Preschool Child Development Guide



DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES identify your preschooler's unique growth and Skilly-do activities that fit them.


Our activities are designed to grow 16 key DEVELOPMENTAL SKILLS. Click your favorite skill's link to get all its activities.


Accepting children where they are and working from there is the approach we encourage in all we Skilly-do. The key words to remember are individual development. We feel it's essential to understand the difference between chronological age and developmental age. 

The general rule is: A child takes 6 months or so to reach their developmental age. When they turn a year older, they aren’t magically ready to perform all of that new age's skills. And even when they've reached that age developmentally, there may be times when they slip back to a earlier level due to stress or illness.

Keep in mind these are general milestones. Your child's unique development may be ahead in some areas or a bit behind in others. That’s perfectly normal and to be expected. Don't worry, enjoy your child's own way of growing!

- click to jump to each developmental milestone -




When your child is 2 years old they usually can:
  • Kick a ball. Stand on tiptoes. Begin to run. Enjoy practicing these skills with Skilly-do's Moving activities, such as Line Challenges.
  • Climb onto and down from furniture without help.
  • Throw a ball overhand.
  • Walk up and down stairs holding on to an adult’s hand or a banister. They’ve moved on from crawling up stairs.
  • Make lines and circles when given a drawing instrument. Learn about the meaning of their first shapes in our series, A Child's History or Scribbling - Why Does Scribbling Matter?
  • Build towers of 4 or more blocks. Find out about the importance of block play in our Super Toys article
  • Play simple make-believe games, like pretending to use keys to open doors and other everyday actions.
  • Follow two-step directions such as “Put down the block and put it in the box.”
  • Play next to other children. This is called parallel play. You can learn about the stages of your child’s play in our article Child Play is Major Work.
  • Begin to include other children, especially in running and chasing games.
  • Copy others, especially adults and older children. This drives older siblings crazy!
  • Be more and more independent. This includes being defiant and doing what they’ve been told not to do. Another example, "I want to dress myself." And “I can do it!” Check out our articles, Those Remarkable, Terrible Two’s and Attention Span - It’s Short and Not Always Sweet to learn more.
  • Get excited when with other children. Screaming and jumping ensue. Channel this energy in our Foodie Moves and Colors in Action activities.
  • Point to things or pictures when they are named. That’s why children of this age enjoy picture books so much! Our article, Tips for Reading to Your Preschooler has easy ideas on how to maximize your reading time. And find great reads for 2’s our Book Reviews.
  • Say a sentence with 2 to 4 words. Try our Chatty-do activities to grow your child’s language skills.
  • Know the names of familiar people, though sometimes you need to remind them.
  • Know the names of body parts. Use real words please, not funny ones. This helps teachers, babysitters, and the general public understand what your child is saying. 
  • Follow simple instructions such as “sit down,” “give me your hand.”
  • Repeat words heard in conversation. Be careful what you say!


When your child is 3 years old they usually can:
  • Separate easily from parents.
  • Show concern for a crying friend. They can separate their own emotions from other people’s emotions.
  • Copy adults and friends. Have fun with this skill in our Copycat Challenge.
  • Take turns in games. This is called associative play. Our Balloon Bops activity is perfect for taking turns. Our article, Stages of Young Children’s Play explains why play is so essential for social development.
  • Understand the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers.”
  • Show a wide range of their own emotions. Three’s have many more shades of their emotions than when they were younger, because they’re learning more about themselves. Looking at your child’s art is chance to share their perspective. Learn more in our article, Talking with Young Children About Their Creations.
  • Get upset with major changes in routine.
  • Dress and undress themselves.
  • Show affection for friends and family without prompting. They love to crawl into your lap when they want to. 


