our everyday life

Examples of Intellectual Milestones for a Preschool Child

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

By the time your little one gets to preschool, he's made huge gains in his abilities and skills. Milestone markers are a way for parents and pediatricians to monitor a preschooler's growth and development. A lag or delay helps you alert the doctor and address the problem. Understanding the intellectual, or cognitive, milestones your preschooler should reach between 3 and 5 years of age helps you see a possible issue and lets you know if your child is on track.


By around age 3, your child's imagination has likely taken off. He probably uses his toys to make up games and stories. For example, he might use his stuffed animals to stage a party or your wooden spoons as swords. He probably also engages in fantasy play, such as pretending to be a pirate or jumping off the couch and swooping down to save you while he envisions himself as his favorite superhero. He might get lost in his own world as he plays.

Sorting and Counting

Sorting objects is an intellectual milestone that sets your preschooler up for future success at math topics in grade school. He should be able to sort his toys or other items on several criteria. For example, he can sort his M&Ms candies by color or his lacing beads by shape. He might even be able to sort by size or weight, too. -- for example, big, bigger and biggest, or heavy, heavier and heaviest. Along with this, your preschooler should be able to count to 10 by age 5 and recognize numbers by the end of his fourth year.

Artistic Pursuits

At age 3, your preschooler is likely to scribble out a drawing and know exactly what it is, even if she has to clue you in when she's finished. As she progresses through preschool and gets closer to her fifth birthday, she should be able to copy shapes, use safety scissors, name her colors, draw a person with several body parts and write a few letters. Even if your preschooler is just scribbling on a piece of scrap paper, she's building her intellect and gaining control of her small muscles.


A preschooler likely can't tell you what time it is just by looking at a clock. After all, she probably doesn't recognize all of her numbers yet. However, by age 3 or 4, she should be able to discern whether it's morning, afternoon or night. She should understand how things occur in order -- for example, eating lunch, reading a story, taking a nap, then playing outside. She should also understand concepts of time, such as minutes, hours and days.

Language Acquisition

Learning to understand and reproduce language is an important part of your preschooler's intellectual development. During the preschool years, your little one's vocabulary will go from about 50 words to several hundred, and her words should be largely understood by those around her. She should be able to answer questions and speak in complete sentences as well as use pronouns and prepositions. By the end of preschool, she'll be able to comprehend rhymes.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images