Pre-K physical development benchmarks

For many children, the start of preschool marks their first introduction to structured daily school time. Preschool children still develop both gross motor skills, which involves movement of the whole body, and fine motor skills, which involves the coordination of small muscle movements. Below are some guidelines for the physical development of your preschooler. However, the information here is only intended as a general guide. If your child appears to be lagging in terms of physical development, you should see your pediatrician.

Overall motor skills

Overview

You will observe that your child’s gross motor skills develop rapidly at this age, as their movements become more coordinated and your child learns to control their body more effectively. For example, they begin to confidently walk up and down the stairs with one foot on each step, rather than the more hesitant and step approach your child took when he was younger. However, even as they become more and more confident in the development of their physical skills, children of this age can still often overestimate their abilities. Tips and falls are common and are not a cause for concern unless your child appears unusually awkward and falls more than their playmates.

Balance

Your child’s balance will improve dramatically throughout this year. By the end of preschool, your child should be able to balance on one foot for at least 10 seconds. Playing hopscotch helps develop this skill.

To jump

Your child should be able to jump on one foot several times. The skipping rope helps develop this skill.

Move forward and backward

Your child should be able to walk forward and backward on a straight line on the floor or on a balance beam. Using play equipment such as a climbing bridge helps develop this skill.

Playground

Your child should be able to hop on and off playground equipment, swing, and use a slide with confidence.

Tiptoes

Your child should be able to stand on tiptoe with their hands above their head for several seconds.

Walk on tiptoe

Your child should be able to walk on tiptoes. Excessive tiptoe walking can be a sign of some developmental complications, but if your child is growing and developing normally, there should be no cause for concern. Consult your pediatrician if you have any questions.

Tricycle

Your child should be able to pedal and steer a tricycle with ease, and ride it in figure eight and circles.

Perilous leap

Your child should be able to do a somersault.

Launch

While your child’s ability to play catch or kick a ball is still developing, your child should be able to throw a ball with reasonable accuracy at a target a few feet away. Your child should also be able to kick a ball with precision.

Jump

Your child should be able to jump about 15 feet.

Galloping

Your child should be able to gallop about 15 feet.

Bicycle

As your child’s balance improves, it might be time to give them a try to ride a bike without training wheels. Although children learn to ride without stabilizer wheels at different ages, most parents begin to think about removing stabilizer wheels around this age.

Dexterity

Overview

Your child’s fine motor skills will develop as quickly as their gross motor skills. One of the most important things you can do to help them develop these skills is to let them struggle every now and then with tasks, like closing buttons or cutting food. It is only through repeated effort that your child will learn to do these things, and learning to deal with frustration is crucial for their emotional development as well.

Buttons

Your child should be able to button and unbutton their clothes on their own and dress when asked.

Utensils

Your child should be able to eat with utensils and, under supervision, to cut certain foods with a knife.

Scissors

Your child should be able to use scissors to cut along a straight line or cut out simple shapes.

Pencil

Your child should be able to hold a pencil or pencil with their fingers rather than their fist.

Straight lines

Your child should be able to draw straight lines.

Copy shapes

Your child should be able to copy circles, triangles, and squares.

String of pearls

Your child should be able to string beads on a string.

Modeling clay

Your child should be able to manipulate Play-Doh into round balls and elongated snake-like shapes.

Building blocks

Your child should be able to build towers using building blocks.

To sleep

Overview

Restful sleep is a basic requirement for a healthy preschooler. It allows a rapidly growing body to rejuvenate itself and ensures that your child is ready for the day ahead. Studies have shown that a well-rested child is alert, rested and less susceptible to infections. In fact, a child’s bad behavior or hyperactivity is often the result of a lack of sleep. It’s important to prioritize sleep by making sure your child has a dark, quiet, and comfortable bedroom and by establishing a regular nighttime routine with your child before putting them to bed. A well-rested child will wake up spontaneously and have energy throughout the day.

How much sleep?

A preschool student needs 11 to 13 hours of restful sleep each day. Most are ready to sleep between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and will sleep until between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., depending on whether they are still napping. Children usually stop napping during the day by the age of 5.

Learn more about supporting your preschooler with our pre-kindergarten physical health and activity tips pages.

TODAY’s parenting guides were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject matter experts including Dr Natasha Burgert, Pediatrician, Pediatric Associates and Dr Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.


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