When your child is 4 years old they usually can:
  • Talk about what they like and what they're interested in.
  • Act out social roles, be a “daddy” or “teacher.” In our Beyond the Fridge activities, like Two-faced Puppets, they can create toys for this kind of social play.
  • Accept and enjoy doing new things easily. When they were younger, you often had to lead into new activities with familiar ones. Get more helpful tips on this new development in our article, Support your Child’s Tinkering - It’s Full STEAM Ahead!
  • Cooperate with other children. This is called cooperative play. Our article, Preschool Food Experiences - Cook Up Some Discovery has more easy ideas about learning to work together.
  • Be more and more creative with make-believe play or imaginative play. Gain more understanding about your child's creative skills in our article, Children's Creativity - Part 2 - Sensory and Make-Believe Play.
  • Play with other children rather than playing alone. If they have the option to play with others, they typically will.
  • Adults, be aware that 4's are still not able to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s make-believe. Fantasy in their mind is not questioned. Please respect and protect their ability to believe.
  • Use time words such as “now”, “soon,” and “later.” Our article, Tick Tock - 3 Ways to Grow Your Child’s Sense of Time for easy ideas to practice this skill.
  • Speak sentences of more than five words using future tense, such as “I will be four on my birthday.” 
  • Tell longer stories, using several sentences. “I saw the dog. He was big. He barked at me. Then I had to go home.” 
  • Use basic rules of grammar, correctly using pronouns like “he” and “she,” plural and singular of words as in “boy” and “boys”, “we” and “they.” Try our Chatty-do activities and have fun growing your preschooler's language skills in your everyday walks and talks.
  • Sing a song or say a poem from memory like “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Our activity, Everything Music is another fun way to encourage listening skills in your preschooler’s life.
  • Say their address, first and last name.
  • Start to copy some capital letters.
  • Name some numbers and some colors. You can mix colors with science learning in our Kitchen Science Collection activity, Magical Ice Coloring.
  • Understand the idea of counting.
  • Start to have a general understanding of time. Such as, it’s time to eat or go to school.
  • Draw a person with 2 to 4 body parts. Our series, A Child's History of Scribbling: Part 5 - Pictorial Stage, explains how this ability develops in your little one.
  • Use scissors.
  • Play board or card games. Our article, Super Toys, has more tips on how to choose the best toys for your child's creativity.
  • Remember parts of a story. Then, they can tell you what they think is going to happen next in that story.
  • Understand the idea of “same” and “different.” See these ideas come to life with our Print Making activities.
  • Identify simple, geometric forms like square, circle, rectangle and triangle.


- click to jump to each skill -

Audio perception is the ability to hear sounds as well as distinguish between them. For example, when your child can identify the sounds a dog makes versus those of a cat. This is an important skill that will be used later in learning to read, when they must be able to hear how different letters of the alphabet sound. For example, your child needs to be able to distinguish between the B sound in boy and the D sound in dog. An easy way to practice this skill with your preschooler is our Everything Music activity. And learn more about how music contributes to audio perception in our article, Music Matters - The Importance of Music in your Preschooler’s Life.

Learning that things change is an important mental concept and the beginning of your child’s flexible thinking. For example, noticing that things change, like how flour looks different when water is added to it, is basic science learning. This skill will also be built upon in later school experiences with numbers and letters. For example, your child will learn that the number 4 can be 3 plus 1 or 2 plus 2. And that cat becomes bat with the change of a beginning letter. You can find many activities to reinforce this skill in our Kitchen Science Collection. Our article, Raising an Entrepreneur with Active Learning, has more helpful information about developing this skill as well as your child's natural creativity.

Creative movement is movement that reflects the mood or inner state of a child. Preschoolers are free to express their own personalities in their own style. They do not have an example to follow or an adult to imitate. Creative movement is important because it provides them an opportunity to confidently use their bodies and mind together in innovative ways. Our Skilly-do Moving activities have lots of ideas to foster your preschooler’s creative movement. Part 2 of our series about Children’s Creativity - Sensory and Make Believe Play has more helpful tips and easy ways to encourage this skill.

Creativity is the ability to bring something new or unique into being for the individual. Creativity’s development involves ideas or products that are new to the child, but only to that child-- for example, when your preschooler mixes red and blue paint to make purple first time. This type of personal creativity is called “small c” creativity. In contrast, “capital C” creativity involves making something genuinely new to a culture, such as the invention of the light bulb. Our article, Yes, You Are Creative, has easy ways to embrace your own creativity when working with children. Then, check out our Painting activities to put these ideas into action. 

Divergent thinking results in many answers and ideas. For example, asking your preschooler to tell as many things as possible about a bowl of fish encourages their divergent thinking. They might talk about the color of the fish, how they swim, if the water is cold … This type of thinking opens up unlimited possibilities and is key to developing problem solving and creativity! Learn more about the characteristics of this skill in our article, Kid’s Creativity, It’s a Love-Hate Thing. Our activity collection, Color Outside the Lines has simple activities that encourage your child’s divergent thinking with color.

In dramatic play, also called pretend play, children act out things they experience in their everyday lives. It’s one of the ways your preschooler naturally learns. They constantly imitate people, animals, and things they observe in their world. Doing so, they develop their imagination and thinking in a spontaneous, self-directed way. Our Pretending type activities such as our Spongy Walkers are designed to encourage preschoolers’ dramatic play experiences. In Part 3 of our series about Children’s Creativity - Constructive and Dramatic Play you'll find more valuable tips on how to encourage this kind of learning in your child's life.

