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Home > My Child > Ages and Stages > 3 to 4 Years > What to Expect

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What to Expect: Your 3 to 4 Year Old

Developmental milestones describe what most children are capable of doing at a particular point in time. Developmental milestones also provide a snapshot of the new skills many children will be starting to master in the upcoming months or year. Knowing what children are capable of, and what they will be practicing, can help you provide appropriate experiences to enhance your child's development.

Remember, developmental milestones only provide benchmarks. Each child develops at his or her own pace. So, in any particular child some skills may emerge early, while others may appear later.

If you have any concerns about your child's development, consult your child's physician.


Typically Can:
  • Join in play with a group of peers
  • Show empathy if he is not overwhelmed
  • Complete toilet training
  • Cooperate with dressing and undressing
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Sharing toys
  • Taking turns
  • Participating in interactive games, such as "London Bridge" and "Farmer in the Dell"

  • Problem Solving

    Typically Can:
  • Sort objects by colour and size
  • Classify objects by purpose, for example, "to play with," "to wear"
  • Name one or more colours
  • Match simple geometric forms
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Sorting and classifying objects by characteristics
  • Understanding and applying concepts of pattern, sequence and order
  • Understanding concepts, such as opposites
  • Recognizing and labeling different shapes
  • Understanding directional and positional concepts

  • Numeracy

    Typically Can:
  • Compare amounts
  • Arrange two sets of objects in one-to-one correspondence
  • Count objects
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Understanding time intervals better, such as today, tomorrow and yesterday
  • Ordering numbers
  • Understanding different forms of measurement, such as weight, height and length
  • Attaching words to numbers
  • Counting up to 10, and understanding number concepts up to three

  • Language

    Typically Can:
  • Use a vocabulary of about 900 words
  • Use plurals and personal pronouns "I," "you" and "me"
  • Use five-word sentences
  • Understand position words, such as "in," "out," "behind" and "in front of"
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Asking "what," "where" and "who" questions
  • Following two-step verbal commands. For example, "Pick up your books and put them on the shelf"
  • Using an increasing number of pronouns and prepositions with understanding
  • Understanding "its time to"

  • Emotional

    Typically Can:
  • Not see things from another person's perspective, but this "egocentric" worldview is gradually changing
  • Control aggression and tantrums at least part of the time
  • Be less upset by limits and discipline
  • Be settled after nightmares more easily
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Sleeping through the night
  • Being much more even-tempered and cooperative with her parents
  • Continually growing in independence and self-esteem
  • Expanding pretend play into rich, connected themes

  • Gross Motor

    Typically Can:
  • Run 15 metres in under 10 seconds
  • Climb on jungle gym and other equipment
  • Alternate feet going upstairs
  • Get up from a squatting position without any help
  • Stand on one foot with momentary balance
  • Throw a small ball
  • Use pedals to ride a tricycle, and steer to avoid obstacles
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Alternating feet going down stairs
  • Catching a large ball with arms extended
  • Skipping six times, imitating another person
  • Jumping off the ground with a two-footed jump

  • Fine Motor

    Typically Can:
  • Button large buttons
  • Build a tower of nine blocks
  • Copy a circle from a drawing
  • Copy a bridge of blocks from a model
  • Complete an easy four-piece puzzle
  • Screw jar lids
  • Handle scissors, and cut out simple designs
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Carrying liquids in a cup, with some spillage
  • Putting on his shoes, but not tying the laces
  • Copying a vertical line
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