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Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years


Topic Overview

How does a child grow and develop between the ages of 2 and 5?

The ages between 2 and 5 are often called the preschool years. During these years, children change from clumsy toddlers into lively explorers of their world. A child develops in these main areas:

  • Physical development. In these years, a child becomes stronger and starts to look longer and leaner.
  • Cognitive development. A child this age makes great strides in being able to think and reason. In these years, children learn their letters, counting, and colors.
  • Emotional and social development. Between the ages of 2 and 5, children gradually learn how to manage their feelings. By age 5, friends become important.
  • Language. By age 2, most children can say at least 50 words. By age 5, a child may know thousands of words and be able to carry on conversations and tell stories.
  • Sensory and motor development. By age 2, most children can walk up stairs one at a time, kick a ball, and draw simple strokes with a pencil. By age 5, most can dress and undress themselves and write some lowercase and capital letters.

Each child grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. It is common for a child to be ahead in one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.

Learning what is normal for children this age can help you spot problems early or feel better about how your child is doing.

Why are routine medical visits needed?

Routine checkups usually are scheduled several times during ages 2 to 5. These routine checkups are called well-child visits. They are important to check for problems and to make sure that your child is growing and developing as expected.

During these visits, the doctor will:

  • Give your child a physical exam.
  • Give your child any needed shots.
  • Weigh and measure your child to see how he or she compares to other children of the same age.
  • Ask questions about your child's behavior and your family.
  • Ask about your child's favorite activities or friends.

Well-child visits are a good time to talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about your child's health, growth, or behavior. Between visits, write down any questions you want to ask the doctor next time.

When should you call a doctor?

Call your doctor anytime you have a concern about your child's physical or emotional health. Be sure to call if your child:

  • Is not reaching developmental milestones as expected.
  • Is not growing at a steady pace.
  • Has lost skills he or she used to have, such as talking or running.
  • Is violent or abusive.
  • Doesn't seem to be doing well, even though you can't pinpoint what makes you uneasy.

How can you help your child during these years?

It's important to learn about some of the behaviors you can expect during these years of rapid change. Temper tantrums, thumb-sucking, and nightmares are common issues in children this age. Knowing what to expect can help you to be patient and get through the stressful moments.

The best thing you can do for your child is to show your love and affection. But there are also many other ways you can help your preschooler grow and learn.

  • Offer your child healthy foods. Keep lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks in the house.
  • Make time for your child to be active. Limit TV time to 2 hours a day or less.
  • Read and talk to your child. This helps children learn language and opens them up to new ideas.
  • Help your child get enough rest. Between the ages of 2 and 5, children need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep each day.
  • Help your child play with other children. Preschool or play groups can be a great way for children to learn to interact.
  • Teach skills, such as how to get dressed and how to use the toilet.
  • Set limits that help your child feel safe and secure but that also allow your child to explore.

Raising a preschooler can be challenging. What works or is right for a 2-year-old may not be right for a 5-year-old. Taking a parenting class can help you learn how to deal with issues as they arise. To find a class, ask your child's doctor or call a local hospital.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about growth and development:

Developmental milestones:

Seeing a doctor:

Ongoing concerns:

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