Dealing with a whiny three year old? Wondering why your 4 year old keeps hitting people? You’re at the right place!

This is the summary of the Preschool Milestones that my work has found. Each milestone starts with a child who becomes difficult to deal with and ends with new mental abilities. Here are the quick links for frequent users!

Quick Links

Preschool Milestone 1: 3 years, 2 weeks
Preschool Milestone 2: 3 years, 1 month
Preschool Milestone 3: 3 years, 2 months
Preschool Milestone 4: 3 years, 3 months
Preschool Milestone 5: 3 years, 3 months, 1 week
Preschool Milestone 6: 3 years, 4 months
Preschool Milestone 7: 3 years, 4 months, 1 week
Preschool Milestone 8: 3 years, 5 months
Preschool Milestone 9: 3 years, 5 months, 3 weeks
Preschool Milestone 10: 3 years, 7 months
Preschool Milestone 11: 3 years, 7 months, 2 weeks
Preschool Milestone 12: 3 years, 8 months
Preschool Milestone 13: 3 years, 10 months
Preschool Milestone 14: 4 years, 2 weeks
Preschool Milestone 15: 4 years, 3 months
Preschool Milestone 16: 4 years, 4 months
Preschool Milestone 17: 4 years, 6 months
Preschool Milestone 18: 4 years, 8 months
Preschool Milestone 19: 4 years, 10 months

Bookmark this page to come back for more! I update these summaries often.

See also the Toddler Summary and Early Elementary Summary.

Come join the discussion, Misbehavior is Growth: The Discussion.

How Understanding Childhood Developmental Cycles Helps YOU!

Understanding the cycles can help you

  1. Stay patient as a parent
  2. Know that the behavior passes
  3. Know that you are are not a bad parent nor do you have a bad kid
  4. Know that your child is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time

This is the #1 comment I get about this work: It helps parents stay patient.

Surviving then Thriving

The surviving section has links to deal with the difficult behaviors and situations–meltdowns, defiance, and such. The tools are meant to give food for thought and to be pattern breakers for where you might get sucked into the negativity that the developmental cycles sometimes bring. Above all else in my surviving section, I assume the child is not bad and that we work around the normal age-related behavior. All tools are non-punitive.

The surviving and thriving sections show off what I want to show with this work: that you can use this information to your great advantage for you as a parent and for your child’s development. These cycles are times of turmoil. Past advice usually has one punishing or correcting it or, for the more enlightened, ignoring it to “not feed the attention.” I want to show that these cycles are more like a giant sign–a Bat signal in the air–that our children are begging us to come to them at developmentally critical times. Children literally cling to their parents or evoke their attention in other ways. Go to them with love and comfort.

I hope to get more conversation and more solutions for dealing with children’s “misbehavior.” It affects issues like discipline in school or how caregivers treat your child. Instead of seeing children as naughty or disrespectful, I want more to normal age-related behavior as normal, as something that adults need to handle playfully, and in fact more than that: it’s growth! See my short article here, “Let’s Talk to Each Other about Children’s Misbehavior.”  Please share this article and this page with others who you might want to have this conversation with.

Further, if you can handle these times with gentleness, guidance, and wisdom–and invest in them as the teaching opportunities that they are– you will see that on the other side is a child who has an outstanding and robust new skill set. Ideas like “ignoring” the stages prevent us from understanding them. You can unleash an enormous potential by understanding the cycles. It can have a deep impact on parenting and education. Let’s break down these barriers between us and our children and fully understand them as to use them to everyone’s advantage. This is the idea behind my book about this: Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years.

See my more expanded thoughts here:

About the Author

Hi! It’s me! Amber (“The Observant Mom”)

I have an Industrial Engineering degree from Penn State. I worked in software as a test and integration engineer for 10 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom who homeschools my 3 children. I am very well read on child development. I hope most of all that you find my work useful to you in your parenting journey. Drop me a line if you want, helloamber@gmail.com.

Find this page useful? Want more to understand these cycles–and stop blaming you as being a bad parent? Know a struggling parent who might benefit by knowing what they are going through is normal? Throw me a bone by recommending this work to friends and family. Help spread the word about developmental stages by directing people to this work. It’s not misbehavior: it’s growth! Your understanding and comforting presence in children’s lives helps and makes everything go better.

How to Use the Milestones

I strongly recommend starting with the due date to line up with at first. Then adjust slightly from there. Many parents have confirmed much of the timeline below and others say they see the milestones float by about 1-3 weeks. Occasionally it seems like the birth date can affect the onset of a milestone. Mini-milestones are milestones that last only one day. I only describe them as such.

The skills are listed at the earliest they have ever been seen. If you don’t see skills in the milestone you are in, perhaps look back a milestone or two. The drive to list the skills at the earliest possible is the main purpose of this work. Feedback is happily worked in. There is now a Feedback Form if you want to contribute to this. Validating or critical comments are welcomed! If you wish, you can be quoted in my upcoming books about this.

Please don’t compare your child to the list. This is a cumulative set of skills from many parents. Please also don’t swallow the milestones whole: You wont be dealing with all of them whole. Take each milestone one at a time. I purposely do not include potty accidents or night terrors in the irritable period–these things may require a doctor’s attention.

Please respect my hard work by respecting the copyright protection that this has. Please send people who are interested here to this link.

Preschool Developmental Milestones

My results for preschool milestones, ages 3 – 5, are not complete yet. I do have rough notes for the entire age range, but it’s still a work in progress. I asked if people would like my rough notes anyway, and many said they did. So, here they are. I appreciate your understanding that this is a work in progress.

Preschool Milestone 1—Mental Patterning
Starts: 3 years +/- 1 week (You might spin off the birth date for this one)
Most Intense: 3 years, 1 week until 3 years, 2 weeks +/- 1 week
Ends: 3 years, 2 weeks +/- 1 week
Irritable Period Summary

  • Instant, intense meltdowns but can be resolved easily if you can guess and give what they want
  • Whiny
  • Bossy
  • Want things done/resolved immediately
  • Doesn’t want to go to bed
  • Separation anxiety
  • Doesn’t handle disappointment well, e.g., gets very upset if a doctor’s appointment is cancelled
  • High fear of abandonment if primary caregiver leaves unexpectedly
  • Wants to be picked up often (but usually only for a brief amount of time)

Most intense

  • Bossy about how something should be done. They probably want to do it but can’t do what they want well yet. They cry a lot for seeming no reason. Look of disbelief, coinciding with a major meltdown, perhaps of something that doesn’t go their way

New Abilities Summary

Distinctive

  • Sorts loose items into logical patterns, such as in rows of one color and then another, e.g., sorts Magnet toys or Connect 4 discs in patterns
  • May want to create something beautiful or functional, like flowers arranged in a vase
  • Loves to put numbers and letters in numerical or alphabetical order
  • Mentally handles numbers, such as from memory counts something, such as remembering something had a pattern of white, white, red, white and count those colors up to 4 or can understand that “8 is greater than 5”
  • Spontaneous and strong interest in adding objects
  • Can put two loose triangles together to make a square
  • Better at reading consonant-vowel-consonant words, better at differentiating e.g. “mat” and “map”
  • Love mystery stories such as “The Great Pie Robbery” by Richard Scarry
  • Says they have an “idea”
  • Makes up fair rules to govern relationships, e.g., lets their sibling take turns with them
  • Initiates ideal behavior, such as cleaning something that is dirty without being asked to
  • May learn how to use social principles to their advantage, such as by lying
  • Noticeably longer attention span, stays with something for an hour or longer
  • Much longer imaginative and creative play (several hours)
  • Understands now that if they are dressed up as a character, they are not the character but simply dressed up

Surviving

Thriving

It’s more than “just” play; it’s beginning science: pretend you are animals
Practice Safety by Building a Model Neighborhood


Preschool Milestone 2 – Evaluative of Principles
Starts: A few days shy of 3 years, 1 month
Most Intense: 3 years, 1 month
Ends: 3 years, 1 month, 2 weeks
Irritable Period Summary

  • Rude to others, e.g., tells them to “Go away”
  • Possessive of stuff
  • Doesn’t want to leave primary caregiver (fear ofabandonment)
  • A bit grumpy, usually upon waking up
  • Says that things that are merely out of sighthave “disappeared” (This may be interpreted by some as a lie)
  • Most intense
  • A grumpy grumbler who is also rude to people(mild behaviors really)

