By Raising Children Network
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Your preschooler’s world is expanding and so is his development – fast. His list of achievements now includes making friends, understanding feelings and climbing trees.

Young girl looking at her reflection in a mirror
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All children develop at different rates. However, at this age, some skills are especially important for your child’s growth and self-esteem. For example, being able to speak clearly means he can be understood by friends and preschool staff.

If you are worried about your child’s development, speak to your doctor or arrange an assessment with your local baby health centre.

What your 3-4 year-old is doing

  • Starting to socialise. He likes having familiar adults nearby for security but has real friendships with other children. He understands the cause of feelings (‘Sammy is sad because he can't find his blanket’). Three-year-olds are starting to manage their emotions but may still fall apart under stress. Read more about his social and emotional development
  • Good with his hands. He is becoming more coordinated at running, climbing, and other large-muscle play. He may be able to ride a tricycle and catch a large ball using two hands and his body. He can use play tools, hold crayons with his fingers (not fists) and undress without much help. Read more about his physical development
  • Speaking well. His language is really taking off and he understands about 1000 words. His pronunciation has really improved and he communicates in simple sentences. He likes to talk about his own interests. Read more about his language development

What your 4-5 year-old is doing

  • Needs structure. Four- to five-year-olds are sometimes able to manage their intense emotions, maybe by talking it out or drawing a picture. When his behaviour is over the top, he needs you to set limits without making him feel bad. He needs structure and a routine to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Asking questions. He is learning about differences between people and may ask lots of questions, some difficult and embarrassing. He sometimes likes to take his time making up his mind.
  • Getting physical. He is developing confidence in his physical feats but can easily misjudge his ability. He may be able to cut along the line with scissors (if given enough practice) and can draw people with at least four ‘parts’. He shows a preference for being right-handed or left-handed. Read more about his physical development 
  • Making conversation. He now understands 2500 to 3000 words, and will pick up another 2000 during the year. He has good pronunciation and makes conversation about lots of different topics. He loves silly jokes and ‘rude’ words. Read more about his language development
  • Sexual curiosity. Your preschooler is very curious about his body – and everyone else’s. He may be role-playing at being a grown-up, playing doctor or getting married. This combination of natural curiosity and role-playing sometimes leads to childhood sex play which may include touching himself. This type of play stems from natural curiosity and is harmless.

Video: Social development

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Children are social animals, say the parents in this video.

They also share stories about the socialisation and social development of their children. They say that regular contact with other children and grown-ups is important.

Through socialisation, children can develop confidence and important social skills such as teamwork and sharing.

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  • Newsletter snippet: Preschooler development: in a nutshell


    By Raising Children Network

    Your preschooler’s development is progressing rapidly. Some skills, such as being able to speak clearly, are especially important for your child’s growth and self-esteem.

    All children develop at different rates, but if you are worried about your child’s development, speak to your doctor or baby health centre.

    At 3-4 years, preschoolers:

    • start to socialise, understand other people’s feelings and manage their own emotions
    • are good with their hands and better coordinated
    • speak well, understand around 1000 words, and use simple sentences and better pronunciation.

    At 4-5 years, preschoolers:

    • look for structure and routine in their lives
    • ask lots of questions about people and the world
    • get physical and show a preference for being right-handed or left-handed
    • make conversation, understand 2500 to 3000 words and love silly jokes and words
    • are curious about bodies and sexuality.

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network's comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website

  • Last Updated 15-10-2010
  • Last Reviewed 19-03-2012