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Ages 3-5: Running, jumping, balancing and speaking clearly — your child is getting ready for school!

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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 are able 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?

1. SHOULD ALL KIDS DEVELOP AT THE SAME RATE?

“First, it’s important to remember that every child is an individual,” says Randee Gabriel, Children and Family Services 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

Age

Gross motor

Fine motor

Cognitive, linguistic and communication

Social-emotional

 

 

 

3 years

 

 

 

Balances on each foot; jumps on one

foot

 

 

 

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


2. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF KIDS ARE AT RISK FOR DELAYS?

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.”

3. WHO CAN HELP?

Detection and intervention are critical for optimal outcomes for children. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, call the 211 Help Me Grow Program. Help Me Grow services are free, including screenings, information and resource connection. 

SOURCES:

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


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