Environmental awareness is the ability to see and experience the world. It is one of the most important influences in your child's life and learning. Everything that contributes to their experiences is part of their environment! Your preschooler's understanding of the environment begins with their home and gradually expands to the world outside; their neighborhood and then the larger world of school. Our Experience Nature and Recycle & Reuse collections were created to grow this skill in your preschooler. Our article Walkabouts, part of our Learning Anywhere, Every Day series, has easy ways to spark preschoolers’ awareness of their neighborhood and natural world during your daily travels.

Hand-eye coordination is the use of hands and eyes together. It's practiced in many art activities like painting, printing, drawing and sculpting. Hand-eye coordination is also basic to learning to read and write. Your child must hold a book in their hands and use their eyes at the same time to read the words on a page. And when learning to write, your child must hold a pencil in hand and use their eyes to direct the marks being made at the same time! Skilly-do ideas like Tissue Transformations and our Print Making activities provide lots of fun chances to practice this skill. Check out our article, The Promise of Your Child’s Early Development - Make the Most of It to find out how this skill fits in with your child’s overall development.

Large Motor Skills involve the development of the large muscles in the neck, trunk, arms, and legs. These develop before small muscles and small motor skills. This is why young children are able to walk, run, and jump long before they should be expected to read or cut with scissors. Our activities, Blankety Blanket Good Time and Copycat Challenge will get those large muscles moving and more. Fun Fitness - part of our 12-part series, Learning Anywhere, Every Day, has more simple tips to exercise this skill in your child’s development.

Left To Right Eye Tracking is the ability to move the eyes from left to right consistently. Learning to read involves this skill in most Indo-European languages, since reading proceeds from the left side of the page to the right side. Skilly-do activities Paint and Chalk Mirror Prints and Fence-iful Weaving are creative activities that flex this skill and help your child get ready for reading. You can learn more about how this skill helps your preschooler prepare for teacher's expectations in primary school in our series, Get Ready for Big School - Preschool Skills Checklist.

Science Learning is a child’s careful investigation to find answers to questions or problems about their world. Science for young children is not outcome oriented and much broader than what most people consider it to be. For example, science learning for a preschooler is when they question and find out why ice melts, a cork floats and a penny sinks. Our article, Support Your Child’s Tinkering - It’s Full STEAM Ahead! has more fun tips to build this creative skill that’s essential in formal schooling. Our Cyclone in a Glass activity, part of our Kitchen Science Collection, is perfect for exploring your child’s science skills.

Seasonal Awareness is the recognition of differences in your child’s natural world. When it gets colder, a child notices that they must dress differently, foods change, leaves fall. Noticing these seasonal changes is also a sign of their growing social development and science learning. In turn, your preschooler’s ability to see these differences fosters their curiosity. Our Wild and Weedy Prints and many of our Chatty-Do activities, such as How did the sky look today? are designed to encourage preschoolers’ seasonal awareness. Check our article, Outside Education - Nature Preschools to learn how being in the great outdoors can prepare your child for primary school all year long.

Small Motor Skills involve the growth of the small muscles in the fingers, hands, wrists and eyes. These develop after large muscles and large motor skills. The tiny muscles in your child’s eyes must be fully developed to support learning to read. So, they need lots of chances to practice using them! Our Shapely Paper Spirals and Two-faced Puppets activities provide fun, inventive to ways for your child to use these small yet significant muscles. Our 6-part series, A Child’s History of Scribbling, will help your understand the stages of this fine motor skill, as well as how to encourage and enjoy it. 

Social development is the growth of your child as an individual and as a member of a group. Learning social skills involves many things-- how to share materials, take turns, listen to others, and when to work on their own-- to mention just a few! These are all key skills your child will need throughout their life. Find out more about the social challenges and brain development of preschoolers in our article, Those Remarkable, Terrible Two’s. Want to support your preschooler’s social skills, like sharing? Check out our article, Learning Anywhere, Every Day - Self-Control. And you can grow your child's social awareness by making unique gifts for others with our One-of-a-kind T-shirt and Dough for Keeps activities. 

Visual Acuity is the ability to use the eye’s small muscles to see shapes, objects, likenesses, differences, and changes in the environment. This skill is used when your preschooler know the difference between animals, like a dog and cat. This skill is key when learning to read. It's essential for your child to see small differences between letters, like b and d, and numbers, like 6 and 9. Talking to them about things they see in their everyday world with our Chatty-do activities such as What was the biggest things you saw today? is an easy, fun way to practice visual acuity. Find out how educational apps can be helpful growing this skill too, check out Part 1 of our series, Technology and Young Children - Keep It Creative.

Want more simply fun preschool ideas?

Try our expert's Early Learning Articles!