New Abilities Summary

Distinctive

  • Evaluates ideas as “good” or”bad”
  • Very perceptive at not just recalling past eventsbut also of the emotions and meaning of things that happened in the past, e.g.,can answer intelligently what their happy and sad part of the day was, who wasgrumpy and why in the past, remembers exact conversations had
  • Understands when people are being”good” or “bad”
  • Recreates something in “real life” accurately,such as putting on a play they put on based on a movie, something theyconstruct such as building a familiar place out of train tracks/wood blocks(maybe a tunnel), or draw a crude drawing of a real place (maybe a house or restaurant)
  • Puts on lengthy plays, probably about someone going to jail or being rescued
  • Persuaded by logical arguments, e.g., you don’t need to change your diaper right now because it’s not dirty (when changing the diaper was part of a previous routine)
  • Can understand “After you do one morething, we are doing something else.”
  • Orders you to follow the rules, e.g. stop at aStop sign
  • Very polite. May ask permission before doinganything (the opposite of rude)
  • Tries on different “roles” forthemselves and with gusto, such as their favorite princess or other character—atruly emerging personality
  • Says they are a particular character from afavorite story and carries on in elaborate imaginative play as that character
  • Says they are a particular animal and starts towalk like that animal, e.g., frog or bear
  • Perceptive about the quirky things that defineother’s personalities, e.g., sayings their mom or dad says
  • May want to play around with their physicallooks or outfits, e.g., may want to cut their hair. They are likely to want todress up as the person they admire the most
  • Handles disappointment well
  • Interested in finding out if something is trueor not, e.g., someone says the baby is sleeping—is he really?

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 3 – Flexible Application of Principles
Starts: 3 years, 1 month, 3+ weeks
Most Intense: 3 years, 2 months
Ends: A few days after 3 years, 2 months
Irritable Period Summary

  • Very snuggly at first
  • Asks “Why?” a lot
  • Very sensitive, easily has meltdowns
  • Very upset when a previously established rule they knew to be true is broken, e.g., if you turn right at a red light when they previously thought that “Red means stop.”
  • Upset if someone does something a way that is unfamiliar to them, such as cleans a toilet bowl differently than they saw it done before
  • Very defiant in obeying requests. It’s as if it needs to be done on their timeline
  • Demanding that you do things in a particular way, e.g., come upstairs right now or hold something in a particular hand
  • Shows intentional spite, such as getting angry that someone hurt them in some way and acts out by throwing something of theirs
  • Has a meltdown as they try to do something “right” but can’t, such as wash their feet, but they have difficulty putting soap on their feet
  • Cries in a way that it seems like the world isn’t fair to them
  • Gives playful insults to others, e.g., the baby is “Poopies”
  • May show anxious behavior like picking their skin or licking their lips often

Most intense
Cries in a way that they feel the world is unfair to them; tries to do things they can’t quite do but they still persist at them (angrily); confused and upset when people do something the “wrong” way

New Abilities Summary

  • Can do routines out of order or backwards
  • Can count backwards
  • Can be involved in simple planning such as putting items on a grocery list
  • Tailors songs to the social situation, e.g., “Daddy finger, daddy finger, where are you? At work, at work, how do you do?”
  • Evaluates if a solution that they come up with is good or bad, such as if a solution they thought up to prevent their younger sibling from getting out of an area worked or not (likely previous milestone)
  • Better at conflict resolution from the perspective of setting their own boundaries. States their feelings in a diplomatic way, e.g., confronts their sibling by saying, politely, “No hitting” or tells someone they are “disappointed” that something happened
  • Less rote and more involved in social interactions, e.g., may say “thank you for noticing” after you tell them “good job”
  • Much more confident in executing routines, such as “Put your backpack in the bin and come join the class”
  • Can understand a slightly more nuanced moral theme, such as “Cinderella is treated bad but she is not bad.”
  • Highly interested in knowing how to get around, such as knowing which bathroom to pick (Men or Women)
  • Very much wants to help others figure out how to do things, such as offering to help teach someone who can’t read to read
  • May spontaneously write letters
  • Note: The social behaviors they show at this milestone are highly correlated to the social behaviors they see from adults. Compare your behaviors to your child’

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 4 – Faithful Application of Principles
Starts: 3 years, 2 months, 1 week
Most Intense: A few days shy of 3 years, 3 months
Ends: Greatly dissipates around 3 years, 3 months
Irritable Period Summary

  • Meltdowns when things don’t go the way they think they “should” be done
  • Major conflicts with other children and now they are over what rule itself should apply, e.g., they insist that a toy should be “shared” while another sibling tells them “no taking”
  • Enforcer of the rules but breaks those very rules in enforcing them, e.g., yells at others to “be quiet” while being loud
  • High rate of conflict (if given reason for, e.g., may not notice if you have an only child)
  • Fear of bad guys or monsters at night
  • Nightmares
  • Purposely gives the wrong answer or thing, e.g., asks you what of two options you want and gives you the opposite of what you asked for
  • Likes to tell “lies” about what happens in a story, making up new plots for the fun of it, such as Te Fiti in Moana turns into Elsa (as opposed to Te Ka)
  • Sad for seeming no reason
  • Rude demands
  • Whiny
  • Clingy
  • Won’t eat
  • Stalls at bedtime

Most Intense Period
Gets sad or cries easily, doesn’t want you to leave them, gets into fights with people over the rules that should apply
New Abilities Summary

  • Applies abstract knowledge to the real world, e.g., If you make a “Three waffle sandwich,” they now expect it to have three waffles.
  • Firmly understands when they are in character they are “just pretending”
  • Stays in character on purpose to make others laugh, e.g., pretends to be an absent minded chicken to make people laugh
  • Can answer correctly what their sad part of the day was by picking something that did happen that day, although it is something you likely just talked to them about
  • Understands when someone made a mistake or when someone is just joking
  • Interested in what others are thinking about
  • Makes up stories about things that are not visible, e.g., hands you nothing and says it’s a particular character
  • Keeps asking “where did something go?” even though they can see it, perhaps because they want to linger and look at it longer
  • Can read a map such as to find a real spot based on the map
  • Understands how to play a card or board game such as Richard Scarry’s Busytown
  • Takes an active and decisive role in conflict resolution, e.g. apologizes quickly when they see they hurt someone
  • Particular about what rule is applied, e.g., “Give me a hug but just a small hug”
  • Asks what others are thinking about or reading about
  • “Eavesdrops”: Understands what others are talking about and contributes
  • Comforts other people on their own initiative
  • Obeys requests better, such as “no hitting”

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 5 – Application of Principles to Past, Present, and Future
Starts: 3 years, 3 months and a few days
Most Intense: 3 years, 3 months and a few days until 3 years, 3 months, 1 week and a few days
Ends: Just shy of 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks
Irritable Period Summary

  • Screaming at night or waking up distraught
  • Can describe the dreams they had vividly
  • Stares into space for a noticeably long time
  • Wants to linger on something and watch it intently
  • Fickle about food
  • Defiant over many things such as getting in the bath, putting shoes on, or going to bed
  • Stalls at bedtime (bedtime may be up to 2 hours)
  • Orders others to be quiet, stop talking, or go away
  • Major meltdowns often while out and about something like what they want to do
  • Cries easily, e.g., over a book dropping on the floor or stepping on a toy
  • Conflicts with peers

Most Intense Period
It gets bad around 3 years, 3 months and a few days and gets increasingly worse until 3 years, 3 months, 1 week and a few days. During this time, they might frustratingly stall at bedtime for hours, become defiant about doing things (e.g., getting a bath or brushing their teeth), have major meltdowns perhaps about where they want to go while out, and cry easily, such as if they simply stepped on a toy.

