Preschoolers (Ages 3-5)

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Fine Motor

Developing Skills

  • Colors pictures without excessive deviation outside lines
  • Draws a person with at least 6 different body parts
  • Draws simple shapes (ex. ○, +, □, △, X)
  • Makes continuous cuts on a line with scissors
  • Manipulates playdoh to make simple objects or figures
  • Independently feeds self with spoon or fork
  • Independently dresses and undresses self, including shoes and socks
  • Independently manipulates fasteners (ex. buttons, zippers, snaps) on clothing by age 5 (shoelaces by age 6)
  • Independently washes and dries hands
  • Copies building block or peg designs
  • Consistently uses dominant hand by age 5

Warning Signs

  • Uses too much or too little pressure when coloring/drawing
  • Accidentally breaks pencils, crayons or toys from pressing too hard
  • Frequently switches between hands during art activities or when eating
  • Awkward grasp on utensils (ex. forks, spoons) or tools (ex. crayons, chalk, pencils, markers, scissors)
  • Dislikes crafts/activities which might make his/her fingers messy or dirty (ex. chalk, glue, etc.)

Gross Motor

Developing Skills

  • Rides a tricycle independently
  • Rides a bicycle with training wheels independently
  • Catches and throws balls of various sizes
  • Hops on 1 foot
  • Gallops
  • Skips
  • Independently pumps a swing by age 5
  • Safely navigates environments without falling or bumping into objects or people
  • Imitates body movements and hand motions while singing songs or playing Simon Says

Warning Signs

  • Clumsy; falls or trips frequently
  • Has difficulty with body awareness or personal space
  • Seems overly active; unable to slow down
  • Avoids playground activities
  • Walks on tiptoes
  • Has poor muscle tone; may seem weak or floppy
  • Has difficulty tolerating prone position (lying on tummy)
  • Has difficulty using the appropriate amount of force for using objects, playing with peers, or petting animals
  • Fatigues quickly; frequently leans on others or furniture for support

Oral Motor

Developing Skills

  • Eats an increasing variety of food
  • Is willing to try new foods of various textures, flavors, and temperatures
  • Takes appropriately-sized bites of food
  • Independently drinks from an open cup without spilling

Warning Signs

  • Picky eater
  • Overstuffs food in mouth
  • Mouths non-food items or objects
  • Drools
  • Has speech that is difficult to understand

Auditory

Developing Skills

  • Consistently responds to verbal cues
  • Is able to follow 1-2 step commands

Warning Signs

  • Overreacts to ordinary household or classroom sounds
  • Unable to filter out background noise; easily distracted
  • Difficulty understanding language

Tactile

Developing Skills

  • Identifies simple shapes (ex. ○, □, △, ◊, etc.) and familiar objects (ex. toy car, penny, crayon, etc.) by touch
  • Enjoys playing with toys/objects with various textures (ex. smooth, bumpy, soft, hard, cotton, felt, rubber, etc.)
  • Enjoys playing in environments with various textures (ex. grass, sand, etc.)
  • Wears clothing with a variety of textures and materials

Warning Signs

  • Under- or over-responsiveness to pain
  • Dislikes baths
  • Dislikes being cuddled or hugged
  • Dislikes haircuts
  • Shows discomfort getting hands messy
  • Appears sensitive to certain textures or fabrics
  • Has difficulty getting comfortable, settling into bed
  • Dislikes teeth brushing more than others his/her age

Visual

Developing Skills

  • Recognizes items as same or different
  • Sorts objects based on size, shape, or color
  • Assembles age-appropriate puzzles
  • Visually tracks a moving object (ex. ball)
  • Enjoys looking at and reading books

Warning Signs

  • Easily distracted in busy or cluttered environments
  • Seems sensitive to light or prefers dark/dim lighting
  • Often tilts head or looks out of corner of eye
  • Has difficulty sustaining visual gaze or tracking moving objects

Vestibular

Developing Skills

  • Maintains balance in everyday tasks
  • Enjoys swinging, jumping, sliding and other playground activities
  • Has a good sense of rhythm and can clap to a beat
  • Uses the two sides of the body in a coordinated manner when performing bilateral tasks such as cutting with scissors, opening screw-on lids, skipping, swimming, etc.

Warning Signs

  • Dislikes car rides or becomes car sick easily
  • Appears uncomfortable with swinging
  • Dislikes jumping or having feet off floor
  • Seeks twirling, spinning, rocking, or swinging more than other children
  • Gets dizzy easily or never gets dizzy
  • Poor endurance for standing or sitting; easily tires or needs to move/wiggle in order to sustain these positions

Attention/Behavior

Developing Skills

  • Expresses self and makes needs known in an appropriate manner
  • Attends to and participates appropriately in school activities (ex. circle time, story, art)
  • Is able to play with one toy or theme for 15 minutes

Warning Signs

  • Needs more verbal cuing to complete age-appropriate tasks than other children
  • Short attention span
  • Unable to attend in a busy environment (ex. classroom)
  • Aggressive or impulsive behavior

Social/Emotional

Developing Skills

  • Plays in small groups with other children
  • Takes turns with peers; engages in cooperative play
  • Engages in imaginative and pretend play
  • Resolves conflicts with peers with some adult guidance
  • Self-soothes when upset
  • Is able to cope with unexpected change
  • Is able to separate and be away from parents when with familiar persons (ex. babysitter/nanny, teacher, relatives)
  • Aware of safety precautions (ex. no talking to strangers, aware of risky/unsafe environments and behaviors)

Warning Signs

  • Easily frustrated; frequent outbursts/tantrums
  • Repetitive in play, plays the same things over and over, limited play skills
  • Strong need for routine, poor flexibility
  • Failure to explore
  • Difficulty with transitions—between toys/activities, between environments
  • Inability to settle down; sleep difficulties
  • Poor emotional regulation, easily upset, unusually fussy