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Your Child's Development From 3 to 5 Years

This information describes skills your child is likely to develop between the ages of 3 and 5 years.

Movement and Physical Development

  • Can pedal on a tricycle.
  • Can catch a softball-sized ball from up to 5 feet away.
  • Can walk up and down stairs with 1 foot on each step.
  • Can jump 8 to 12 inches in all directions.
  • Can balance on 1 foot for up to 3 seconds.
  • Can walk across a 4-inch balance beam.
  • Can kick a ball.
  • Can hop.

Social-Emotional and Self-Help Skills

  • Gets upset with major changes in routine.
  • Takes turns during games.
  • Separates easily from parents.
  • Would rather play with others than alone.
  • Enjoys doing new things.
  • Talks about things he or she likes.
  • Plays pretend, such as role playing.
  • Wants to please friends.
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act.

Learning, Thinking, and Problem Solving Skills

  • Can follow 2- to 3-step directions.
  • Can say own name, age, and sex.
  • Can name friends.
  • Can build block towers and place basic puzzle pieces correctly in form board.
  • Can turn book pages 1 at a time.
  • Can copy basic shapes.
  • Can draw a person with 6 body parts.
  • Starts to understand time.

Speech, Language, and Communication Skills

  • Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand what he or she is saying.
  • Uses different tenses (e.g., “Grandma will be here.”).
  • Tells simple stories using full sentences.

What Can You Do To Help Your Child's Development

Although your child is undergoing cancer treatment and may not feel energetic, it is still important to encourage movement, communication, and play as part of his or her daily routine. Here are some things you can do:

  • Encourage physical activity with supervision.
  • Encourage actions by praising your child when he or she shows good behavior.
  • Let your child make choices.
  • Encourage your child to play with other children.
  • Let your child be as independent as possible.
  • Have your child help with simple chores.
  • Encourage imagination during play.
  • Teach your child to take turns during play with others.

Call Your Child's Doctor If Your Child:

  • Can't jump in place.
  • Has trouble scribbling.
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe.
  • Ignores other children or doesn't respond to people outside the family.
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet.
  • Can't retell a favorite story.
  • Doesn't follow 3-part commands.
  • Doesn't understand “same” and “different.”
  • Doesn't use “me” and “you” correctly.
  • Speaks unclearly.
  • Loses skills he or she once had.
  • Doesn't like to change position.
  • Doesn't like minor changes in environment (such as noise level or lighting).
  • Doesn't feel comfortable trying to balance on different types of surfaces.

Contact Information

If you have questions about your child's development, ask your child's doctor if a referral to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) Physical and Occupational Therapy team would be helpful.

MSK Physical and Occupational Therapy
(212) 639-7833
Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm