4 - 5 years

Developmental Milestones for Preschoolers (4–5 Years)

Learn about the physical, social, and cognitive developmental milestones for 4 to 5-year-olds, as well as potential warning signs to watch for.

Jessica Guht

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The preschool ages show a big difference in regard to independence when compared to the toddler years. The child who was starting to handle separation from their parents now has no problem with it, and will often ask to hang out with their friends. 

Your preschooler’s vocabulary will also expand. They will speak in four-word sentences and begin remembering and repeating their favorite nursery rhymes and stories. Preschoolers still hold on to the curiosity of their toddler years, though, with “why” remaining a favorite question, although their questions may become more detailed. 

As your 4-5-year-old grows and develops, use the following milestones as a guide for what to look forward to. 

4-Year-Old Preschool Milestones

Your four-year-old’s vocabulary is growing by the day! They’re now saying sentences with four or more words and can even repeat some songs and nursery rhymes — be prepared to say their favorite ones with them over and over again. 

Your 4-year-old’s motor skills are also improving. They can catch large balls most of the time, move backward, pedal a tricycle, and throw a ball overhand. Their fine motor skills are getting better as well, with 4-year-olds learning to hold a crayon correctly (between their fingers and thumb) while they copy simple shapes. They can also unbutton some buttons, which allows them to be more independent when getting dressed and undressed. 

4-year-olds love to play, with one of their favorites being pretend play, such as pretending to be a doctor. If you’re their patient, they’ll have you feeling better in no time! They can also play cooperatively with other children and even ask to play with their friends. In fact, they’re now at a point where they prefer playing with other children to playing alone. 

You can do many things to help your child hit these 4-year-old milestones, such as engaging them in conversations whenever you can and supporting their interests. Your child will have many questions, and answering them can help them learn and grow. Your child will also love to be a “helper,” so go ahead and give them some basic chores, such as clearing the table after a meal. They’ll love to help, and it will also start to teach them responsibility. 

Here are the development milestones for 4-year-olds:

Speech and Language

  • Says sentences with four or more words
  • Can recount at least one thing they did during the day
  • Answers simple questions
  • Says first and last name
  • Says some words from a story, song, or nursery rhyme
  • Tells stories
  • Counts to 10


  • Can catch a large ball most of the time
  • Holds crayon between their fingers and thumb
  • Copies simple shapes
  • Moves forward and backward


  • Comforts others who are hurt or sad
  • Names a few colors of items
  • Understands the concept of “same” and “different”


  • Serves themselves food or pours water
  • Mashes own food


  • Hops and stands on one foot for a few seconds
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Goes upstairs and downstairs without support
  • Pedals tricycle

Independence and Self-Help

  • Avoids danger, such as not touching something hot
  • Unbuttons some buttons
  • Expresses likes and dislikes
  • Approaches problems from a single point of view
  • Dresses and undresses self
  • Enters the bathroom and urinates by themselves
  • Views self as a whole person involving mind, body, and feelings
  • Understands the concept of counting and may know numbers

Play and Behavior

  • Pretends to be something else during play, such as a dog, doctor, or chef
  • Asks to play with children if none are around (e.g., “Can I play with Stella?”)
  • Likes to be a “helper”
  • Changes behavior based on where they are
  • Can say what comes next in a well-known story
  • Draws a person with three or more body parts
  • Plays cooperatively with other children
  • Negotiates solutions to conflicts
  • Prefers to play with other children than play alone
  • Plays board games or card games

4-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

Since each child develops at their own rate, it can be challenging to know when they will perfect a specific skill. As such, the milestones listed above are only a guide for what to expect by the time your child turns four. However, if you notice any of the following in your child, contact your pediatrician.

