Developmental milestones: Ages 3 through 5
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By Joyce Destefanis, M.A. , Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.
"Young, heck! That's what Mom told me about school — I'm too young to go to kindergarten. I'm going to be five in two weeks! That's not too young," Jimmy had told his mother.
She replied that she wasn't talking about being just five years old. She said that he was a "young five."
"Whatever that is!" thought Jimmy.
Mom explained that there were things he still needed to learn before he went to school.
"What things?" asked Jimmy.
"Like sit and listen," said Mom.
"I can sit and listen when I want to. Why do you have to sit and listen to something you don't like anyway?" Jimmy wondered.
Mom had said it was OK to stay home and just go to preschool until kindergarten. She told him that not all five-year olds do everything at the same time. Maria can draw and write numbers and letters and cut with scissors, but Jimmy was just beginning to do those things.
He told her that he could run, jump, and stand on his head better than Maria could. Mom said that was great, but in school they want you to sit in a chair and write and cut and paste. That made him very, very sad, and he cried a little. Mom hugged him and told him that he was just fine and soon he'd be able to do all the things that Maria could do.
"Look at all the wonderful things you can do," she said. "You build great castles in the sand and amazing objects with Legos. You tell wonderful stories, and you listen very carefully when I read books to you. And you're a super joke teller." Mom always laughs and laughs at Jimmy's funny jokes.
She told him that next year would be a fun year, and he would grow and learn a lot. In preschool, she called it pre-kindergarten to make him feel better, he'd learn all those things that he'll need to know for kindergarten. She said she would help him with the alphabet and numbers and writing at home. She said he already knew his colors and shapes and that he uses grown-up words when he talks.
"Mom is always telling me all the things I can do. That makes me feel good. I know she really loves me!"
Remember that these milestones represent averages, not rigid developmental deadlines. Children move through these changes at varying rates, some sooner, others later. You're the best judge of your child's development and what is "normal" for him, but if you have any concerns, discuss them with your child's pediatrician. Just when you think you've figured out your child, something changes. Today he demands constant attention; six months from now he may be pushing you away. You may find strategies that once worked no longer have any impact on him. Don't worry, this is normal!