The ages between 2 and 5 are often called the preschool years. During these years, children change from clumsy toddlers into lively explorers of their world. A child develops in these main areas:
Each child grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. It is common for a child to be ahead in one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.
Learning what is normal for children this age can help you spot problems early or feel better about how your child is doing.
Routine checkups usually are scheduled several times during ages 2 to 5. They are important to check for problems and to make sure that your child is growing and developing as expected. In some areas, your child may see a public health nurse for routine checkups and immunizations.
During these visits, the doctor will:
Routine checkups are a good time to talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about your child's health, growth, or behaviour. Between visits, write down any questions you want to ask the doctor next time.
Call your doctor anytime you have a concern about your child's physical or emotional health. Be sure to call if your child:
It's important to learn about some of the behaviours you can expect during these years of rapid change. Temper tantrums, thumb-sucking, and nightmares are common issues in children this age. Knowing what to expect can help you to be patient and get through the stressful moments.
The best thing you can do for your child is to show your love and affection. But there are also many other ways you can help your preschooler grow and learn.
Raising a preschooler can be challenging. What works or is right for a 2-year-old may not be right for a 5-year-old. Taking a parenting class can help you learn how to deal with issues as they arise. To find a class, ask your child's doctor or call a nurse call line.
Learning about growth and development:
Seeing a doctor:
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Children grow in natural, predictable steps, moving from one milestone to the next. You will see gains in five major areas.
By 3 years of age
, most children:
By 4 years of age
, most children:
By 5 years of age
, most children:
It's common for parents to have questions about their child's sleep, safety, toilet training, and difficult emotions and behaviour.
Preschool children need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep each day. Your child may go through phases when he or she resists resting.
To help foster good sleep habits, you can:
To help keep your child safe, it's very important to be aware of your child's abilities and the environment, whether it is the home, a playground, or a public place. These abilities change as your child grows and gains new skills.
For more information on safety issues, see the topic Health and Safety, Ages 2 to 5.
Children ages 2 to 5 have many intense emotions that they do not fully understand. As a result, expect your young child to not always listen to you. Be patient, and do your best to be consistent about setting limits to avoid some common issues. These may include:
Each child learns to use the toilet at his or her own pace. Most children are ready for toilet training when they are between 22 and 30 months of age.
It can be hard to know when to start toilet training. Your child's physical and emotional readiness is the most important aspect of the timing. You and your child will likely become frustrated if you try toilet training before your child is ready.
For more information, see the topic Toilet Training.
You can help your child grow by showing love and affection, by talking with and reading to your child, and by letting your child play. It's also important to set boundaries and limits.
Your relationship with your child will constantly change as your child gains new skills and develops independence. You can help your child through each stage by looking at your relationship from time to time. Ask yourself:
If you are the parent or caregiver of children, it is also important for you to:
It is a good idea to send your child to kindergarten. Kindergarten teachers know how to help young children with different skills and backgrounds. They will help your child enjoy school and get ready for grade 1. Most children start kindergarten between 4½ and 6 years old. Kindergarten will help your child:
Although your child grows at his or her own pace, be aware of signs of a developmental delay. The earlier you identify a delay, the better chance you have of getting the right treatment for your child that can prevent or minimize long-term problems.
In general, talk to a doctor anytime your child:
Routine checkups allow your child's doctor to keep a close eye on your child's general health and development. You also can discuss any concerns you have at these appointments. It may help you to go with a prepared list of questions(What is a PDF document?). In some areas, your child may see a public health nurse for routine checkups and immunizations.
The doctor typically will:
For more information, see:
Routine screening tests for hearing and vision take place during the preschool years. A specialist may do formal tests if your child's screening results are poor or if there are any developmental concerns at ages 2 to 5.
The doctor will talk with both you and your child to get a sense of your child's mental, emotional, and social development. Questions typically cover:
In addition to the above assessments, doctors usually ask questions specific to a child's age.
Caring for your child's teeth is also important for your child's health. Schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends. For more information, see the topic Basic Dental Care.
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Early childhood: 2-year visit. In JF Hagan et al., eds., Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 419–428. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Your four- to five-year-old. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 391–420. New York: Bantam.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Your three-year-old. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 361–390. New York: Bantam.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Your two-year-old. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 325–360. New York: Bantam.
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (1998, reaffirmed 2014). Guidance for effective discipline. Pediatrics, 101(4): 723–728. DOI: 10.11542/peds.2014-2679. Accessed November 5, 2014.
Canadian Paediatric Society (2012). Healthy active living: Physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents. Paediatrics and Child Health, v17(4): 209–210. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/physical-activity-guidelines.
Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2015). Recommendations for growth monitoring, and prevention and management of overweight and obesity in children and youth in primary care. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 187(6): 411–421. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.141285. Accessed April 21, 2015.
Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, reaffirmed 2006). The use and misuse of fruit juice in pediatrics. Pediatrics, 107(5): 1210–1213. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/5/1210.full.
Feigelman S (2011). The preschool years. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 33–36. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Ginsburg KR, et al. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1): 182–191. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182.full.
Hagan JF, et al., eds. (2008). Early childhood: 2½ year visit. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 429–438. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Hagan JF, et al., eds. (2008). Early childhood: 3-year visit. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 439–448. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Hagan JF, et al., eds. (2008). Early childhood: 4-year visit. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 449–461. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Hagan JF, et al., eds. (2008). Middle childhood: 5- and 6-year visits. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 465–481. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Hamel SC, Pelphrey A (2009). Preschool years. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 39–49. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Hansen RL, Ulrey GL (2009). The spectrum of social cognition. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 373–380. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Strasburger VC (2011). Media. In M Augustyn et al., eds., Zuckerman Parker Handbook of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics for Primary Care, 3rd ed., pp. 463–466. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsThomas M. Bailey, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerLouis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as ofJuly 26, 2016
Current as of: July 26, 2016
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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