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Childhood Development

Milestones ahead

The Pre-School Years 

Children between the ages of 4 and 6 are just beginning their school experience

During the transition from toddlers to childhood, there's lots of growth to look forward to, and lots of key milestones along the way. Make sure you have your camera ready, because they grow up fast.

By age 6, your child will most likely be able to:

  • Brush teeth by himself (supervision is still recommended)
  • Ride a tricycle
  • Button coat, zip pants, tie shoes and display other signs of increased motor skills
  • Show awareness of gender identity
  • Help to dress and undress himself
  • Recall part of a story and sing a song
  • Play with and want to please friends
  • Agree to rules
  • Show more independence and may even visit a next-door neighbor by himself
  • Increase vocabulary from 900 to about 2,500-3,000 words
  • Distinguish fantasy from reality
  • Count 10 or more objects
  • Correctly name at least four colors
  • Better understand the concept of time
  • Know about things used every day in the home (money, food, appliances)
  • Speak sentences of more than five words (using future tense)
  • Remember and say name and address
  • Hop, somersault, swing, climb, stand on one foot for 10 seconds or longer, possibly skip
  • Print some letters (encourage proper holding of pencil and downward strokes)
  • Use fork, spoon, and (sometimes) a table knife
  • May be losing baby teeth
  • Care for own toilet needs

Buttoned and Zipped 

Motor skills age 3 to 5

With heightened depth perception comes more developed motor skills. Expect your child to become more coordinated on his feet as he jumps, runs and hops. With practice, hand-eye coordination will improve to make buttoning a jacket and zipping pants possible.

To help develop motor skills, have your child:

  • Pick up nuts and small blocks with kitchen tongs
  • String beads
  • Roll out play clay and cut it with scissors to build fine muscles in hands
  • Copy or trace your grocery or to-do list with a pencil

Motor skills age 5 to 6

By age 5 or 6, your child will most likely have the needed motor skills and depth perception to tie their shoelaces.
Here are some suggestions to get them started:

  • Use a string to show how to tie a half-knot and let him carry a string to practice
  • Give him a big show to try (off his foot) and face it away from him on the correct side of his body
  • Use imagery to teach him to make the first loop (loop is a tree, thumb holding it in place is a rabbit) while the other hand wraps the remaining lace  (the fox) around the tree, push the rabbit farther into its hole
  • If the rabbit example is too difficult for him, teach him to make two loops (one from each end of the lace) and use his half-knot to tie them together – adding a second half-knot for security

Brushing Up 

By age 4 your child should be able to brush her teeth on her own, although supervision is still recommended.
It is also recommended that you:

  • Use fluoride-free toothpaste until your child is able to spit into the sink
  • Switch to a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste when your child is ready
  • Help your child floss at around age 4, or whenever his back molars are touching

Between the ages of 5 and 7, adult teeth begin to come in

The general rule is that the earlier your child's teeth come in, the sooner they fall out. If teething began early, the first tooth or two could be lost before kindergarten.
A few tips to keep in mind:

  • It's okay to wiggle a loose tooth with their tongue, but they should never pull at it (or tie a string around it)
  • Have your child bite down on gauze or a clean washcloth to stop any bleeding as soon as the tooth comes out and place the tooth in a plastic bag for safekeeping

Word Play

Increasing vocabulary age 3 to 5

Between ages 3 to 5 a preschooler can go from knowing 900 words to 2,500 to 3,000 words.
Here are some ways to help build your child's vocabulary:

  • Instead of baby talk, try more grown-up explanations
  • Try having conversations and give your child time to express himself
  • Make time to play imaginative games with your child to stimulate his mind

Most kids are ready to read by age 6

Reading with your child can speed their learning. By reading together, your child learns:

  • Specific words make specific sounds
  • Words are made of letters
  • The words on the page are related to the pictures
  • Facts about their favorite things

Like any skill, reading is something children learn at their own pace. Making reading fun and stress-free will help your child develop a love of books.

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