New Abilities Summary

  • Considerably greater self-awareness of their own behavior, e.g., realizes that when saying “Be quiet” they should also be quiet (blends with the last milestone)
  • Takes their time to make a choice, as if they want to make sure it is an intelligent and educated choice, such as going into deep thought as they think about what to order for dinner
  • Gives very intelligent and sometimes unexpected answer to questions, e.g., when you ask what their happiest part of the day was, they might say something not discussed between the two of you yet
  • Shows they have strong knowledge of what happened that day and in the future, such as saying a prayer in which they remember everything that happened that day and ask for help with future events
  • Begins to understand principles that are applied more long term such as “eating too many cookies will give you a big belly”
  • Says they want to “solve” something
  • Much more methodical in solving a problem, e.g., tries to figure out what is the next [whatever] in a series
  • Greater interest in and ability to put steps in a process in order, such as washing something first and then drying it
  • Loves to talk about their favorite story from start to end, noting nuanced details. You might use this as a tactic when they are in meltdown mode or your need their cooperation: offer to tell their favorite story from start to end. This is a great reading comprehension builder
  • Can understand the idea of “I will only do this for you if you do this,” e.g., “I’m not getting you a new banana until you throw the peel of the old banana away.”
  • Understands tasks can be put off until later
  • Acts out characters from books in better detail
  • Follows along with a story better. Might fill in the details as you read it or act out part of it
  • Becomes pleasant and cooperative
  • Highly interested in and accurate in spelling out words
  • Very interested in what colors mixed together will make what other color
  • Loves, loves, loves to count everything
  • Writes letters
  • More nimble, e.g., does somersaults quickly

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 6 – Strategic Thinking
Starts: 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks
Most Intense: A few days shy of 3 years, 4 months
Ends: 3 years, 4 months
Irritable Period Summary

  • Screams, cries, or whines intensely when they don’t get their own way, such as if they can’t have a phone or if they want their primary caregiver’s attention but can’t have it
  • A delayed reaction (up to 20 seconds) in how to respond to being hurt before they start screaming, as if they are contemplating how to respond (suggesting they have greater control and choice in responding)
  • Shows guilt, remorse, or shame quickly, such as pouting and bowing their head in shame after being yelled at or confronted by someone for doing something wrong, even if you are very gentle in doing this (May affect girls more than boys)
  • Evokes pity to get help, e.g., pretends to be mute or soft-spoken to get you to help them
  • Says they are sorry or accept blame for things they did not cause, such as if a baby is crying they say “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
  • Purposely goes the wrong way
  • Zones out
  • Hits and gets aggressive when upset with others; may especially pick on younger siblings
  • Nightmares about bad guys at night

Most Intense Period
Crying. Lots of crying. Possibly whining instead of crying depending on your child. It greatly dissipated after the most intense period listed but irritable behavior is still noticeably seen until the end on and off.
New Abilities Summary

  • Can make a simple strategic decision, in which a principle is applied to best solve a real-world problem, such as “Walking this way is better than another way to get somewhere.”
  • Wants to be involved in determining good or bad, such as inspecting eggs before buying them
  • Creates structures highly accurately based on a picture
  • Much higher creativity, may make up a poem that rhymes or draw more creatively
  • Love to make up nonsense words
  • Draws letters or pictures realistically

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 7 — Specific Thought
Starts: 3 years, 4 months, 1 week
Most Intense: 3 years, 4 months, 1 week
Ends: 3 years, 4 months, 1 week, a few days
Irritable Period Summary

  • Easily has a meltdown when something goes wrong
  • Has a meltdown even though it seems like they have everything they could ever want
  • Becomes paralyzed, e.g., might cry that a door is not opened and won’t open it even though they can open a door
  • Irrational fears, such as they or large toys will go down bathroom drain

Most Intense Period
It doesn’t last long at all. Sudden meltdown over seeming nothing, paralyzed to act
New Abilities Summary

  • Notice that the START of this one is only two weeks from the START of the last one. Pinning down exact differentiated abilities may be difficult! Nonetheless, here they are:
  • Very specific in categorizing things, e.g., octopus have EIGHT legs and crabs have SIX
  • Uses the categorizations that they are familiar with to make decisions, e.g., A page in a book has TWO trolls on it so they ask “Mommy let’s find the one with two trolls.”
  • Very specific in labeling what they are doing, e.g., “I’m on the SIXTH step!”
  • Describes things in very stark terms, e.g., “That bird is DEAD.”
  • Can follow a pattern such as putting colors in rainbow order
  • Can fully understand that a person or animal whose eyes are covered cannot see
  • Can negotiate with you to solve a short-term problem, e.g., you want them to get out of the van but they feel unsafe so they offer to wait in another part of the van while you get their sibling out
  • Can make up a new play and act it out or ask others to act it out
  • Insistent on getting a specific type of something, such as a particular character from a vitamin jar
  • More socially independent, may make friends spontaneously with children they don’t know
  • Very good at adding, e.g., five toes on one foot and the other make TEN!!!

Surviving
Emotional Responsibility: Staying Patient as a Parent (and a Person)
Trick for Cooperation Starting at Preschool Milestone 5: Tell Them a Story


Preschool Milestone 8—Integrates Principles / Deductive Reasoning
Starts: 3 years, 4 months, 3 weeks
Most Intense: 3 years, 5 months until 3 years, 5 months, 1 week
Ends: 3 years, 5 months, 2+ weeks
Irritable Period Summary

  • Starts off with a child who is calm and pleasant but becomes wildly confused about things, such as “Why can’t you reach up and grab the airplane for me?”
  • Escalates after this within a few days to a child who:
  • *Demands* your attention, especially to do an activity such as a puzzle
  • Wants their lovey (a blanket or stuffed animal used for comfort)
  • Has instant, intense meltdowns especially if you try to walk away
  • Does not want to separate from primary caregiver
  • Whines and whines and whines when they don’t get something they want instantly, even after reassurances and consoling (distracting them works such as telling a story or asking them to count trees)
  • Spits
  • Defiant to do things like get in the bath or put their shoes on
  • Overly cautious when doing certain things, such as walking down the stairs
  • Not cautious at all when doing other things such as being on slippery surfaces
  • Highly repetitive, might repeat the same question or keep doing something that previously hurt them
  • Has irrational ideas and fears of what might happen to them, such as they might go down the drain of the bathtub or that other people can turn into things spontaneously, e.g. their brother will turn into a “bad guy” or that they can shrink to fit inside a tiny doll house
  • These irrational fears may make them scared to walk down stairs or get in bath tubs
  • “Rearranges” many things in the form of throwing toys over balconies or moving big items from one room to the next
  • Very bossy and aggressive towards other children but if you press harder you will see it’s because they are concerned for the safety of the other child
  • Seems to have a larger need for sleep, might seem very sleepy and tired yet won’t sleep


Most Intense Period
Ear splitting screams, intense whining—Please prepare your heart for this one. It’s intense.
New Abilities Summary

  • Note: There is a very noticeable very calm period between this one and the last one that lasts about 2 weeks. If you have any trouble determining which milestone your child is in, using this noticeable sunny period may help you to “recalibrate”
  • Makes up logical rules to govern relationships but which are inaccurate, such as “1 + 0 makes 10.”
  • Makes up logical rules that are accurate such as “Red is 1, Orange is 2, Yellow is 3” as they assign the colors of the rainbow a number, integrating together the idea of numerical order and rainbow order together
  • Puts two separate skills together into a more masterful skill, such as applying their knowledge of functional reading and the mechanics of reading together, e.g., they know the bathroom sign says “Women” and they sound out each letter or perhaps put together knowledge of how to draw small shapes to draw a bigger picture
  • Connects the relationship between two things that they learned. If they see a flamingo video on your phone, they might call up an app on their tablet to show you another flaming video. It’s not just that they made the connection but they’ll go get the resource to compare the two things. Another example: Learns to read a word such as “pig” then finds another book with “pig” in it and reads it
  • Whereas they have irrational fear in the irritable period, they develop healthy fear and takes responsibility over things which they should be careful about, such as moving cars
  • Pretends to be someone other than they are often, such as they are Jesse the cowgirl from Toy Story when they have boots on or they are their best friend
  • Very into how people see and from what angle, e.g., if something is over your eyes you can’t see
  • Loves “science experiments” where you mix things, make things explode, or cut things
  • Basic deductive reasoning such as “Let’s not get the big one.” “Oh, OK, then we are getting the small one” or concludes that if a person has a window down they might have wanted fresh air
  • Loves, loves, loves to hear their favorite story from start to finish and be peppered with questions about it. They can answer questions about the characters and plot handily (as seen in previous milestones)
  • Creative ideas to solve problems, such as using a cash register to be a “bank” while playing Monopoly Jr. or that you can melt chocolate and make a “chocolate smoothie”
  • May start to bring doll or stuffed animal around with them, which may be the first time they start to use the animal as a way to transfer their fears and risks onto something else
  • Passion for drawing
  • Drawing becomes noticeably more accurate such as making “dragon teeth”
  • Reads complicated words by actively sounding them out such as “women” or “yellow”

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 9 — Highly Inquisitive and Evaluative
Starts: 3 years, 5 months, 3 weeks
Most Intense: 3 years, 5 months, 3 weeks
Ends: 3 years, 6 months, 1 week
Irritable Period Summary

  • Destructive but in a way that is inquisitive, might destroy pieces of cardboard (such as restaurant coasters), take movies out of their cases, throw toys over the balcony, unrolls toilet paper, take heads off their dolls (prepare your house and heart for this! It can be maddening—or cute—just depends on the situation)
  • Upset when they really want control over something but don’t have it, such as who gets to turn the lights on or off in a room or how a movie should end (bossy/stubborn)
  • Still has some irrational fears and which can cause them to be fearful of certain situations such as going down stairs
  • A bit whiny
  • Screaming / Hitting
  • Wants primary caregiver a bit more
  • Refuses to put their own shoes or clothes on, demands you do it
  • Potential sleep disruptions
  • Most Intense Period
  • It starts off intense with a child who becomes a “mini tornado.” After this they are just a bit whiny and likely to want their primary caregiver a little bit more. Blink and you’ll miss this one.

