What Child Care Providers Can Expect in Preschoolers' Physical Development

Child Care September 16, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Preschooler in ball pit

Between the ages of 3 and 5, children are still growing quickly, and are continuing to practice their large and small motor skills. Child care providers can support preschoolers' physical and motor development by ensuring that children eat well-balanced meals and snacks, by building in plenty of time for active play and by planning a wide variety of activities to encourage motor development. The lists below give an idea of what to look for in the physical development of preschool-age children.

At Age 3, Most Preschoolers...

  • Weigh between 25 and 44 pounds and are 34-43 inches tall
  • Develop a taller, thinner and adult-like body shape
  • Sleep between 10-12 hours at night
  • Develop a full set of baby teeth
  • May sleep through some nights without wetting the bed, although occasional accidents may still be common
  • Can use the toilet with some help, although some boys may not be ready for toilet learning until age 3 1/2
  • Can put their shoes on but cannot tie laces
  • Can dress themselves but may need some help with buttons, snaps and zippers
  • Feed themselves but may spill occasionally
  • Can catch a large ball with both arms
  • Throw a ball overhead
  • Kick a ball forward
  • May be able to hop on one foot
  • May walk a short distance on tiptoe
  • Can climb up and down a small slide by themselves
  • May be able to pedal a tricycle

At Age 4, Most Preschoolers...

  • Weigh between 27 and 50 pounds and are 37–46 inches tall
  • Need 10-12 hours of sleep every night
  • Can dress themselves without much help
  • May be able to use a spoon, fork and dinner knife skillfully
  • Walks a straight line
  • Can hop on one foot
  • Pedals and steers a tricycle skillfully
  • May be able to jump over objects 5-6 inches high
  • May run, jump, hop, skip around obstacles with ease
  • Can stack 10 or more blocks
  • Can form shapes and objects out of clay or play dough
  • Can thread small beads on a string
  • Catches, bounces and throws a ball easily

At Age 5, Most Preschoolers...

  • Weigh between 31 and 57 pounds and are 39-48 inches tall
  • Sleep 10-11 hours at night
  • Are able to dress themselves with little assistance
  • May start losing baby teeth
  • Learn to skip
  • Can throw a ball overhead
  • Can catch bounced balls
  • Can ride a tricycle skillfully and may show interest in riding a bicycle with training wheels
  • Can cut on a line with scissors
  • Use a dominant hand consistently
  • Can jump over low objects

For More Information

To learn more about preschoolers' development, and to find activities and materials that support preschoolers' development, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

If you are looking for specific activities to use with preschoolers, check out the Hands-on Activities for Child Care searchable database.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.