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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years
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. These routine checkups are called well-child visits. They are important to check for problems and to make sure that your child is growing and developing as expected.
During these visits, the doctor will:
Well-child visits are a good time to talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about your child's health, growth, or behavior. 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 behaviors 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 local hospital.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
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 behavior.
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:
Most children start kindergarten around age 4½ to 6 years.
It can be hard to know when your child is ready for school, but your local elementary school or preschool can help. Attending preschool or play groups can be a great way for children to build new skills and learn to interact with others.
Some of the tasks and behaviors that show that a child is ready for kindergarten are the following:
Call 911 or other emergency services if you become so frustrated with your child that you are afraid you might cause your child physical harm.
In general, talk to a doctor anytime your child:
Although children grow at their 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.
Routine well-child visits 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 .
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.
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.
Dixon SD, Stein MT (2006). Encounters With Children: Pediatric Behavior and Development, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
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.
High PC, et al. (2008). School readiness. Pediatrics, 121(4): e1008–e1015. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/e1008.full.
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.
Current as of:
September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineLouis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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