New Abilities Summary

  • Strong desire to be taught and receive lessons. Very receptive to learning proper way to handle things, such as how to hold a DVD properly (use this to your advantage!)
  • Very interested in and evaluates others: So and so is their best friend (or not), mommy is a great cook, their sibling is doing something ALL WRONG
  • Asks curious questions such as “What do zombies eat?”
  • Can take a noticeably greater interest in art, especially of children
  • Strongly interested in animals, such as pigeons in the park, likely to chase them
  • Very good at doing something like picking out a movie, opening the Blu Ray player, putting the movie in, and maybe even operating the remote
  • Very good at certain skills like adding, can better recognize that 1 + 0 is 1, not 10 or knowing the clock is at a certain number
  • Can accurately remember when a past event occurred: a few days versus a few weeks ago
  • Understands upcoming events, such as a holiday is on X day
  • Very realistic in pretend play, such as reenacting how a mommy is pregnant then births a baby by putting the baby in her shirt then “delivering” it
  • More realistic about fears: might know they won’t go down the bathroom drain but think some of their smaller toys will (when they won’t)

Surviving


Preschool Milestone 10 — Vivid Realistic Imagination
Starts: 3 years, 6 months, 2 weeks
Most Intense: Flare ups throughout all of the irritable period, the worst perhaps being at the very beginning and again +/- 1 week from 3 years, 7 months
Ends: 3 years, 7 months, 1 week
Irritable Period Summary

  • Very upset when something doesn’t go the right way, for instance if they fall off a chair or you forget to get them something or another child escapes outside on accident
  • Highly protective of loved ones, very fearful for siblings for example
  • Very upset to the point of screaming when they are made aware that they hurt someone
  • Very upset when they can’t be the one to help someone
  • Screams or has meltdown when they can’t have their primary caregiver or any other loved one near them or loved one/PC moves away suddenly
  • Has a persistent semi-rational fear such as that there is a snake in the house or tigers are chasing them, which they worry about day after day
  • Higher propensity to hit
  • Weaved in through this highly sensitive and easily irritable behavior are some really sweet moments!
  • Likes to be physically close to primary caregiver often, perhaps laying on them or on their lap
  • Wants primary caregiver at bedtime
  • More likely to bring their lovey or blanket around the house with them

New Abilities Summary

  • Can create a vivid realistic 3-D picture in their mind, e.g., can understand the idea of outer space
  • Highly imaginative about what they might like to do and in a realistic and big way, e.g., build a new road somewhere
  • Very good deductive reasoning as now applied across time (past and future), e.g., may see a puddle and conclude “It rained yesterday” (which would have happened previously)
  • All of a sudden remembers things from several months ago, e.g., they used to have a stuffed animal but now it is lost or remembers a nightmare from a while ago
  • Describes actions in terms of moral terms, e.g., “Daddy you said bad words”
  • Applies a knowledge of ideal behavior to themselves, e.g., “I lay down on bed to calm down and not be an angry brother” (probably a product of previous milestones)
  • More focused on new and more complex activities such as coloring and gluing. Better use of their hands, e.g., better able to catch a ball

Surviving

Thriving

A child with a vivid realistic 3-D imagination will love to visit a museum, cave, aquarium, historic site, etc.

Preschool Milestone 11— Encyclopedic Knowledge
Starts: 3 years, 7 months, 2+ weeks
Most Intense: 3 years, 7 months, 3 weeks
Ends: 3 years, 8 months
Irritable Period Summary
Wants you near them at bed, might physically grab you so you don’t leave
Stalls majorly at bedtime
Jumps on others and lays on others
Highly sensitive when they have been hurt or perceive they were wronged
New Abilities Summary

  • Develops an impressive memorization of facts, such as what a certain animal eats or the names of the planets
  • Understands new and advanced words immediately and says them accurately such as “aquarium” or “Riverwalk.” It is highly reliable that they will understand any new word taught on the spot, say it, and start to use it.
  • Asks intelligent questions such as “Does the sun use electricity since it’s so bright?”
  • Highly interested in reading words
  • Can learn new sight words quickly
  • Wants to know if things are real or fake
  • Loves to answer questions to test their knowledge and understand the world, such as “Are trees living or not living?”
  • Loves, loves, loves to do experiments and activities
  • Recognizes others’ needs in an intellectual way and understands the need to move towards a problem that satisfies all, e.g., after a scuff up says “I’m sorry I made you angry but we worked together to find a solution.”
  • “Eavesdrops” on adults and understands exactly what they are talking about
  • Understand and participates in adult conversations better
  • Very technically accurate, such as “You just hit your brother.” “No I hit his TOE,” or any other similar example
  • Interested in knowing what the exact rules are essentially to know what they can do or what they can get away with, e.g., may tickle their sister instead of hitting because the rule was “no hitting”
  • Shows mastery over a skill using their hands, may write letters nicely or put on makeup with impressive ability
  • Plays with string to tie things up and other materials to make “bridges.” Interested in simple machines and how things move (both boys and girls may show this.)
  • Can infer conclusions from observed facts, e.g., a garbage can is on the driveway but dad already put one away, so this one on the driveway must be a neighbor’s garbage
  • More advanced if/then logic as applied to real life, e.g., set a plate out for dad if he’s home but not if he’s not home

Surviving

Thriving

Sort Animals


Preschool Milestone 12 — Thematic Thinking
Starts: 3 years, 8 months, 1 week +/- 1 week
Most Intense: 3 years, 8 months, 4 weeks until 3 years, 9 months, 1 week +/- 1 week
Ends: 3 years, 9 months, 1 week +/- 1 week
Irritable Period Summary

  • VERY possessive of something they are working on
  • Can be expected to never share
  • Aggressive, rude, or bossy, likely in setting their own boundaries
  • Refuses to go to bed/stalls at bedtime
  • May unexpectedly cut something or destroy something
  • Wants more control especially in situations where they don’t have it, such as if they are strapped in a car seat and they want you to do something a certain way and they can’t make it happen
  • Gets back up out of bed and insists on working on a new skill such as coloring or continues to talk after going to bed
  • High fear of abandonment, may even tell you they think you might give them away
  • Very upset over the slightest of pain
  • Imagines fake threats against them and has a story about them, e.g., “A light saber hit me and hurt me.” “Hippopotamuses are chasing me!!!” [While in the car], “Robbers are at our house stealing our stuff right now.” “A black hole will suck me in.”
  • Very caring and loving to stuffed or real animals, wanting to take care of and protect them, perhaps tucking them in to bed at night with their own special blanket
  • Warning: Scary movies may be too much during the irritable part of this milestone

Most Intense Period
A child who is very possessive about their items and won’t let anyone play with what is theirs. Aggressive, rude, and bossy behaviors may stem from this. You are likely to get very frustrated—hang in there mom and dad! They really need you and may even be scared of what they think might happen to them. Spending a few minutes at night to help them feel safe and secure will likely mean the world to them.

