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"Starting at birth and continuing throughout childhood, children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, move, and socialize with others.  Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving "bye-bye" are called developmental milestones.  As you know, children develop and grow at their own pace, so it can be difficult to tell exactly when a child will learn a given skill. However, developmental milestones give a general idea of the changes to expect when a child gets older." (Article: "An Early Intervention Service and Early Childhood Special Education Provider's Guide to Support Developmental and Behavioral Screening Initiatives"

Meeting with your pediatrician will help to keep your child's development on track.  Dr. Bridget McArdle offers simple reassurance to parents who are worried that their young child might have developmental delays: "We can talk." McArdle, a pediatrician at Henry Ford Medical Center - Sterling Heights, said she wants parents to know that it's OK to raise concerns about a child's physical or mental development.  Sometimes, parents want to avoid the embarrassment of raising what turns out to be an unfounded concern with a doctor.  But McArdle promises that pediatricians aren't judgemental of parents looking out for their child's well-being. 

Discussing your concerns with your pediatrician will be helpful.  Early intervention is key.  Such intervention is often enough to resolve issues before a child enters kindergarten, McArdle said. Almost all children benefit from receiving treatment as early as possible, when their young minds are most malleable, she said. 

If you are concerned that your child may have a suspected disability or needs additional support, click on the "Get Connected" page to find out what you can do.  Services are available through your public school district even though your child is not yet in kindergarten.  

Important Milestones at 3 Years

  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Dresses and undresses self
  • Understands words like "in," "on," and "under"
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Walks up and downstairs, one foot at a time

Important Milestones at 4 Years

  • Plays "Mom" and "Dad"
  • Would rather play with other children than by him/herself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or the "Wheels on the Bus"
  • Names some colors and some numbers
  • Uses scissors
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Hops and stands on one foot for up to 2 seconds
  • Catches a ball most of the time

Important Milestones at 5 Years

  • Wants to please friends
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Speaks clearly
  • Says name and address
  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can print some numbers and letters
  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hops:  may be able to skip
  • Swings and climbs
  • Can use the toilet on his/her own

How to Support Your Child's Development

Research states that what children learn in their first five years makes a significant impact on their entire life. Parents, grandparents, childcare providers and educators all contribute to a child's development by providing a positive environment in which they can learn. 

There are six areas of early development to encourage: 

  • Gross motor skills - crawling, walking, running, jumping, etc...
  • Fine motor skills - hand-eye coordination by finger painting or squeezing water out of a sponge
  • Language - learning the alphabet, speaking, writing
  • Cognitive - learning, thinking, problem-solving
  • Social & Emotional - Learning to form relationships with others, express and manage emotions
  • Self-Help & Adaptive - learning skills for independence in daily activities such as eating, dressing, and washing

Reading, singing, playing, laughing are all ways to encourage your child's development. The Born Learning campaign states that "play is not simply a way for children to pass time.  Instead, it is an important way for children to learn about their world while developing emotionally, socially, and intellectually.  There's no right or wrong way to play." More resources found at: 

Additional Resources

Understanding the Basics of Learning, Language Development and Social Emotional Development in Preschoolers

As a parent and your child's first teacher, there is no one better able to observe your child's development.  The information provided will help you better understand what your child should be doing and learning - and how you can support his/her early childhood development. 

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer information and resources about the development of your preschooler and much more.

Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers

The CDC provides parents with expert advice and tips on how to practice positive parenting skills. 

Preschool Growth and Development via

Powered by pediatricians.  Trusted by parents.  The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information and resources for your preschooler. 

Sprouts Child Development Initiative - Nurture. Develop. Grow

Developmental resources and information to engage young children in experiences that help them grow. 

Everyday Ways to Love, Talk, and Play

Fun activities for parents and their toddlers. 

Offers preschool worksheets and printables, activities, games and more. 

Preschooler Practice Guides for Parents

Learn ideas about how you can engage your child's learning through everyday play activities at home and in the community.