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.


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


Young children having fun at school.

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:

  • Walk on their tiptoes and heel-to-toe like on a balance beam
  • Can balance on one foot for at least 10 seconds
  • Jump rope and pump their legs to swing alone
  • Stand and hop on one foot without support
  • Catch a ball the size of a softball, arms flexed
  • Start to move in more coordinated ways, like swimming, throwing a ball or dancing
  • Balance on one foot for at least 10 seconds
  • Pedal a tricycle around obstacles and sharp corners.

Fine motor

Your child may be able to:

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

Cognition: how their brain is developing

Kindergarten students sitting on the floor.

Your child may be able to:

  • Recognize and name colors and basic shapes
  • Know the letters of the alphabet and letter sounds; as well as numbers
  • Recite their name, address, and phone number
  • 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
  • Count groups of objects up to 10 and recite numbers to 20
  • 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
  • Understand the concept of time
  • Assemble a 12-piece+ puzzle

Language: speaking, listening and writing

Your child may be able to:

  • Use words to argue and try to reason with people (because is a commonly used word)
  • Use most plurals and pronouns
  • Tell stories, jokes, and riddles, and may understand simple puns
  • Talk about opposites 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)
  • Follow simple multi-step directions
  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by other people
  • Comfortable using future tense when speaking
  • Uses sentences with more than five words consistently
  • Produce words that rhyme
  • Match some spoken and written words
  • Recognize some familiar words in print
  • Predict what will happen next in a story
  • Identify initial, final, and medial (middle) sounds in short words
  • Identify and manipulate increasingly smaller sounds in speech
  • 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)
  • Retell the main idea, identify details (who, what, when, where, why, how), and arrange story events in sequence

Social and emotional skills: relating to others and themselves

Making friends is a skill that must be learned.

Your child may be able to:

  • Want to act like their friends and seek their approval
  • Become jealous of other people spending time with “their” friends
  • Follow the rules most of the time and may criticize children who don’t follow the rules
  • Enjoy showing off; they’ll sing, dance, or be silly to get attention
  • Want your approval and to be taken seriously
  • May have tantrums or get angry if they think they’re not being listened to
  • Start to understand why it’s helpful to share and get along with other kids
  • Have sense of humour
  • Display positive interactions and friendliness in small and large group settings
  • Respond to a specific need when expressed by another child
  • Express a variety of emotions, including affection to other children

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.

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