New Abilities Summary

  • Draws real life things in stunning detail, maybe an entire roller coaster or a train with details about how it works
  • Recreates real objects as art, might make specific shapes out of perl beads (before likely put the beads on randomly) or arrange food on their dinner plate in an artistic way
  • Understands complicated machinery, such as how a roller coaster works after watching a documentary on it
  • Highly socially perceptive and takes social risks, e.g., says “WAH Wah wah” when a joke falls flat or notes when an adult behaved poorly, citing exact reasons
  • Transfers social risks to their dolls or stuffed animals, e.g., “Doggy wants to lick you” or if you ask if you can kiss them, they say, “No, kiss doggy” or asks you to try to send their favorite animal to the moon
  • A better understanding of someone else’s perspective, e.g., pretends their stuffed animal is playing a game and they play for the stuffed animal
  • However, their sense of perspective is not refined, e.g., if you spin them and ask if they are moving or the room is moving, they’ll say the room is moving
  • Coaches and consoles their stuffed animals as if they are real
  • Can understand the simple moral themes of a story, e.g., “Luke has to decide to be a good guy or bad guy”
  • Easily follows along with a complicated game, such as football or checkers
  • Asks you to see their positive attributes and gives detailed reasons why they are good, “I put the dishes away, I am kind to my sister … “
  • Tells you definitively what they are also not good at, “I’m not strong, so-and-so is strong.”
  • Gives reasons for why they love someone or may say “That’s why I love you.”
  • Assigns jobs to people based on their talents, e.g., “Mom you can’t do that because you’re not good at. I’ll do it because I’m good at it.”
  • Able to correctly identify whose “fault” something was although I suspect this shows up at an earlier milestone
  • Understands the rules and expectations you have for them very clearly and exactly
  • Takes an interest in measuring things and can measure things with a ruler
  • Starts to have a good estimation of time, e.g., something is about to take a few seconds or 10 minutes
  • Understands calendar time, e.g., can increment by one such that they know tomorrow is such and such date
  • Understands money better and that something costs X dollars and might talk about what they would do with more money
  • Initiates own projects and games with other children
  • Can play independently of adults, and persistently play with other children, independent of adults
  • Extremely focused on things like coloring, drawing, and cutting
  • Makes up and tells story after story
  • Better mastery over something like zipping up a jacket or zipping up a wallet
  • Teaches skills to other children
  • May enforce rules on other children


Surviving


Preschool Milestone 13 Tests, Compares, and Evaluates Complex Theories and Systems
Starts: 3 years, 9 months, 2 weeks
Most Intense: From 3 years, 9 months, 2 weeks until at least 3 years, 10 months, 1 week it is especially difficult
Ends: 3 years 11 months, 2 weeks +/- 1 week
Irritable Period Summary
• Extreme battles at nighttime
• Meltdowns over what likely seems mundane but which is likely over who is faster or better, e.g., you ask someone to get you a piece of paper and they are upset their sibling got it first
• Meltdown over very specific and detailed things not going the way they are used to, e.g., their dad always says “Look at this little heart!” before you watch a song together and you forget to do it once
• Very upset with things that are distracting, like loud noises when they are trying to watch something or someone who hits them accidentally
• Becomes very comfortable with making decisions that have several variables, such as when to cross a road based on if the vehicle has a turning signal on, and my dart out into the road on their own unexpectedly
• Wants a say in things like where you go or how you do it and has a meltdown if you don’t do it a certain way, such as how to peel a banana or what song to sing
• Very bossy in a specific way. You might have to take turns when helping them get dressed or they might insist you ORDER food inside, while they play in the playground and then leave, or get mad that you didn’t use the word “SOMETIMES” when describing something they do or wanted to do or says, “I’m not a MAN; I’m a BOY!” if someone says “You are a responsible young man.”
• You might find many communication problems when they simply say “Look at that one!” and you don’t know what “that one” is but it turns out to be a bug that flew away or maybe they categorize things in their own way such as one door is orange and another is gray an you have no idea what orange or gray are when they bring it up
Most Intense Period
• Perhaps aggression or lots of crying and crying and crying. Boys may be likely to be aggressive; girls to whine. Drop me a note if you find that this gender assignment holds up. This one is intense.
New Abilities Summary
• Finally calm again and may be respectful and not rude when they feel threatened that mom or dad is not giving them full attention
• Formally tests one idea as better or worse than another, e.g., builds a rocket and tests which can go higher
• Compares themselves to everything and always wants to be the fastest or the best
• Capable of holding several factors in their mind mentally and making a decision, e.g., if a moving vehicle is near but doesn’t have their turning signal on to go the direction you are, you can still cross the road. They likely will want to make such decisions more.
• Better at certain board games with more rules, such as a (slightly modified version of) Clue
• Considers solutions to problems that very specifically satisfy everyone, such as mom and dad can go inside a fast food restaurant and they can play at the playground while mom and dad order
• Develops theories, e.g., “Boys can rock climb but girls can’t.”
• Verifies if statements said are right or wrong, e.g., if you say it’s raining, they go and check.
• Leverages complex rules/ideas to get their way, e.g., “Caramels have sugar and sugar is bad for you but I can have one per day” or “If [a certain food] makes me sick and [a certain medicine] helps me not be sick, then if I have both, I’m good.”
• Very good at being given some rules or restrictions and complying with them, e.g., be quiet at the library
• A lot less demanding of your attention, more independent, more respectful, a delight really
• Shows stronger identification with their gender, such as insisting on going in the proper gendered bathroom or only singing the part in a song where the same gender person that they are sings
• Understands the idea of going to a “next level” or completely your “training” (e.g., to be a jedi)
• Very quick at adding numbers up to 10
• Loves to see the patterns in words, e.g., “Mommy starts with ‘M’!”
• Loves science experiments, especially if two things are compared
• Very capable of understanding and interested in knowing which way is North, South, East, and West, and may ask about it and understand it while driving in a vehicle

Surviving

Thriving
Try some of the science experiments from my science program
Melting Point Race

Preschool Milestone 14 Differentiates the Possible from the Impossible
Starts: Between 3 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 4 years
Most Intense: Has two peaks at 4 years, 1 or 2 weeks and 4 years, 1 months 0 or 1 week or may be two separate milestones with just a little breather in between
Ends: 4 years, 1 month, 2 weeks (some flare ups likely involving jealousy or “whose toy is it” should be expected between this milestone and the next but it should be noticeably calmer on average)
Irritable period

  • Hitting, throwing, taking, acting out
  • Aggressive towards other children to take their toy or other object
  • Won’t stop when asked to stop
  • May be playful in this aggression to be with another child, such as chasing them around saying “I love you! I love you!”
  • Can be withdrawn, quiet, and clingy
  • Demands you stay with them late at night
  • Demands your attention in the day time
  • Does not at all like when you are separated from that at times (say you keep them out of the room if you are getting dressed)
  • Does destructive things with a seeming purpose, like cut a dolls hair or use an electric toothbrush near water to wash something
  • Communication problems like they ask a question and you start to answer and they yell, “NO! LISTEN TO ME!” You might have to repeat to them what was asked before answering
  • Might tell people to “go away” or retreat to their room and shut the door, seems to value privacy and space
  • No amount of outside time settles them
  • Reminder: Take a note of your child’s behavior and how it affects you. It might affect your relationship or work.
  • Snuggly

Most Intense Period

The first: Very assertive and in a physical way, might hug and tackle their sibling and not let up. Wants you to stay with them late at night, might show off an impressive new skill during these late nights.

The second peak shows a better ability to verbalize in an assertive way rather than going straight to physical assertiveness. When pressed or uncomfortable, the child may still resort to physical violence like kicking people in the foot or jumping on them

New Abilities Period

Pushes Ideas and Behaviors of What is Possible:

  • Many questions pertaining the difference between what is possible and impossible such as questions about turning their brother into a girl, if you can put your head on theirs and theirs on yours, can they fly, can cats lay eggs. Things don’t have to be the way they are!
  • Loooooooves super heroes
  • Loves the idea of “magic” making things happen
  • In the quest to make things happen, might hit or punch people to get their way in a deliberate way
  • May also do things to make things “beautiful” like put marker all over the dresser or cut their hair
  • Wants to take on big challenges, like carrying a heavy basket at the store, and commit to doing it despite the difficulty
  • Can clean up an entire room (bedroom or toy room) on their own and in fact may want to
  • Can clean their entire body in the bathtub
  • Reliably executes a routine in the morning, such as changing clothes and also less likely to wake up Mom or Dad
  • Demands you watch them do something big and dramatic
  • Does more daring physical things like running on then jumping on a scooter or flipping outside down on gymnastic rings or blowing up a balloon
  • It’s as if they don’t want to be contained by a room or house because they want to do big things
  • Very interested in the idea of truth versus lies or real versus fake
  • Prone to exaggerations, such “We’ll NEVER see my friend again” or “Halloween is gone FOREVER!”
  • Sincerely can’t stop themselves from doing certain things, like peeling at things they shouldn’t (like paint or their fingernails) or hitting people with something (like a toy sword)

But Also Understands Better What is “Good” and Realistic:

