Physical Development of Preschoolers

As 3- and 4-year-olds enter the preschool stage, they start to move away from their toddler dependency on parents and begin exploring everything around them. Growing more independent each day, they're eager to taste, touch and smell things for themselves. Preschoolers learn by both experimenting and doing, with their world revolving around their play. Their bodies are changing daily, enabling them to gain new skills and tackle challenges they couldn't do as toddlers.

Time Frame

Preschool is the period between toddlerhood and kindergarten. Although children as young as 2 years old can attend some preschools and there are also 5-year-olds in preschool, generally preschoolers are considered to be 3 and 4 years old.

Growth and Physical Appearance of Three-year-olds

After a preschooler's third birthday, physical differences appear distinct from the toddler look 1. A 3-year-old may appear thin until his muscles develop enough, making up for lost baby fat. During the third year, a preschooler's face lengthens while his upper jaw widens as it makes room for incoming permanent teeth 1. According to the Fischer-Price experts, the average 3-year-old stands between 39 and 46 inches and weighs anywhere from 35 to 55 pounds.

Coordination Development of Three-year-olds

A 3-year-old is able to hop, skip and do somersaults. His climbing ability improves, and he's able to both catch and throw balls. Three-year-olds can ride tricycles smoothly without bumping into objects. At the beginning of the year, the average 3-year-old just scribbles with crayons, copying simple letters such as Os or Xs. However, by the time he approaches his fourth birthday, he's able to hold a crayon between his thumb and fingers. His hands and fingers are able to handle child-size scissors as his fine motor skills develop, although adult supervision is needed. As he draws closer to his fourth birthday, his coordination will be well established.

Physical Appearance and Growth of Four-year-olds

A preschooler entering his fourth birthday continues losing his baby appearance, although the different body parts still aren't in complete proportion 1. Legs lengthen during the fourth to fifth year and the belly doesn't stick out any more. During the fourth year, a child's head is almost the size of an adult's, although it's about three-fourths of his final adult height. The typical 4-year-old weighs roughly 41 pounds and stands about 43 inches tall, gaining about an additional six pounds before the fifth birthday, which is largely because of muscle growth. The average 4-year-old grows an extra 2 1/2 inches before turning five.

Motor Development of Four-year-olds

As a child's muscles and nervous system develop, his coordination and fine motor skills also mature. Four-year-olds can use scissors quite well and have a definite preference for either the right or left hand. They can draw figures that include a head, arms, body and legs, along with facial details like mouth, nose and eyes. Other fine motor skills include stringing beads and closing buttons large enough to see and maneuver. Gross motor skills are more controlled. They're able to run smoothly, and are able to stop suddenly and turn. Four-year-olds can do somersaults, hop on one foot and gallop. They can easily throw, catch and bounce balls.


Although developmental information for preschoolers can be helpful, parents should keep in mind that these charts show average development 1. While a child may be above average in a particular skill, he may be below average in another skill. Rather than worry that children are below their peers in physical development, parents should consult their pediatricians regarding any concerns 1.

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