  • Cannot jump in place
  • Cannot throw a ball overhand
  • Struggles to scribble
  • Cannot hold a crayon between their thumb and fingers
  • Ignores other children
  • Still clings to a parent or cries when they leave
  • Cannot stack four blocks
  • Cannot ride a tricycle
  • Doesn’t engage in make-believe play
  • Lashes out without self-control when upset or angry
  • Resists sleeping, dressing, or using the toilet
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Cannot copy a circle
  • Doesn’t make sentences of more than three words

5-Year-Old Preschool Milestones

Your child’s personality is starting to shine at five years old, and they’re letting others see it, too, as their social development grows. Your five-year-old enjoys playing with other kids, and they’re at a point where they may start imitating their friends just to be more like them. They’ve also gotten good at taking turns when playing, and imaginative play is still a favorite.

Your preschooler has also gotten better at forming sentences. They can recount a story they heard (or even one they’ve made up) and talk about what they did during the day. They can also say their name and address when asked and name numbers, colors, and letters.

Five years is a time when your child can start handling more responsibility, such as dressing themselves, brushing their teeth, and taking on a few chores around the house, so don’t be afraid of letting their independence grow. 

Here are the developmental milestones for a 5-year-old. 

Speech and Language

  • Tells a story they heard or made up with at least two events
  • Uses words about time (e.g., “morning,” “night,” “yesterday,” “tomorrow”)
  • Answers simple questions about a story or book after it was read or told to them
  • Uses or recognizes simple rhymes (e.g., ball/wall)
  • Keeps a conversation going with more than three back-and-forth exchanges
  • Names numbers between 1 and 10 when they are pointed to
  • Names letters when they are pointed to
  • Uses four-word sentences
  • Words are 100% understandable by strangers
  • Uses future tense


  • Writes some letters in their name
  • Hops on one foot
  • Jumps
  • Somersaults
  • Swings
  • Climbs
  • Copies triangles and other geometric patterns


  • Correctly names at least four colors


  • Uses a fork and spoon


  • Buttons and unbuttons some medium-sized buttons
  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Climbs stairs alternating feet without support

Independence and Self-Help

  • Does simple chores at home, like matching socks or clearing the table after eating
  • Dresses and undresses without assistance
  • Usually cares for their own toilet needs
  • Says their name and address
  • Knows about things used every day in the home (e.g., appliances, food, money)
  • Brushes teeth
  • Understands the concept of 10

Play and Behavior

  • Follows rules
  • Takes turns when playing games with other children
  • Sings, dances, and acts for you
  • Pays attention for 5 to 10 minutes during activities (screen time does not count)
  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like their friends
  • Engages in well-developed imaginative play

5-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

Since all children develop at different rates, your five-year-old may not hit all the developmental milestones listed above. However, let your pediatrician know if you spot any of the following in your child:

  • Shows extremely aggressive behavior
  • Shows extremely timid or fearful behavior
  • Won’t separate from parents without a major protest
  • Shows little interest in playing with other children
  • Is easily distracted and cannot concentrate on a single activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Avoids or seems aloof with other children and adults
  • Refuses to respond to people or responds only superficially
  • Doesn’t express a wide range of emotions
  • Doesn’t engage in a variety of activities
  • Cannot correctly give their first and last name
  • Does not understand two-part commands using prepositions (e.g., get the ball from under the table)
  • Can’t differentiate between fantasy and reality
  • Struggles with eating, sleeping, or using the toilet
  • Cannot build a tower of 6-8 blocks
  • Doesn’t use past tense or plurals properly when speaking
  • Seems uncomfortable holding a crayon
  • Doesn’t talk about their daily activities and experiences
  • Cannot wash and dry their hands
  • Struggles with taking off their clothes

Find The Best Care for Your 4-5-Year-Old Preschooler

Your 4-5-year-old is learning like crazy, whether that’s new words and how to make longer sentences, how to throw and catch a ball, or how to play with other children. As these developments progress, though, you may notice that there is an area where your child could use a little help, and they deserve the best care.

At Coral Care, we will help connect you with the pediatric care you want for your preschooler, whether that is a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech language pathologist. Let us help you find the best care for your 4-5-year-old preschooler today.

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