  • Very receptive to formal lessons about ideal social behavior (take advantage of it and actively teach them proper ways of doing things!)
  • Always listening, watching, and understanding what adults say and do, e.g., may note when you were angry
  • Really wants to be good or do good, such as hears you talking about what is good and they announce they are committed to being nice
  • Asks permission to do things
  • Very mature and self reflective on how they make mistakes. They may say, “Mommy, you made a mistake. That’s Ok. You can work on it” or recognizes “sometimes I make mistakes.”
  • Can follow rules and request much better and in fact reliably
  • Doesn’t cheat at games
  • Can execute tasks much better such as please go get your blanket or please wipe after using the potty
  • Much more calm, less whiny/aggressive
  • Just much more calm and reasonable, even sly and clever

Cognitive  and Academic Changes:

  • Intensely interested in academic things like reading, such as noticing what letter words start with (if they are or are not reading, they may take notice in this)
  • Information seems implanted in their mind now. Does not forget any step in any routine, e.g., will remember that you read books during bedtime even if they’ve already laid down
  • Retains information while evaluating solutions. You might tell them, “to make gray we can use black lightly” and they go and look for gray and after not finding it, come back to the solution of using black lightly
  • Evaluates past decisions to improve in the future. For instance, says they should have let their tablet charge longer so it lasts longer next time
  • More resourceful in play and solving problems. Might find a part from something that doesn’t belong to what they are working on and use it in a useful or creative way, such as a Lego from a different kit or uses Lightning McQueen instead of Goldilocks in a Three Little Bears Play
  • Can understand a concept like socks are interchangeable but shoes are not
  • Loves to compare things like Wonder Woman wears red circle earrings and Wonder Girl wears red star earrings. Bigger comparisons as well
  • Interested in the idea of sets. Like, why is Supergirl and Batgirl in the list of girl superheroes and ALSO in the list of super heroes in the Justice League? Or how are there bees AND bumblebees?
  • May talk in their sleep, repeating what they learned that day
  • Understand both the parts of something and the whole as found in previous milestones but now more persistent about it across a routine or time, e.g., the exact steps to make a salad
  • Enjoys skip counting, perhaps writes out 10, 20, 30 etc., up to 100 or loves to skip steps as they walk, like they are turbo charging the process, making it faster
  • Loves to be given lessons, do science experiments, or watch interesting documentaries (say on a house being jacked up to avoid flood). A very active and excited learner; sees learning as a joy or even describes it as “beautiful” or says things are “really cool to watch (or learn)”
  • Understands more complex moral themes, such as the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp caused a mess and blamed Lady but it wasn’t really Lady it was the cats
  • Wants to learn about moral themes such as asking “What is this song about?” wanting to know what the chorus and words mean
  • Draws their own conclusions as related to them about moral themes such as the boys in Pinnochio turn into donkeys but they are a girl so they (if they are a girl) won’t
  • Clever and creative at explaining things, such as to explain fast and strong they may say, “Dash (from the Incredibles) is fast and Mr. Incredible is strong”
  • Endless questions: why are you so sad, why are you so excited, why did this character do that
  • Can better understand “what if” questions, as they have a better imagination, can think about the ramifications of certain situations, and push the bounds of what is possible

All of the following start at Preschool Milestone 13 but get more refined at 14:

  • Understands the rules of games better
  • Joins in many practical life activities, takes instruction, and executes them well, e.g., putting together a salad
  • An ability to take in several variables and make an exact right decision or come up with a solution has been characteristic of a child in the months leading up to 4.

Social and Relationship Changes:

  • More independent, specifically about stuff they previously begged you to do (such as help them with the potty or put their shoes on) with them, may insist on doing something in privacy then come out having done it
  • Much more likely to dress themselves completely or put their own shoes on
  • Settled on who is their best friend
  • Very friendly and intimate with their friends, may hold hands, etc.
  • Likes to set up serving stations or be a “waiter,” loves to help set tables/serve food
  • Very matured sense of humor, stays in character to tell a joke, capable of running the full gamut of humor such as deepening their voice to make a joke, loves if you notice their jokes
  • Loves to whisper to you

Surviving

Preschool Milestone 15 Highly Creative Solutions Applied to Real World Problems

Starts: 4 years, 2 months, 2 or 3 weeks

Most Intense: 4 years, 3 months

Ends: 4 years, 3 months, 2 weeks (at earliest)

Irritable Period Summary

• Wants their own way
• Wants to stay up late
• May want to do crazy things late at night like go on a walk
• Spins in circles (while holding objects which crash into things)
• Harasses others such as their sibling (it’s very annoying)
• Refuses to leave the house
• High fear of abandonment, such as if the primary caregiver simply leaves the house or they think you are going to drop them off at a recycle place (after you simply dropped off your stuff)
• Very jealous of who has mommy, may even directly tell you this
• Adopts behaviors of others such as their younger baby brother or sister
• Intensely fearful about getting hurt (such as with bullets if they read about it in a story)
• May have a (fleeting) imaginary friend, in particular one that helps them solves problems like finding a stubbornly missing item
• Hops on pop (and mom)
• Makes stark observations such as that someone has a big belly or asks if a woman is pregnant (who is not)
• May talk to you about doing something big but realistic like build a house, especially late at night when they are refusing to go to sleep

Most Intense Period: Both of my older children at this exact age, 4 years, 3 months, wanted to stay up late to build a house. Crazy, right? Otherwise, many meltdowns, defiant and stubborn about how and when to do things like putting on shoes or socks, may harass others like siblings or parents

New Abilities Summary

• Recognizes the capabilities of the resources they have and utilizes them, e.g., in imaginary play recognizes a bird doesn’t have to walk like everyone else but can fly
• May surprise you in how resourceful they are, such as making a dress for a doll out of rose petals
• May make up a joke like “Why did the pig cross the road to get to the rocket?” “To get to the moon!”
• Forward about solving social problems. Might counsel other children like “It made my baby brother really sad when you took his monkey. Ok?”
• Accepts major responsibility for solving big life problems. For instance, they make a mess and solemnly declare “It’s my job to fix it” or similarly a restaurant goes out of business and they say “It’s my job to fix the restaurant.”
• Interested in the issue that resources are limited, such as there is not infinite time and most of all that there is only one Mommy
• Extremely persistent at solving at problems, such as taking two hours to solve something that someone showed them previously—and does it!
• Good at doing many steps all on their own such as making scrambled eggs (can crack eggs, put milk in, all of it)
• May verbalize out all the steps to solve a problem in great detail, “I had a potty accident. First I took my pants off. Then I took off my underwear. Then I got new pants. Then I got new underwear. Then I put on my underwear. Then I put on my pants. Then I put a towel on where I peed. The end.”
• Can understand that today is Tuesday, and it’s garbage day so they get their garbage bag without asking
• Loves to answer questions about BIG problems like how would you get a truck big enough to carry a dinosaur fossil that you found home?
• Interested in complex social problems like if you have a game with 2 players but 3 play, how does that work?
• May make funny or offhand comments about success of survival like “I am going to be with Mommy. She helps keep me alive.”
• Respectful of others such as saying “Mommy I am going to respect you. I’ll let you sleep!” Or perhaps “You need to do chores? Does that mean you need space?”
• High amount of empathy for others such as recognizing that doing things is hard for a person since they are pregnant, specifically tying it to that person’s need to rest
• Shows terrible guilt when they find out they hurt someone
• Handles social conflict well, such as by arranging taking turns for the last piece of food
• Follows along with a chapter book better and even becomes concerned and immersed in the book such as noticing and being sad that younger siblings don’t get to go to wizard school in Harry Potter
• Interested in using (picture) multi step instructions to something to better know how to do or assemble something (such as Legoes)
• Can put together more elaborate structures that come with instructions, such as a simple design from the toy Snapcircuits, a simple machine kit, or structures made out of marshmallows and spaghetti noodles
• They respond very well to being taught how to behave in certain social situations and even seem thankful that you taught them
• Notices and really grateful when others are “nice” to them
• Highly interested in reading/sounding out words, may even cry or get upset if they can’t read.
• Notices things from different perspectives such as noticing that they can’t see their own eyes or that Superman is simultaneously Superman and Clark Kent and that “When Superman is Superman he is Clark Kent and when he is Clark Kent he is Superman!”
• Like to reverse roles where they pretend they are you and you are them
• Many scientific questions like why do some things snap when bent and other things don’t, why does liquid evaporate, why don’t they wear clothes in the swimming pool
• Interested in space and dinosaurs
• May obsess over a topic or tell you they obsess over a topic, “I think about dinosaurs all the time!”

