Skills & Milestones for Preschoolers

In one of my most recent posts, I talked about how we have made the decision to keep our son home from preschool in his upcoming preschool year. It has actually been one of the easier decisions we have had to make in the last few months, but a hard one overall. Though, part of me thinks it won’t be a decision at all (and rather a must) as the U.S. is bound to go in and out of social distancing and lockdowns over the next year or so as COVID-19 continues to sweep back-and-forth across the country. 🙁

During the last few weeks of accepting my new position as head preschool teacher in our home, I have been doing a lot of research on how to make it a success. My conclusion is that my son will generally be fine, if not great. Preschool is really important, but also, not the most formative schooling year overall. We will do our best, like everyone is doing.

Us on the other hand? It will be harder on the adults, knowing both what he is missing out on and also, realizing how hard it is to have three kids under four years old full-time in the house with limited outlets for play and socializing both for/with them and without them (for us!).

Through my research, I’ve curated a list from experts and put it together below. We already hit a bunch of these with W, and will have to work on some others. Here, I summarize some good books, games, puzzles and supplies to make preschool learning in the house more fluid day in and day out. I will make sure to post more on learning focused videos, songs and other bloggers who have easy craft ideas!

Some of these milestones below are aimed towards the younger PS crowd, while other milestones should be hit on the older side of their preschool years! Go through it and easily figure out the things you’ll need to work on more or less this year with your child!

Cognitive, Social, Emotional Skills and Milestones

  • Can name eight colors in a crayon box (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, brown, black)
  • Can recite numbers to 10 (or 20 if they are closer to 4!) 
  • Will start counting groups of things
  • Start understanding time in terms of “morning”, “night”, and “days of the week”, “now,” “soon,” and “later” (though they still won’t understand duration of time)
  • Recall and retell favorite/funny stories (though it won’t be exact!)
  • Understand and discuss things that are the “same” and “different” (a good time to start discussing how differences can be beautiful and make the world go-round!)
  • Understands words that relate one idea to another — if, why, when
  • Follow simple 3-step instructions like “Brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, get in bed”
  • Start to use the basic rules of grammar, though they will continue to make mistakes with words that don’t follow the rules (that’s a tough one!)
  • Speak well enough that most people outside their family understand what they’re saying. 
  • Use rough a ~1,500-word vocabulary and speak in relatively complex sentences (“Mommy opened the door and the dog ran out.”)
  • Use five or six words in a sentence and have a two- to three-sentence conversation with other people
  • Take turns while playing (even if they don’t like to!)
  • Mimic play “real life” with toys like play kitchens, dress-up, doctor’s kits, etc. 
  • Start finding simple methods to solve disagreements
  • Show a variety of emotions beyond happy, sad, and mad – though they won’t always be able to pin point them still. 
  • Start sorting things by attributes like size, shape, color and other likeness 
  • Compare and contrast by things like height, size, or gender (i.e. they are noting differences!)
  • Begin to understand the difference between real and make-believe, but may still confuse them at times (lies, truth, make-believe, fantasy, hopes, memories can all still blend quite a bit)
  • Understand that pictures and symbols stand for real things
  • Recognize shapes in the real world 
  • Explore relationships between ideas, and start using words like “if” and “when” in order to share those ideas
  • Begin understanding process in logical steps, seeing the “how-tos” and consequences of things. Cause and effect and how to get from A to B. 
  • Understand abstract ideas like “bigger,” “less,” “later,” “ago,” and “soon”, number and space concepts — more, less, bigger, in, under, behind
  • Can put things in order, like from biggest to smallest, shortest to tallest, heaviest to lightest
  • Can focus on (some) activities for 10 to 15 minutes at least
  • Play with language – sing (silly) songs, make-up words (sometimes funny ones!), and start rhyming
  • Follow simple, unrelated directions (“drink your water and then get your coat.”)
  • Form the ability to contribute to the household by being a helper and following simple directions (put napkins on the table, bring their dish to the sink, put shoes near the door, etc.)
  • Change speech patterns depending on who is involved in a conversation, like speaking in short sentences to a younger sibling
  • Pronounce most sounds correctly (but may still have trouble with s, w, and r)
  • Ask for the definition of unknown words (“what does ‘blank’ mean?”)
  • Make-up stories and talk about what they’re thinking, seeing, hoping for… 
  • Argue, even though the argument might not be rational or logical
  • Cooperate (sometimes better than others!) and want to be helpful (“I want to help!” “I can be a helper!”)
  • Start tattling and acting a mini-leader (or ‘bossy’ but that word isn’t great!)
  • Getting pleasure out of telling silly jokes and find other things funny – may want to share that joy with others
  • Begin telling small lies to get out of trouble. On the later side, do so even though they know it’s wrong/ understands the concept of lying
  • Do or say things they shouldn’t to see what the reaction will be (exploring boundaries, cause and effect…)
  • Have imaginary friends and play the same imaginary games over and over, enjoys pretending and has a vivid imagination
  • Still have tantrums because of changes in routine / not getting what they want, etc. 
  • Matches pictures to objects
  • Learns best by doing and through the senses, engagement
  • Begins to recognize their own limits and asks for help
  • Able to make choices between two things in a selective way 
  • Starts to recognize patterns among objects — round things, soft things, animals, colors, etc. 
  • Begins to notice other people’s moods and feelings, react or acknowledge them 

Fine & Gross Motor Skills

  • Draw a circle with a crayon, pencil, or marker
  • Play with toys that have small moving parts and/or buttons
  • Can turn the pages of a book one at a time
  • Build/create towers of 10 or more blocks
  • Can work door handles and open twist-on bottle tops
  • Can run/walk without tripping over own feet
  • Jump, hop, and stand on one foot (can jump over objects!)
  • Walk backwards and climb stairs one foot after the other
  • Kick and throw a small ball
  • Catch a big ball (some/most of the time)
  • Climb
  • Start pedaling and steering a tricycle or bike
  • Alternate feet on the stairs
  • Jumps with two feet at once
  • Control big muscle movements more easily—they may be able to start, stop, turn, and go around obstacles while running
  • Log roll, do somersaults, skip, and trot
  • Throws and bounces a ball
  • Gets dressed with minimal help (zippers, snaps, and buttons may still be a little hard)
  • Draw or copy basic shapes and crosses 
  • Write some letters or make separated, distinct marks that look like letters
  • Draw wavy lines across the page that look like lines of text to make “lists” or write greeting cards
  • Puts together simple puzzles
  • Begins to use scissors purposefully
  • Strings beads
  • Pinchs and shapes clay or play-dough into objects (with purpose at least)
  • Runs around obstacles
  • Catches large balls and can throw overhead
  • Uses table utensils well