All children mature at slightly different rates, reaching developmental milestones around, but not always at, the same age. Day care can be a wonderful place for your child to learn and interact with other children. To ensure your child is benefiting from the preschool experience, you should keep a development checklist for each of your children enrolled in day care.
Increasing intelligence and bolstering knowledge and understanding, cognitive development happens rapidly in the preschool years. As new neural connections are established at a breakneck pace, parents and day care providers need to monitor how children are progressing with their cognitive skill development. Children in the 2- to 3-year age group should have a vocabulary of around 250 words, be able to recognize and name common shapes like a ball and box; name familiar animals like dogs and cats and body parts such as their head, leg, arm, hands and fingers; and engage in fantasy play. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to count to 10, have a basic understanding of time, be able to write their name, draw shapes, copy letters and speak in complete sentences.
Large and small motor skills, also known as gross and fine respectively, allow children to interact with their environment. By 2 to 3 years of age, children should have their large motor skills used for locomotion, such as sitting, standing, walking and being able to pick up objects, under control. By age 3, children should be well on their way to developing their small motor skills, which provides them with the ability to do more complex and interactive tasks, such as creating rudimentary drawings and basic arts and craft projects. By the time a child is 4 to 5 years old, he should be able to hold crayons and scissors in his fingers, stack building blocks and throw and kick a ball, somewhat accurately.
As children age, and their cognitive and motor skills develop, they begin a quest to interact more with other children. Whereas younger children, in the 2- to 3-year age range, tend to play independently, children over 3 years of age begin to engage in cooperative play with other children and imitate adults. While there are variants in the individual desire to interact with other children, if your child is not demonstrating an interest in group behavior by 5 years of age, he may be suffering from a shyness issue. Simple shyness is not a cause for alarm as most children will begin to open up the more they are exposed to group play and socialization activities.
Also known as self-help or personal-need skills, behaviors such as feeding, dressing and potty training should be present, to some degree, by age 3. Children often learn independent behaviors at a greatly different pace, depending on how much training the child received at home, prior to beginning day care. For example, some children may be able to dress themselves by age 3 or 4, whereas others may not be able to do the job themselves until later. By age 5, children should be able to wash their face, brush their teeth and put on their own shoes and socks -- but you may still have to help tie the laces.