Preschool Milestone 16 — Astute, Forward, and Realistic
Starts: A few days shy of 4 years, 4 months
Most Intense: 4 years, 4 months
Ends: 4 years, 4 months 1 or 2 weeks
Irritable Period Summary
• Very demanding to have a particular caregiver at night
• Very upset that things end or go away, e.g., Christmas is over or Halloween is over. This is seen in last milestones too but it is at a peak and seems to dissipate somewhat after this
• Very upset if something gets “ruined,” such as you open a card or envelope and they didn’t want you to open it
• All of a sudden wants something very different from normal, such as a different meal than normal at a restaurant and has a really big meltdown if you failed to ask what they wanted for dinner
Most Intense Period
• Lots of screaming and meltdowns over everything, jealous others have attention. It’s maddening but short lived
New Abilities Summary
• Astute means they take in information very well. Forward means they use that information in very verbal, pro active ways to solve problems or even give people the what for. Realistic means they are now much more realistic in solving problem, and much more refined and precise.
• Very active in taking in new information, such as what the tags on their clothes say or how much something costs (astute) and then making determinations or vocalizing opinions about that information (forward). For instance, while looking through shirts at a store they announce, “Hey mom! This shirt is FIVE BUCKS!”
• That they are thinking about and absorbing everything is very apparent in their facial expression and bodily gestures. They might hold their hand up to you as if it tell you to stop talking because they are thinking about something and wave their hand around while mulling an idea. Very, very, VERY reliably understands all the going ons around them
• Loves when people love them, e.g., love to hear that Mom and Dad will always, always love them, if they are good, bad, silly, or not
• Spends a long time with others (hours) in engaged, imaginative play
• Not having it if others are disrespectful. For instance, another child tells them to stop crying and they respond, “No! I am a girl who cries. Ok!?”
• Can possibly become a voracious reader, reading beginner book after beginner book
• No longer responds to “distraction” as well, not even the more imaginative kind of distraction that worked in the threes. For instance, telling them about their favorite story won’t cause them to get in the bathtub or down the stairs. They want to solve the actual issue at hand.
• Evaluates potential new challenges and accepts them like “I am going to read more books than my brother,” when you didn’t suggest it but rather they came up with it on their own or perhaps puts on a costume to the grocery store and announces “People will think I’m hilarious!”
• Figures out more on their own, such as how a mechanical thing works (maybe a hospital bed they saw for the first time)
• Bubbles over with excitement or thoughts on how “all I have in my head are ideas and solutions”
• Offers realistic solutions to life problems, e.g., we can’t get coffee at the store so why don’t we make it at home and offers to help do that
• May want to help you with more stuff, like putting on lipstick
• Wrestles with the big life issues they discovered in the last milestone, e.g., they were worried about their favorite restaurant closing and now they have better ideas of how to keep a restaurant in business, e.g., “The restaurant needed more people to stay in business”
• Very precise in how they solve problems such as “Yellow and blue Play Doh mixed together make green but add more yellow and it’s light green!”
• Applies information in a shocking, realistic way. They might feed their newborn baby brother while you were distracted for a moment—and shut the door very quietly behind them, like you showed them once
• Very interested in an academic app like Starfall Academy
• More opinionated and argumentative about what they read. For instance, if an evil character says the world is filled with only wicked people, they might disagree, “No! That’s not true! The world is filled with kind people!” Astute and forward.
• Really loves to draw, cut, and tape things
• More realistic and detailed drawings, like a dinosaur with roller skates and a hat who gets killed by meteorites or an elaborate mountain scene
• May make elaborate things with paper, like an airplane with wings (that they cut out) or even a book of something

Preschool Milestone 17 Emotional Restraint, Ideas Across Space and Time
Starts: 4 years, 5 months, 2 or 3 weeks
Most Intense: A week or a few days shy of 4 years, 6 months (still documenting)
Ends: 4 years, 7 months (or much earlier)
Irritable Period Summary
• Children release their anger in different ways. Some whine, some hit. Some of these behaviors will apply to your child and others won’t
• Pick up easily on other’s behaviors of how to handle others. If an adult says “You’re wasting my time!” they start saying it or if their brother deals with things by saying “I’m going to kick you!” they start saying that
• Refuses baths
• Jumps on or hits others, often boys hit other adult males
• Spits
• Whines intensely / screams at the top of their lungs
• Wants to stay up late
• Tries to force other children to do things, won’t take “no” as an answer from other children when they want to play, very upset if they are left out (very distinctive of 4-1/2 to 5 year old milestones, on and off)
• Wants you to “protect” them, may want you to stop threats to them, e.g., tackle bad guys to the ground
• Wants to help you with multi-step things, such as making coffee; becomes deeply sad and upset if they can’t
• Gets out of control as if overcome by passion, e.g., cuts things that should not be cut (explicitly says they do not know right from wrong)
New Abilities Summary
• Marked by 3 distinct things: emotional restraint, highly involved imaginary friends, and weaving together big picture ideas across space and time. Old memories may randomly get kicked up too (brain growth does weird things!)
Emotional Restraint:
• Capable of emotional restraint, of getting really angry but deciding how to respond. This is the most distinctive new ability of this milestone.
• Is now willing to breathe to a count of 4 after getting really angry
• Capable of enduring pain, for instance, a hair stylist is rough in brushing their hair and you watch them tear up but endure it
• Take an active role in solving conflict with others and in a way in which they show emotional maturity. For instance, something gets out of hand with their sibling in an emotional way but they take the leadership role to calm people down and find a solution like “Here I’ll show you how to do that.”
• Much more accepting of not having their favorite person at night. Like “Oh ok. That’s just how it’s going tonight. Mom is putting brother to bed, not me.”
• Shows dramatic increasing empathy and desire to see others have fun or enjoy themselves. Shows respect for others, for instance by asking permission before doing something, to make sure the other person is OK with it (this may be the last milestone)
Imaginary Friends and Fears
• Elaborate imaginary friends, those friends may “do work” for them or “stay and protect the house” when they leave or they may counsel the friends on when such and such activity is or pretend to have races with them
• Take an interest in flying or want to fly. They are apt to jump off of high things. Please be clear with them that they cannot actually fly. You may avoid a story like Peter Pan until older ages. A swing is healthy way to make them feel like they are flying.
• Many fears of things that may be hidden but in a realistic way. For instance, they see a bush move due to the wind (at night) and won’t go outside because the “bush moved”
Long Term Planning
• This one has a strong element of understanding ideas across space and time. One striking way is long term planning. Imagine it as like a book that dictates what one is about to do and then making it happen
• They may literally describe this when they ask if they can get “REAL” toys, by which I think they mean toys that come alive
• Can talk about a long-range project, e.g., where to go on vacation and what they do when there
• Draws out something, such as a race car track, then builds it with something, like train tracks
• Come up with solutions that will project into the future, such as Mom can put them to bed one night, then their brother gets Mom the next night, then come back to them the night after that
An Integrated Personality
• Again, in weaving together ideas, they may have an idea of who they are on a more long term, committed, or comprehensive basis, such as a distinct a personality or style
• Love to have a “style.” They may be into styling their hair or picking out a full outfit for a big party and stomping, sashaying, or strutting around with their “style”
• Very much understand what’s going on and has an elaborate personality in the goings on. For instance, you play I Spy and they have an idea in their head but you can’t guess it but they sing “I can’t tell you!” when you ask them to say what it is.
Weaves Complex Steps and Ideas Together as Across Space and Time
• Can play a game with complex steps, such as Robot Turtles, Mastermind, Sorry, and Checkers. They understand the instructions easily and pick up on strategy better now, such as telling you such and such peg is the right color but the wrong spot (in Mastermind), and keep up with the game until the end
• Interested in “big picture” history, such as space and dinosaurs and has a deeper interest and understand beyond just facts. They might ask “Can we live on Mars?” “What happens to me if I go to Jupiter?” “Where did we come from?” “How did we get here?”
• They really understand “protocol.” Any game or procedure has steps and they follow them, strictly.
• They make more connections as across time and over space. They might see a restaurant as you drive by it and say “We went there last week” Or you ask them what they want to do and they want to go to a special playground they overheard you talk about the other day.
• Love to take part in something new, such as passing out candy at Halloween, doing it in an exact and fair way, minding both how much they can get and the people at the door. Very fluid, exact, and comprehensive in how they do this (similar to how they can play a board game until the end or keep up on the protocol in an I Spy game)
• They might make a highly educated guess about something given they know the goings on. For instance, something comes in the mail and they know you are making an unusual soup and need a specific ingredient and they guess that ingredient may have come in the mail
• Their drawings may reflect this new deepening protocol, perhaps drawing out some routine you have in the house, such as where to put dirty dishes by drawing out the counter. Or you take them to vote and they come home and draw it out, pretending to vote. Or they draw the entire solar system with as much detail as they know.
• If they put on a play, they remember exact lines and details and personalities about the play they are putting on, such as how one character may bow to say “Good night.”
• Can retell the plot of books that are fairly long, such as Richard Scarry stories
• Love to see the books they read on TV or in a movie. They can relate ideas better, not just facts
• Thinks about long term things like, if they got long hair like Rapunzel and it glowed and you brushed it, would you stay young forever and always be their Mom and never a Grandma?
• Expresses the knowledge that practice makes them better, i.e., they will get better in the future if they lift weights at 1 pound, then increase to 2 pounds, etc. (an idea across space and time)
• Gets the moral of the story better and very interested in ideas on punishment, justice, empathy
Academic
• Good at reading double digit numbers, enjoys work with double digit numbers (Montessori beads or base 10 cubes)
• Can learn to read many new words (I recommend just saying what the word is when they ask, don’t make them sound it out; their memory is incredible and they can reverse engineer the word after they know it)
Quiet Thinking Time
• Even the most extroverted kid all of a sudden wants lots of time alone to think
• May swing for a long time (an hour)
• Colors for a long time
• Just sits and absorbs their surroundings
Old Memories Get Kicked Up
• Shockingly remember things that they haven’t seen or places they haven’t been in up to 18 months, e.g., an obscure part of a toy that’s been in a closet or they miss a place they used to go but don’t anymore (if, say, you moved)

