By Raising Children Network
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Your preschooler is a dynamo, keen to put all physical abilities to the test.

Toddler playing with a ball

What to expect

Your preschooler will probably:

  • start to dress independently (and more often undress) between the ages of three and four, and be fully capable of the skill by five
  • ride a tricycle by four and start trying to ride a bike – with training wheels and a helmet – from age four
  • be able to jump over small objects from four
  • be able to use scissors quite well by the age of four
  • be able to walk up and down stairs confidently from the age of four
  • swing indepedently on the swing from the age of four
  • be able to stand on one foot for a short time, by the age of four
  • be able to hop, by the age of five
  • enjoy being active – climbing, sliding, swinging and dancing
  • learn to tie shoe laces, around the age of five
  • learn to skip, around the age of five
  • learn to catch a medium-sized ball from the age of five
  • throw, use a bat, kick and bounce a ball by five
  • be keen to join in organised athletic games with other children.

Your child wants to try out new coordination and movement skills. One of the best things you can do to encourage this is to just make the time to have fun together. Let your child lead the play.

You can also offer lots of opportunities for physical play by taking your child to a playground, or simply playing ball games in the backyard.

Suddenly your child can jump, skip, hop, climb and swing (sometimes with more enthusiasm than skill). Small bumps and falls will be common as physical skills are pushed to the limit.

Play ideas to encourage movement

Some ways to enhance movement skills through play include:

  • providing sports equipment, such as balls, bats, small beanbags, and tunnels to crawl through
  • from about four, getting or borrowing a bike with training wheels
  • playing outdoor games together – at a park or a playground, in the backyard, on a beach, at a football ground
  • listening to songs that encourage dancing – this is a great way to practise coordination
  • learning the actions to songs together.

If your child doesn’t seem interested in interacting with other children or is largely inactive, it’s a good idea to consult your health professional to discuss your child’s development.

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  • Last Updated 17-03-2010
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009
  • Gunner et al. (2005). Health promotion strategies to encourage physical activity in infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19, 253-258.

    Pelligrini, A.D., & Smith, P.K. (1998). Physical activity play: The nature and function of a neglected aspect of play. Child Development, 69(3), 577-598.