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Early Childhood Development From 2 to 6 Years of Age

by Stacey Chaloux

Even though many of them are not in school yet, children ages 2 to 6 years old may be changing and growing the most they ever will. They are learning new skills in many areas like motor skills, pretend play, and using language. While every child develops at their own pace, there are some milestones you can expect to see each year from most children. These can help you know if there is cause for concern and to talk to your pediatrician about your child's development.

Your 2-Year-Old

During the 2-year-old year, many toddlers begin showing more pretend play, especially with familiar scenarios. She may put her dolls to bed or feed her bear a cookie. At age 2, your tot will also be interested in being more independent and solving problems on her own. She will use a lot of trial and error to master a task, and will need time to practice it many times. At this age, your toddler will be able to complete simple puzzles and sort by color or shape. She will want to make her own choices, so offer her the chance when possible and invite her to help out with household tasks like putting napkins on the table or dusting with a soft cloth. As her language skills develop during this year, expect to hear more questions as she tries to make sense of her world. You can expect her to play alongside other children at this age, but not interact with them too much.

Your 3-Year-Old

As your child enters his 3-year-old year, he will become more able to focus on his task and less distracted by things around him. He will begin to think more creatively and develop his logical reasoning as he solves problems. At age 3, children's language skills develop greatly. He will become easier to understand and begin using longer sentences of at least four words. Children at this age can better understand stories and they begin to notice print in their environment with the understanding that it conveys meaning. Physically, your 3-year-old will be able to run and climb more efficiently and catch a large ball with two hands. He should also begin to pedal a tricycle. At this age, he will begin to develop real friendships with his peers, but may still seek an adult when conflict arises.

Your 4-Year-Old

By age 4, children are better able to make a plan and complete it, so their pretend play becomes more complex and lasts longer. Her language skills will develop even more so that she is able to understand explanations and follow a multistep direction. Most 4-year-olds can count to 10, and begin to write some letters, especially those in their name, as they develop more fine motor control to grip a pencil correctly. She will begin to use her imagination more at this age, and will enjoy hands-on explorations to help her understand how things work. She will seek out new experiences and become increasingly able to be self-reliant. During this year, children can engage in active play for long periods of time, using skills like climbing, hopping, skipping and galloping, as well as throwing, catching, kicking and bouncing a ball.

Your 5-Year-Old

A 5-year-old is better able to solve complex or abstract problems because he is able to think more imaginatively, and he asks more analytical questions. He will prefer activities that involve other children and will be more able to manage his own feelings or solve his own conflicts without adult assistance. At age 5, children are usually easy to understand and use correct grammar most of the time. He will enjoy initiating a conversation and is better able to wait his turn to speak when discussing things with a group. Most 5-year-olds can recognize letters and understand that these letters represent a sound. They can count out a group of 20 objects and compare numbers. His coordination and balance will have developed enough to begin learning to riding a bike and jumping rope.

Your 6-Year-Old

By age 6, your child will have developed a longer attention span and will want to take on new responsibilities, although she will still need direction and reassurance from an adult. Most 6-year-olds are in school, so they will learn many new academic skills like reading independently, counting up to 200 and solving addition and subtraction problems. They also use more writing to communicate their thoughts. During this year, your child will develop more ability for self-control and will have more of an awareness of others' emotions. She will use physical activity to continue to develop her motor skills, which are becoming more advanced as she practices them more.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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