Preschool Milestone 18 Wildly Imaginative Stories
Starts: Between 4 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 4 years, 7 months, 3 weeks
Most Intense: A few days after 4 years, 8 months
Ends: 4 years, 8 months, 1 week at least
Irritable Period Summary
• Different children will show different behaviors:
• Unusually upset over getting hurt
• A bit more whiny
• Super upset, on a deep emotional level, that other children may not want to play with them
• Lunges at other children, extremely upset over whatever they perceive as “unfair”
• Tries to take things from other children
• Very, very upset if you say you are disappointed in them or that they are “wrong”
• Like they are too excited to be in their own body
Most Intense Period
• A child who is very whiny and sensitive, has meltdowns easily, lunges at other children and takes things, stays up late, gets up early, gets up confused (e.g., thinks their blanket is missing when it’s not) possibly starts cleaning or organizing things. Please expect to have some extra cuddles at night around this time. They may feel scared to be alone at night.
New Abilities Period
• Their imaginary friends and wildly imaginative stories are on high gear. They might tell their imaginary friends to go save the world, make up vivid super hero/villain scenes, or create a dual set of friends, such as one who is meek and shy and one who is full of confidence. They may rope other children into their stories, to the other children’s delight
• Might tell you they have a lot of dreams
• Can play “20 questions” where they have something in their mind, and you have to ask 20 questions as you try to guess what it is
• Very helpful around the house (throwing garbage away, etc.)
• May do “experiments” Like they take all the spices out of the spice drawer, put them on a piece of bread, and douse it with water. Boom. Science.
• Anything you teach them will show up in their play, e.g., you show them what an island is and they start drawing one
• Wants to learn “NEW” things
• Very interested in compass directions
• Can pick out major landmarks while driving
• Loves video documentaries (e.g., Wild Kratts, SciShow Kids). Can watch them for hours.

Surviving

Preschool Milestone 19–Loss of Fantastical Thinking (Heightened Realism)
Starts: 4 years, 9 months, 2 weeks
Most Intense: 4 years, 10 months until the end
Ends: 4 years, 11 months
Irritable Period Summary
• Angry
• Aggressive
• Gets up late at night
• Shows jealousy if you spend time with others
• Shows incomprehensible aggression, physical or verbal, usually towards the same sex parent. A boy might inexplicably start hitting his dad. A daughter might tell her mother, “If my nail polish wears off, I am going to be mad at you!” Their anger is directed at you, even though you didn’t cause it
• When they attack someone, if you tell them a part of someone is particularly vulnerable, they actually go after that part harder
• Purposely blames others for something they obviously did, e.g., “No you farted”
• Tells other little white lies like “My iPad is dead,” when it’s not
• Highly afraid of death, asks in a distraught way, “Why do we have to die?”, asks you if you’ll die someday a lot. The only thing that calms them down is to lie down with them or cuddle with them
• Keeps their creations all over the house or arranges parts of the house to their liking and hates when people move anything
Most Intense Period
Highly afraid of death, directs aggression at an adult
New Abilities Summary
Highly Realistic
• Verbally says fantastical things like vampires and monsters are fake but other things, like tornadoes and fires are real and scary
• Much more reasonable about plans. If they expected to go to the grocery store and you can’t or you are just temporarily delayed, you can explain it to them, and they accept it
• Says, “That’s OK. We can figure something else out.”
Highly Mentally Flexible in a Realistic Way
• Very flexible in allowing what kind of solution might solve a problem. For instance, they now accept that a pair of black socks can work when previously they had only wore blue socks for a certain event. Willing even to go without their favorite whatever, such as a favorite blanket
• Can give general requests without specifics, and they come up with their own solution. For instance, “We need something to play trolls in our play but we don’t have any,” and the child might bring back a different but similar figurine to be the “trolls.”
• Wants to solve a problem by coming up with their own solution, e.g., catch a fish after making their own fishing rod or makes really inventive Lego creations, such as a coffee maker made out of random Lego pieces
• Boasts sometimes that they are going to “Use their imagination!”
• Can develop a matrix in their mind. If they win a game, they smile and Dad frowns. If Dad wins, he smiles and they frown.
• Can play a game like 20 questions with advanced questions, like, “It’s not on earth and not a planet so it must be Pluto”
Highly Responsible
• Shows jaw dropping responsibility. Might carry their own stuff for a sports event, clean their toys, clean up their own potty accidents, take care of their siblings.
• In the irritable period they blamed others a lot. Now admits responsibility for what they did. Might say, “I got really hurt when I did that, but it was my fault.”
• Does something daring to solve a problem, perhaps gets their sibling out of their crib by wheeling the changing table over
• Takes responsibility for long term things, such as wants to make a cake now—for their birthday, which is two months away
• Can handle money well
Very Aware of Themselves and Their Personality
• Incredibly self-aware of their personality. Someone might ask them if something was funny and they say, “Um, yeah, but not enough to make me laugh.”
• May correctly introspect that they love doing something because they are “learning” about it. Or they say their “mind was blown” as you share new information or insight with them.
• Very aware of their growth. They may be cognizant that they used to think something but new information presented itself and now they think something different.
• Aware of how others wee them. May be highly aware that others can see them as they walk in public, might say they are “famous” because of it. As noted, just very aware of their personhood
• Aware they need to try to stay in character if putting on a play, adorably finds this task difficult
• Reads books or sings songs with great verve and personality
• Proud of their abilities like “I can make anything beautiful.”
• Likes to pretend to kiss their Mother in a romantic way.
Can Think “Outside” of themselves
• Aware of other’s perceptions. They notice that their baby brother would see them as big but Mom sees them as small. They might say something like, “I want to wear a skirt so others know I’m a girl.”
• Might ask an adult how their day was and follow along with the going-ons of the adult’s day
• Highly aware of the progression of things: they are a baby, then a child, then a teenager, then an adult, then a “Grandma.” Interested in comparisons of these things, e.g., what will they be like as a teenager, do people see them as a girl or baby?
• Very interested in what is nearby or far, like using a bathroom that is nearby instead of far
• Loves to pull jokes on people. They might chat you up nonchalantly, purposely distracting you, then look away, put sunglasses on, and surprise you with this joke of theirs

• There is a certain commonality in being willing to separate from their favorite blanket, which has been a favorite blanket forever; being able to see that certain imaginary threats are not actually threats (such as vampires or scary monsters in movies), and the way they become more aware of themselves and how they act (“I’m learning about cats,” “My mind was blown”) and how they see how others see them (“I’m big to my little brother”). It’s as if they realize that magical things cannot and will not affect them. Their favorite blanket is no different than another blanket. Vampires aren’t real and won’t hurt them. They become remarkably self aware. I would venture to say most people’s first memories are around this age, 4 years, 10 months ish. There is a certain “knowingness” to them. They have a true, formed personality at this age. It’s who they will likely be for life. And it’s fun to them to see how their personality and their surroundings play out.