✅ This article has been checked by our resident pediatric specialist.

Aim

The aim of this article is to provide insight into the developmental milestones – or the skills and abilities that are acquired by children of a certain age – that are achieved by children in kindergarten. Here, we provide a look at what to expect in terms of motor skills, cognition, language and social and emotional skills – and what may signal a need for further investigation by a pediatrician or a family doctor.

Outline

Introduction
Motor skills
Cognition
Language
Social and emotional skills
What if I’m concerned about my child?

Introduction

It’s an exciting and unpredictable time: your child is now enrolled in school! Between those lessons on counting and shapes, your child is doing a lot of growing and developing. By this age, their vision has probably reached 20/20; their first adult teeth have started breaking through their gums; and they’ve gained 2-3 inches in height from the year before. It’s only natural to want to nurture your children, especially during these critical years. So, what can you expect in terms of the milestones your kindergartener is meant to reach?

What are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are the range of skills and abilities that are usually acquired by children of a certain age. For example, a one year old is likely to learn to walk when they reach that age. Similarly, children that reach kindergarten age will usually acquire a capacity to demonstrate more complex behaviors – setting the foundation for healthy teenage and adulthood.

Motor: how they’re planning and carrying out movement

Gross motor

Your child may be able to:

  • Stand on one foot for at least 10 seconds
  • Walk on tiptoes and heel-to-toe (like on a tightrope)
  • Skip
  • Somersault (head-over-heels)
  • Swing and climb
  • Jump rope
  • Catch a ball the size of a softball, arms flexed
  • Start to move in more coordinated ways, as in swimming, bouncing a ball or dancing
  • Pedal a tricycle around obstacles and sharp corners

Fine motor

Your child may be able to:

  • Prefer one hand over the other (described as “hand dominance”)
  • Hold a pencil using a tripod grip (two fingers and a thumb)
  • Hold paper in place with one hand while writing with the other
  • Can print their own name and other letters
  • Draw or copy a triangle and other shapes
  • Draw recognizable pictures
  • Cut out basic shapes with scissors following an outline; may be able to cut a straight line
  • Use a fork, spoon, and sometimes a knife
  • Be able to wipe and wash after using the bathroom
  • Dress or undress themselves
  • Lace their own shoes

Cognition: how their brain is developing

Your child may be able to:

  • Count up to 10
  • Name four colors
  • Draw a person with at least 6 body parts
  • Assemble a 12-piece+ puzzle
  • Begin to know the letters of the alphabet and match letters with sounds
  • Understand everyday items around the home such as food, appliances
  • Understand basic concepts about print (like knowing which way the pages go and that words are read left to right and top to bottom)
  • Know that stories have a beginning, middle, and end
  • Stick with an activity for 15 minutes and finish a short project
  • Make plans about how to play, what to build, or what to draw
  • Better understand the concept of time e.g. yesterday and tomorrow, how long an hour lasts

Language and communication: speaking, listening and writing

Reading

Your child may be able to:

  • Match some spoken and written words
  • Recognize some familiar words in print
  • Identify initial, final, and medial (middle) sounds in short words
  • Understand concrete definitions of some words
  • Read simple words in isolation (the word with a definition) and in context (using the word in a sentence)
  • Predict what will happen next in a story
  • Retell the main idea, identify details (who, what, when, where, why, how), and arrange story events in sequence

Speaking

  • Speak very clearly so that they can be understood by other people
  • Tell a simple story in full sentences, using more than five words per sentence
  • Say their full name, address and phone number
  • Identify and manipulate increasingly smaller sounds in speech
  • Use the future tense
  • Use most plurals and pronouns
  • Use words to argue and try to reason with people (“because” is a commonly used word)
  • Talk about opposites (e.g. day/night) and compare things (“that black cat is smaller than the white one.”)
  • Talk about things that are going to happen and things that have already happened (using tense and time correctly)
  • Make rhymes
  • Follow simple multi-step directions

Social and emotional skills: relating to others and themselves

Your child may be able to:

  • Display positive interactions and friendliness in small group settings
  • Enjoy singing, dancing and acting
  • Understand what is make-believe and real
  • Want to act like their friends and seek their approval
  • Start to understand why it’s helpful to share and get along with other kids
  • Respond to a specific need when expressed by another child e.g. comforts other children
  • Express a variety of emotions, including affection to other children
  • Understand the concept of fairness in terms of sharing or taking turns
  • More likely to follow the rules and may criticize those who do not
  • Can be cooperative at times, but very demanding at other times
  • Ask for help from adults if needed
  • Know about gender, and can identify themselves and others
  • Become jealous of other people spending time with “their” friends
  • Want your approval and to be taken seriously
  • May have tantrums or get angry if they think they’re not being listened to
  • Develop a sense of humour

What if I’m concerned about my child?

All children grow and develop at a different pace, so don’t be too concerned if your child has missed one milestone. If your child does miss more than one or appears to be struggling, then we recommend consulting your pediatrician. See them if your child:

  • Misses milestones
  • Loses skills they once had

Motor

  • Cannot brush teeth, wash and dry hands or get undressed without assistance
  • Has difficulty holding a crayon

Cognitive

  • Is easily distracted and therefore has difficulty focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Cannot build a tower of six to eight blocks
  • Cannot understand two-part commands with a preposition “put the book on the table”

Language and Communication

  • Cannot give their first and last name
  • Does not use plurals or the past tense correctly

Social and Emotional

  • Appears unusually withdrawn and not active
  • Displays extremes of behaviour e.g. unusually afraid, shy, sad or aggressive
  • Has difficult eating, sleeping or using the toilet
  • Does not respond to people or only does so superficially
  • Avoids or appears aloof with children or adults
  • Is not interested in playing with other children
  • Has a limited amount of interests and therefore does not engage in varied activities
  • Cannot distinguish between what is real and what is make-believe
  • Does not talk about their daily activities or experiences
  • Does not express a wide range of emotions
  • Does not draw pictures