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May 19, 2022

Developmental Milestones You Should be Tracking

Developmental Milestones You Should be Tracking


Preschools and Early Learning Centers are responsible for providing a healthy learning environment for young children. But what exactly should students be learning in your preschool? 

According to the CDC, children ages 3 - 5 should meet specific developmental milestones such as naming colors, showing affection for others, and hopping on one foot.

Keep reading to learn more about the developmental milestones you should be tracking in your center and what kinds of activities can be used to develop these skills. 

Language Milestones

Children begin to expand their vocabulary rapidly between the ages of 3 and 5. During this time, children should be able to speak around 250 to 500 words. Preschoolers should also be able to answer simple questions, state their name and age, tell stories, and speak in sentences of five to six words by the age of 5. 

To measure these language milestones, make sure preschoolers are given plenty of opportunities to practice communication. Educators should encourage children to talk about themselves and verbalize their thoughts. A growing list of vocabulary words can be kept in the classroom and reviewed regularly. 

Some students may be shyer than others, but generally, preschoolers should be able to communicate basic ideas and ask for help. 

Cognitive Milestones

Preschoolers love to play the “why?” game. This may seem annoying, but it's actually a good indication that children are expressing their curiosity about the world in which they live. In addition to expressing curiosity, children from ages 3 to 5 should be making additional important cognitive milestones. Children should be able to:

  • name colors
  • compare sizes (big vs small)
  • count to 10
  • sort objects according to shape and color
  • understand the difference between day and night. 

These cognitive milestones show how children develop a greater understanding of their world. Children of preschool age begin to understand the differences between shapes, colors, sizes, and enjoy age-appropriate puzzles and games. 

All of these cognitive milestones can be measured by playing games in the classroom. Matching cards, puzzles, blocks, and counting charts are great things to have available in your preschool classroom. 

Gross Motor Skills Milestones

Children in preschool are on the move! They are learning how to control their physical movements by walking, running, jumping, and spinning. Young children seem to always be moving which means you have plenty of opportunities to observe their gross motor skills. 

By age 3 to 5, children should be able to catch and throw a ball, walk up steps or stairs, walk forward and backward, climb play structures, bend over without falling, and put on or remove clothing. The playground is probably the best place to track your students’ gross motor skills milestones. 

On the playground, watch students as they climb structures, run around, play hopscotch, kick or throw balls, and chase each other. Ample recess time is important for young children so that they have time to develop these important physical skills. 

Fine Motor Skill Milestones

While children develop their gross motor skills, they are also developing fine motor skills. Fine motor skills refer to the tasks children can complete using their hands and fingers. At this point in child development, they should be able to use safety scissors, turn pages in a book, trace basic shapes and letters, pick up small items with their fingers, and use their finger to point. 

You can help young learners meet these milestones by giving them lots of chances to practice in the classroom. During lunch, let children scoop their own portions of food if possible. Arts and crafts time can also provide a lot of opportunities for children to develop fine motor skills. Using paintbrushes, pencils, crayons, and markers require finger and hand strength and coordination.

Social and Emotional Milestones

Preschoolers need more than just physical and cognitive skills; they should also be showing progress with socioemotional skills. By this age, children should be able to take turns while playing, cooperate with friends, show affection, and express a wide range of emotions. 

Remember that having strong socioemotional skills doesn’t necessarily mean being happy all the time. Preschoolers will undoubtedly have temper tantrums at times, but you should start seeing less of this behavior as they reach the age of 5. 

How to Keep Track of Milestones

You can track children's socioemotional milestones by observing them during group activities and paying attention to how they respond to difficult situations. While preschoolers learn how to express their emotions and interact socially, you will witness a variety of emotions such as happiness, fear, sadness, anger, and excitement. There are dozens of milestones to keep track of and you may have dozens of students or more in your center! Keeping track of these milestones for each child and communicating them to the parents can be a challenge without a high-quality Childcare Management System. A good system will have a master list of milestones for your use with the ability to add new milestones specific to your center and curriculum. Give your teachers, staff, and parents the tools they need to ensure success!

Christina Vaan

Christina is a blog writer and early childhood education content specialist at Kindertales.

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