • By 3, separates easily from parents
  • Objects to major changes in routine

By the end of 4 years (48 months):


  • 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 tell the difference between fantasy and reality

By the end of 5 years (60 months):


  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like her friends
  • More likely to agree to rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows more independence and may even visit a next-door neighbor by herself


  • Aware of gender
  • Able to distinguish fantasy from reality
  • Sometimes demanding, sometimes eagerly cooperative
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