5 Developmental Milestones: 3 - 4 Years Old


Learn about the social, emotional, physical and intellectual milestones of children in your child's age group.

Click on an item in the set below to see more info.

Tasks for the Tot

3 to 4 year olds rapidly grow and develop. They explore their surroundings with curiosity and wonder. Toddling tots start to meet the following milestones: Recognizes differences between reality and fantasy. Identifies with gender. Starts to understand feelings, thoughts, and actions. Learns through activity and creation.

Physical Growth

Traits: Runs. Jumps. Starts to ride tricycle. Doodles. Begins to put together basic puzzles. Dresses self. Feeds self with utensils. Learns toilet training. Can stay dry all day.

Advice for Parents: Supervise child during play. Let your preschooler dress and feed himself. Develop coordination abilities by providing activities and materials, like paints and crayons.

Intellectual Milestones

Traits: Explores and learns through the senses. Asks questions. Begins dramatic role play. Begins to understand cause and effect relationships.

Advice for Parents: Supply props - old clothes and shoes - for dramatic play. Encourage sensory experiences. Honestly answer questions. Explain basic processes and relationships, like how rain helps flowers grow. Assist kids to verbalize feelings and ideas.

Emotional Characteristics

Traits: Acts eager to win adults' approval and praise. Sensitive to treatment from others. Becomes more self-reliant and independent. May fear animals, strangers, or the dark.

Advice for Parents: Provide love, understanding, and patience. Encourage independence. Stay away from negatively talking about child. Offer a night light. Don't force involvement in "scary" activities.

Social Development

Traits: Starts to play in groups, but not yet ready for games or competition. Notices nuances in how men and women act. Copies adults. Can leave mother for brief periods of time.

Advice for Parents: Provide toys for many children to use together. Model good behavior. Show interest in what your preschooler does when away from parents.

Moral Maturation

Traits: Starts to recognize right from wrong. Sensitive to how others view himself. Displays more self-control. May say over the top threats, like "I will kill you," without understanding implications.

Advice for Parents: Consistently enforce limits. Honestly praise child whenever you can. Compliment child's ability to wait, take turns, and share. Don't take threats too seriously.

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Possible Setbacks?

Young children can become overwhelmed as they constantly grow and encounter new experiences everyday. It is not uncommon for these kids to experience obstacles. Separation anxiety. Bedwetting. Extreme fear of strangers. Toileting difficulties. Speech problems. Not interested in others. These struggles may also be present for children ages 3 to 7.