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If you have questions or concerns about your child's growth or development, use this guide to talk with your child's caregiver, pediatrician, or a teacher at your child's school.

Preschoolers are active and more confident in how their bodies move. Here is what you can expect at this stage:

Children this age like to use their fingers to build with blocks, use crayons, and do puzzles.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Alternates between a whole hand grasp and a thumb and fingertips grasp when using crayons or markers
  • 3–3.5 Years: Tries to zip up his jacket and asks for help when the zipper gets stuck
  • 3.5–4 Years: Fits together manipulatives such as large legos or pop beads and/or can dress a doll

You will see great growth in your child's language, imagination, and ability to play with other children.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Describes actions in a book when you ask, "What is happening?" or "What's the dog doing?"
  • 3–3.5 Years: Chooses an activity or place to play because a special friend is there
  • 3–4 Years: Speaks clearly enough that adults and children can usually understand what he is saying
  • 3.5–4 Years: Answers fairly complex questions, such as, "What is this?" or, "How did you do that?"

They are curious about the world and want to understand how everything works. They often ask questions and share their own stories and experiences.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Shows curiosity about almost everything he sees
  • 3–4 Years: Asks questions in order to keep a conversation going

This stage often marks the development of imaginary play and roleplaying, when children create rich and involved fantasies.

  • 3–3.5 Years: Pretends to be a parent by taking care of a doll
  • 3–3.5 Years: Uses a toy as a pretend telephone
  • 3.5–4 Years: Joins in games of dramatic play with other children. For example, playing house and giving roles such as, "You be the mommy and I'll be the daddy"

3-4years-02Busy preschoolers have a growing interest in playing together with other children. All the time you spent encouraging your toddler to take turns now pays off!

  • 3–3.5 Years: Looks through a story book and giggles with a friend as they "retell" the story together
  • 3.5–4.5 Years: Trades a red marker on the table for the green marker that another child is using Preschoolers learn concepts of reading, math, writing, and science as part of their play and everyday routines!
  • 3–4 Years: Responds accurately when asked to put her shoes in the closet, or to cover her baby brother with a blanket
  • 3–4 Years: Scribbles on paper and then tells you what he "wrote"
  • 3–4 Years: Holds books right side up and turns the pages starting at the front of the book
  • 3.5–4 Years: Recognizes some letters, particularly those in her name


  • Look at your child's baby pictures together: Talk about how your child has grown and changed! Let your child tell you about all the things she can do now that she could not do as a baby. Remember that even "big kids" need to cuddle.
  • Have an indoor "family picnic:" Plan an easy-to-make menu and select a theme. For a "Winter Wonderland," you can use sheets for snow and pillows for a snowman.
  • Play pretend and dress-up: Your child can learn about the world around him by pretending to cook dinner, go to work or school, or visit the doctor. Fill a bin with old hats, scarves, shoes, bags, and props for your child to use while playing pretend.
  • Read books about your child's interests.

IMG 1290v4Parenting Tips

  • Let your child see you writing and reading: You are the best role model for your child—if he thinks you enjoy reading, he will, too!
  • Give your child crayons and paper to "work" alongside you. Ask her what she drew or wrote and write down what she says.
  • Do chores together: Develop cooperation and responsibility early by letting your child help out.
  • Be amazed: Let your child know how impressed you are with his accomplishments and abilities. Be specific. Say, "It's great how you filled the whole page with color," rather than, "Great job!"
  • Help her manage feelings: If your child is angry, help her find safe ways to show that she's upset. Encourage her to use words or to find a quiet place to calm down, rather than yelling or hitting. She may need your help to find the words for her feelings.

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