our everyday life

Developmental Differences Between Preschool Children

by Becky Swain , studioD

It’s natural for parents to compare their children with other age-appropriate peers. Comparisons provide parents with a visual yardstick, so to speak, of how their little one measures up with other preschool children. It’s also natural for parents to experience anxiety when their child differs in one or more areas of preschool development from peers. Each child’s rate of growth and development is distinctively her own, and broad variability exists among preschool children.

Physical Developmental Differences

Whether your preschool child is taller, shorter, slimmer or rounder than her peers, the American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents that each child develops according to a rate of growth that is distinctively her own. It is normal to observe substantial differences in height and weight among preschool children, although you can expect your preschool child to grow approximately 2 to 3 inches per year, with a corresponding weight gain of about 4 to 5 pounds. Consult your preschooler’s pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about her physical development.

Cognitive Developmental Differences

PBS reports that a preschooler’s expanding analytic abilities inspire the seemingly infinite number of daily questions that parents must attempt to successfully field. Some of the questions may present challenges for you to answer, so allow her seemingly endless string of questions to provide a new learning opportunity for both you and her. Preschoolers exhibit wide variability in cognitive development, but most preschool children between the ages of 3 and 4 years can distinguish between past and present events and sort items independently. Older preschool children may state their address and enjoy the rhymes and word play typical of nursery rhymes.

Social Developmental Differences

Visit any playground or park to witness differences within the social realm of development between preschool children. Medline Plus reports that preschoolers seek to forge friendships by acquiring social skills. Although the typical preschool child will learn and exhibit skills involving sharing and taking turns, some children may not demonstrate these behaviors consistently. Preschool children typically exhibit a limited and varied understanding of moral reasoning and usually seek to please their parents. Some preschool-aged children will continue to experience problems with anger management and may need an adult’s help to redirect and de-escalate uncontrolled anger.

Gross Motor Developmental Differences

Preschoolers continue to demonstrate variability in how and when they achieve gross motor milestones. Gross motor skills refer to movements that require using the large muscle groups located in the arms and legs. Examples of skills that some 3-year-olds may exhibit include riding a tricycle, balancing momentarily on one foot and using a slide independently. A 4-year-old may hop on one foot and walk backwards and a 5-year-old may perform a somersault and walk heel-to-toe.

About the Author

Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images