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Home > My Child > Ages and Stages > 4 to 5 Years > What to Expect

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What to Expect: Your 4 to 5 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:
  • Play games with simple rules
  • Show attachment to one playmate
  • Begin to grasp the concept of sharing
  • Show interest in sex differences, and may undress with other children
  • Enjoy dramatic play with others
  • Pick up other children's habits
  • Stop napping
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Showing concern for a younger or hurt person
  • Being a team leader
  • Playing cooperatively in a group

  • Problem Solving

    Typically Can:
  • Distinguish something alive from an object
  • Begin to understand the difference between reality and fantasy
  • Understand how to sort and classify objects by characteristics
  • Begin to match pictures in simple lotto games
  • Recognize and identify "bigger," "biggest," "small" and "smallest"
  • Recall events in the past
  • Identify and name different colours
  • Replicate patterns, sequences and order
  • Recognize and point to six common shapes, for example, a triangle and a star
  • Experiment with cause and effect
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Showing interest in written words and letters
  • Understanding concepts of texture, weight, position and space
  • Building large structures from blocks

  • Numeracy

    Typically Can:
  • Understand "nearest" and "longest"
  • Understand the concept of more and less
  • Understand the ordering of numbers
  • Begin to understand the directional position of numbers, and try to print numbers
  • Understand simple adding and subtracting (for example, "There are two balloons and one flies away - how many are left?")
  • Understand the concept of a calendar
  • Identify "more" or "less"
  • Understand "parts" and "whole" and "half"
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Understanding number concepts up to 10
  • Understanding different forms of measurement - weight, height, length

  • Language

    Typically Can:
  • Play with words in silly rhymes
  • Use new and unfamiliar words
  • Understand complete sentences
  • Use correct grammatical structure
  • Use an average vocabulary of 1 500 words, with about five words in a sentence
  • Talk about imaginary conditions
  • Use negatives, for example, "I don't want to go"
  • Understand "on top of" and "under"
  • Carry a tune
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Asking questions with "why" and "how"
  • Reciting a nursery rhyme or singing a song
  • Using past, present and future verbs, such as "talked," "talk," and "will talk"
  • Understanding "top," "middle," and "bottom"
  • Being 80% understandable to people outside the family
  • Saying most speech sounds accurately

  • Emotional

    Typically Can:
  • Use pretend play to gain control of frustrating and frightening experiences
  • Play out adult roles in play
  • Control frustration and anger much better
  • Experience positive self-esteem and feel good about himself and what he does
  • Talk about feelings such as hunger, tiredness and illness
  • Comply with requests from parents a greater percentage of the time
  • Concentrate for up to 20 minutes
  • Show strong interest and feelings for family
  • Persevere on a difficult task for longer
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Showing a desire to fit into routines of home
  • Carrying out small chores to fit into the family and be responsible
  • Showing self-reflection, for example, "What I said isn't nice"
  • Understanding and having positive and negative feelings about another person

  • Gross Motor

    Typically Can:
  • Walk on tiptoes for three metres
  • Balance on a walking board
  • Ride a tricycle without bumping into things
  • Enjoy throwing and catching games
  • Move to music in rhythm
  • Toss bean bags into holes in targets
  • Carry out rudimentary galloping
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Bouncing on a trampoline
  • Walking up and down stairs, alternating feet without support
  • Jumping down from a half-metre height

  • Fine Motor

    Typically Can:
  • Put large and simple jigsaws together
  • Cut with children's scissors
  • Paint with a large brush on large paper
  • Manipulate clay
  • Draw a person with three parts
  • Emerging Skills:
  • Cutting on a line with scissors
  • Carrying a cup without spilling the liquid in it
  • Stringing small beads to make a necklace
  • Copying the letter "V," "H" and "T"
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