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Health & Parenting

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3- to 4-Year-Olds: Developmental Milestones

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3- to 4-Year-Old Development: Hand and Finger Skills

Your child is becoming much more nimble. At this point in his or her development, your child should be able to:

  • More easily handle small objects and turn a page in a book
  • Use age-appropriate scissors
  • Copy circles and squares
  • Draw a person with two to four body parts
  • Write some capital letters
  • Build a tower with four or more blocks
  • Dress and undress without your help
  • Screw and unscrew jar lids
  • Turn rotating handles

3- to 4-Year-Old Development: Emotional and Social Milestones

Your 3- to 4-year-old is not only becoming more independent physically, but also emotionally. You may start to notice fewer tantrums when you leave your child with a sitter or at preschool.

In addition, your 3- to 4-year-old is becoming more social. Your child may now be able to cooperate with his or her friends, take turns, and may begin to show some problem-solving skills.

At this point in development, your child should be able to:

  • Imitate parents and friends
  • Show affection for familiar family and friends
  • Understands the idea of "mine" and "his/hers"
  • Show a wide range of emotions, such as being sad, angry, happy, or bored

In addition, you may notice your child's imagination is in overdrive. This can be good and bad. Fantasy and pretend play becomes more interesting and involved, but your child may also start developing unrealistic fears, such as believing a monster is lurking in the closet.

3- to 4-Year-Old Development: When to Be Concerned

All kids grow and develop at their own pace. Don't worry if your child has not reached all of these milestones at this time. But you should notice a gradual progression in growth and development as your child gets older. If you don't, or if your child has signs of possible developmental delay, as listed below, talk to your child's doctor.

Signs of developmental delay in 3- to 4-year-old children include:

  • Inability to throw a ball overhand, jump in place, or ride a tricycle
  • Frequent falling and difficulty walking stairs
  • Inability to hold a crayon between his or her thumb and fingers; has trouble scribbling and cannot copy a circle
  • Unable to use a sentence with more than three words and uses "me" and "you" inappropriately
  • Persistent drooling and trouble speaking
  • Cannot stack four blocks and has trouble handling small objects
  • Continues to experience extreme separation anxiety
  • Lacks interest in interactive games and doesn't engage in fantasy play
  • Does not play with other children and doesn't respond to non-family members
  • Has trouble with self-control when angry or upset
  • Does not understand simple commands
  • Avoids making eye contact
  • Resists getting dressed, sleeping, and going to the bathroom
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