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Developmental Milestones

Your child is coming into their own! Growing and developing rapidly from the baby you once held in your arms to an imaginative, expressive and active young child.

Kids walking through water

Developmental milestones for kids aged 3-5

During this age your child will continue to grow and develop in many ways.

Not only will be they growing physically but they’ll be developing their emotional intelligence, communication, social and thinking skills.

What is considered ‘normal’ development can vary greatly and it’s important to remember that all kids are different and some will do things faster or slower than others.

Your child will likely achieve the following developmental milestones before they turn five years old.

Movement & doing

Your child will continue to be on the move, be more active and enjoy doing physical things.

They will be able to:

  • Climb, jump, hop and balance
  • Sort, match and collect things
  • Eat well with a spoon and fork
  • Toilet and dress without help   
  • Draw pictures and cut with supervision
  • Throw, kick and catch a ball

Learning, thinking, problem solving

You child will be thinking, questioning and remembering more! They will:

Know how to count and write some letters

Be more independent and not want help

Be able to work toys with buttons and moving parts

Be able to screw and unscrew jar lids or turn door handles

Do a puzzle with three or four pieces

Be more curious about their bodies

Understand the idea of same and different

Not have a need for everything ‘right now’

Build big towers and turns book pages one at a time

Be more confident in their own skills and abilities

Explore and learn about their world through play

Engage in complex make-believe play with dolls and people

Language & communication

Your child’s language will develop a lot and they will learn how to express themselves and their ideas. They will:

  • Know more words and use longer combinations
  • Express ideas and be more imaginative
  • Follows instructions with two or three steps
  • Say their first name, age and sex
  • Enjoy stories, jokes and rhymes
  • Ask lots of questions about the world such as ‘why?’ and ‘how?’
  • Talk about what happened yesterday and about tomorrow

Relationships & feelings

Your child will become more social and emotionally independent. They will be able to:

  • Show a wide range of emotions
  • Understand and manage feelings
  • Understand the feelings of others
  • Show concern for an upset friend
  • Get along with others and taking turns
  • Imitate parents and friends
  • Play in cooperative and creative ways
  • Confidently spend more time away from you
  • Understand the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Show affection for family and friends

You can help your child to learn, grow and develop

Your child will be looking for your help and guidance to navigate this new and exciting stage in their development. Here’s how you can help:

Ask your child to help you with simple tasks like cooking or housework

Play games using letters, numbers and shapes

Ask them questions about what they are doing

Help your child identify and express their emotions

Give them choices about what they can play with or do 

Read with your child, talk about what the words mean

Attend play groups to encourage getting along with others

Encourage your child to try lots of different activities

Play outside and encourage movement

Play games where your child learns to share and take turns

Help them use their imagination by telling stories and singing songs

Encourage creative and artistic play – drawing, craft, music

Enrol in a preschool program through child care or community centre

When you have concerns about your child development

It’s okay to ask for help from your Child Health Nurse or GP anytime you want to discuss concerns about your child’s development. You can also talk to 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), visit the Raising Children Network or the Early Years Count.  

You might notice your child has a different rhythm in some areas to other kids their age, such as:

  • Movement and motor skills – Clumsy, difficulty with using small objects and doing simple drawings
  • Behaviours – Clingy, throws tantrums often, difficulty dressing or toileting
  • Play – Difficulty understanding instructions, doesn’t engage with other kids or use pretend play
  • Seeing, hearing and communication – Trouble seeing, hearing, looking you in the eye or responding with words

If you're ever unsure about anything, help is always available

It may feel overwhelming as there’s lots of information out there.

This content was last reviewed 17/05/2018

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