Normal Growth And Development Of Preschoolers

Who are preschoolers?

Preschoolers are children who are 2 to 5 years of age. This time period is a stage of continuing growth and development for your young child. He will go through many changes in his physical, mental, emotional and social development.

What physical changes occur during the preschool years?

  • Movement: Your child's body changes as he learns to do new things. His motor (movement) skills improve along with his balance and coordination.

    • Body control or movement: Your child will be able to stand on one foot even for a short period of time. He learns to walk up and down the stairs alternating each foot. He may also be able to skip and throw a ball. Your child learns to dress and feed himself, and use the toilet on his own.

    • Hand and finger control: Your child learns to focus and increases his hand skills. He can hold a book or pen more firmly. He also learns to turn paper pages. Later, he is able to turn paper pages one page at a time, and write his name.

  • Weight and height: Boys may weigh about 29 to 40 pounds during this time period. Their height may reach 35 to 42 inches. Girls may weigh 27 to 39 pounds. They may grow to about 34 and one-half to 42 inches during this time. On the average, preschoolers may gain an average of 4.5 to 6.5 pounds every year.

What mental changes occur during the preschool years?

  • Language: The number of words that your child knows increases as he grows older. His ability to communicate continues to improve and mature. He uses 4 or more words to make sentences using basic rules of grammar, such as talking in the past tense. When your child talks, most of his words are clear enough to understand.

  • Thoughts and ideas: During the preschool years, your child has a very active imagination. He starts to believe in magic, and may fear ghosts or monsters. He may also be afraid of the dark or being alone. When your child plays, he likes pretending to be another character. Your child also learns the idea of time and some basic colors. He understands what text is, and recognizes letters. He is able to retell familiar stories and follow complex directions. During this time, your child learns his gender (boy or girl).

What emotional and social changes occur during the preschool years?

The parents or family have the greatest influence on a preschooler's emotional development. During this time, your child starts to mingle with other people. He learns to play with other children and begins to understand social customs. He may want to do more things on his own, and this may lead to frustration and temper outbursts. Later, your child may be able to handle his emotions better. He learns to accept limits and gains freedom by doing simple tasks, such as dressing and feeding himself.

What factors may affect a preschooler's development?

  • Certain medical conditions: Problems that affect the brain may slow your child's development. These problems may include infections and head injuries.

  • Eating habits: Your child may become picky about what he eats and may prefer certain foods. Refusing to eat, or only eating fast food or junk food may decrease your child's growth and development.

  • Play: Playing helps a child develop his imagination. Your child will also learn how to get along with others.

  • Sleep: Your child needs sleep to grow and develop normally. The total time spent sleeping includes naps in the morning and afternoon, and sleep without waking up at night. Lack of sleep decreases your child's energy. Daytime behavior is worse if your child is a poor sleeper. If your child does not have enough naps during the day, it is important that he sleeps more at night.

How can I help my child during his preschool years?

  • Give your child a variety of healthy foods each day. These should include fruits, vegetables, bread products, dairy (milk) products, and protein (such as chicken, fish, and beans). Have your child sit with the family at mealtime even if he does not like to eat. This way, he will still see different foods and develop his taste at his own pace. Do not force your child to eat. Give him healthy snacks between meals. Avoid giving your child too much juice or milk which can decrease his appetite during meal times. Meals prepared at home may be more nutritious for your child.

  • Let your child play. Play helps his learning, boosts his self-confidence, and improves his skills. Store toys or objects that may cause choking, poisoning, or other accidents away from your child. Store toys when he is not using them. Computer and video games should only be used with an adult. These should be used for 1 to 2 hours a day or less. All games should be fit to your child's age.

  • Listen when your child speaks. Be patient and give your child time to finish his thought. When talking to your child, avoid using words that sound the same or alike but have different meanings. These words may confuse your child. Ask simple questions. When answering your child's questions, give him the simplest answer possible.

  • Make sure to keep regular appointments with your child's caregivers for check-ups and vaccinations (shots).

  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep (about 11 to 13 hours) everyday. Schedule his sleep with the same bed time and wake time each day. Bedtime routines are also helpful for your child. Keep the room cool and quiet.

  • Read with your child. This helps improve his language and reading skills. Ask your child questions like what he thinks will happen in the story to use his creativity and imagination.

  • Time out may be used as a way to discipline your child. This lets him quiet down and think about what he did. It also gives you time to calm down and stay in control. Set limits for your child. Praise and reward your child when it is suitable. Do not criticize or show disapproval when he has done something wrong. Explain what you would like him to do instead, and tell him why.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your child's growth and development. You can then discuss treatment options with his caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your child.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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