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Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years - What to Expect

General development between ages 2 and 5 years

Children grow in natural, predictable steps, moving from one milestone to the next. You will see gains in five major areas.

  • Emotional and social developmentEmotional and social development begins at age 2 with excitement about being around other children. But most children at this age play near each other rather than with each other (parallel play). By age 5, most children seek and enjoy friendships.
  • Physical development slows down from the rapid growth during infancy. From age 2 through age 5, most children gain about 3 lb (1.5 kg) to 5 lb (2.5 kg) a year and grow about 3 in. (8 cm) a year.
  • Cognitive development, or thinking and reasoning skills, progresses from a simple to a more complex understanding of time, letters, counting, and colors. Children are able to follow increasingly more detailed commands.
  • Language develops rapidly between ages 2 and 5. By age 3, children can speak at least 200 words and can follow two-part directions, such as "Wash your face and put your shoes away." Most 5-year-olds can carry on a conversation.
  • Sensory and motor skills become more refined, from being able to walk up stairs, kick a ball, and draw simple strokes to being able to do basic tumbling and draw rough figures of people and other recognizable objects.

Milestones by age

By 3 years of ageBy 3 years of age, most children:

  • Look leaner and longer compared to the early toddler years. Most children have gained about 4.4 lb (2 kg) and grown about 3 in. (8 cm) since their second birthday.
  • Play pretend, understand 3-step instructions, enjoy simple puzzles, and know their name, age, and gender.
  • Enjoy playmates, although "sharing" is often still a challenge.
  • Separate from you easily.
  • Are interested in or have finished toilet training.
  • Can jump, run, climb, pedal a tricycle, and kick a ball.

By 4 years of ageBy 4 years of age, most children:

  • Have gained about 4.4 lb (2 kg) and grown about 3 in. (8 cm) since turning 3.
  • Can say their name, identify some basic colors, and match things that are the same (such as a pair of socks).
  • Can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
  • Can speak in sentences with at least 5 or 6 words, tell stories, and sing songs.
  • Can stand on one foot, ride a tricycle, throw a ball overhand, and go up and down stairs without holding on to anything.

By 5 years of ageBy 5 years of age, most children:

  • Have gained about 4.4 lb (2 kg) and grown 1.5 in. (4 cm) to 2 in. (5 cm) since turning 4.
  • Know their address and phone number, most letters of the alphabet, how to count up to 10, and basic concepts of time.
  • Like to please others and have friends. But it is normal for children this age to sometimes act unkindly.
  • Can carry on conversations and use more advanced grammar, such as the future tense.
  • Can hop on one foot, somersault, and possibly skip. Most 5-year-olds can dress and undress themselves.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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