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You are your child's first - and best - teacher

Your child will learn new things every day, from everything around him. Your job at this age is to help make sure the things he learns are positive - and that he grows to be a confident, calm, well-adjusted child who's ready to succeed in kindergarten and school.

Milestones - 3 to 5 Years

By the time he's 4 years old, you can expect your child to:

  • Learn and sing simple songs
  • Use scissors to cut out pictures
  • Have a vocabulary of 1500 words
  • Form four-to-six-word sentences
  • Play cooperatively with others
  • Brush their teeth
  • Correctly name colors (red, blue, green, yellow, orange)
  • Go up/down stairs independently
  • Dress/undress independently

By the time he's 5 years old - and ready to succeed in kindergarten - you can expect your child to:

  • Sometimes be demanding, sometimes eagerly cooperative
  • Want to be like his friends
  • Agree to rules and want others to follow rules
  • Count 10 or more objects and name 4 colors
  • Recall part of a story
  • Speak sentences of more than 5 words
  • Stand on 1 foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hop and turn somersaults
  • Print some letters
  • Dress and undress without assistance
  • Use a fork, a spoon, and sometimes a blunt knife

Warning Signs

Every child develops at his own pace, so it's impossible to tell when your child will learn a particular skill. But here are some warning signs to watch for by the time he is 5 years old:

  • He is extremely timid or fearful.
  • He often fights with other children.
  • He is unable to separate from parents without major protest.
  • He has trouble eating, sleeping or using the toilet.
  • He cannot give his first or last name correctly.
  • He cannot build a "tower" of 6 to 8 blocks.
  • He seems uncomfortable holding a crayon.
  • He cannot brush his teeth, or wash and dry his hands.

If you notice any of these warning signs, be sure to talk about them with your pediatrician at your child's next checkup.

Tips for Success

Continue to hug your child often and read together every day.


Help your child understand stories and develop an ability to answer questions.

(What you will need: Books with lots of pictures)

Read a simple story with your child. As you finish reading a page, ask him some questions about what is happening in the story. Hold the book so he can see the pictures.

Ask questions like:

  • "Who is this in the picture?"
  • "What is she doing?"
  • "Where do you think they'll go next?"
  • "How does he feel?"

Children enjoy "reading" the same books over and over and will take a more active role in the reading process as they become familiar with the story.

Tips for Success

  • Have longer conversations with him. Use words that match his growing vocabulary.


Teach early word skills by encouraging rhyming, a first step in reading.

(What you will need: No special materials) Look around the room, point to an object and say its name. Then ask your child to say as many words as possible that rhyme with the word. Start with easy words, and allow him to make up words as long as they rhyme with the first word. Use one-syllable words like ball, bread, rug, dog, and cat. If your child has an easy-to-rhyme name, ask him to say words that rhyme with his name. Listen for songs that rhyme and sing them over and over. Rap songs are great for rhyming.

Tips for Success

  • Provide plenty of opportunity for your child to play with other children in safe, supervised settings.
  • Provide safe spaces where he can run, jump and exercise with adult supervision.


Use creative movement and language to teach your child concepts of space and direction.

(What you will need: No special materials)

Without demonstrating, ask your child to do different things with his body. Start with simple directions, and then make them more complicated.

Here are some examples:

  • Be as small as you can be.
  • Be as big as you can be.
  • Move your arms around as fast as you can.
  • Walk around the room as slowly as you can.
  • Close your eyes, turn around and point to me. Do it again and point to an object in the room.
  • Roll on the floor with your hands above your head.
  • Hop to the door forward, and then hop back to me backward.

Tips for Success

  • Set and enforce rules, and explain why there are rules.
  • Create games and provide different kinds of toys that spark creativity.


Teach your child to count and sort items in your everyday world.

(What you will need: Groceries, laundry items, table settings, etc.)

Make use of everyday tasks by asking your child to help sort, count, or classify items. Examples include:

  1. Ask him to help put away groceries by sorting them by like characteristics such as cans, bottles, vegetables, colors, frozen, etc.
  2. Have him help you with the laundry by sorting socks, pants, shirts, white items, towels, etc.
  3. Get help with the dishes by asking him to sort silverware after it's washed to be put in the drawer, or to help set the table by putting out the forks, then the spoons, etc.

Checkups and Immunizations

Take your child to a pediatrician for yearly checkups at ages 3, 4, and 5. Ask the doctor or nurse about any problems you're having with your child. Remember to bring her immunization record to each checkup. Make sure your child sees the dentist regularly.

Content provided courtesy of Success By 6™ of United Way of Greater Cincinnati