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Ages 3-5: Running, jumping, balancing and speaking clearly

Child playing with trains

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. Should all kids develop at the same rate?
2. What percentage of kids are at risk for delays?
3. Who can help?

By 4 years old, most children can hop on one foot, ride a tricycle, define words, describe pictures and sing familiar songs.

If your child isn’t, perhaps it’s something to consider. The earlier developmental delays are identified and addressed, the better the outcome for the child will be.

As parents, we often hear the term developmental milestones and know it’s important our children hit these markers at key moments of growth. But what exactly do child development specialists mean by that phrase?


“First, it’s important to remember that every child is an individual,” says Randee Gabriel, programs manager at 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. “There are no two children that will hit every milestone at the exact same time. Still, there are crucial cues to look for at each age.”

Gabriel explains children up to age 5 should reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act and move (see chart below).

“This is because a young child’s brain develops incredibly quickly,” says Gabriel, adding a newborn’s brain is about a fourth the size of an adult brain. By age 3, the brain grows to 80 percent of adult size on its way to 90 percent by age 5.

Developmental milestones at a glance


Gross motor

Fine motor

Cognitive, linguistic and communication





3 years




Balances on each foot; jumps on one





Wiggles thumb; copies lines and circles; stacks towers of six to eight cubes; strings large beads




Speaks more clearly; names colors and pictures; names seven body parts




Names friends; brushes teeth with help; uses words to describe emotions (happy, sad)

4 years

Hops on one foot; rides a tricycle

Draws a person with three parts; stacks towers of 10+ cubes; copies shapes

Speaks more clearly; defines words; describes pictures; uses past tense and plurals

Follows three unrelated directions; talks about activities; sings familiar songs; plays with others

5 years

Balances on each foot for 10 seconds or longer; somersaults (tuck and roll); swings

Copies patterns; prints some letters; cuts with safety scissors

Recalls parts of a story; speaks in sentences of more than five words; names opposites

Wants to please friends; more agreeable to rules; likes to sing, dance, act


One in four U.S. children up to age 5 are at moderate or high risk of developmental, behavioral or social delay, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, many children experience delays in language or other areas that can affect school readiness.

“Every age group brings within itself new changes and skills required,” Gabriel says. “While a child may have no concerns at 6 months, this does not guarantee there will be no concerns at 25 months or 48 months or beyond. Rescreening at each interval is imperative to identify these shifts and ensure healthy development over the long term.”


Detection and intervention are critical for optimal outcomes for children. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, call 2-1-1 or chat online and ask for the Help Me Grow program. Help Me Grow services are free, including screenings, information and resource connection.

You can also call HomeSafe for a free screening at 561-383-9800.


• Randee Gabriel, programs manager, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

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Related resources

    • Behavior
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    211 Palm Beach Treasure Coast

    Help Me Grow – information, guidance and developmental assessment of children up to age 8

    2-1-1 Website
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    School District of Palm Beach County

    Child Find — screening, evaluation, services and placement of children with special learning needs

    561-434-7337 Website
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    Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County

    Local child-care information, resource and referral, including help paying for care for eligible families

    561-514-3300 Website
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    School District of Palm Beach County

    Early Childhood Education — information on Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, Head Start and Early Head Start, which are designed to promote school readiness

    561-969-5884 Website