Dealing with a whiny three year old? Wondering why your 4 year old keeps hitting people? You’re at the right place!
My work documents the age-related “stages” children go through. It is times when children fall apart for some time but after have a burst of new ability. My work starts at 18 months. See the toddler milestones at the main page of this website. This page is dedicated to 3 and 4 year olds. See “Milestones” at the top for all current milestones–a growing work in progress. The quick links for frequent users are after the age calculator. A Printable PDF of the summaries is immediately after the quick links.
Subscribe to The Observant Mom and get a link to a FREE printable PDF with the summary of the Toddler Milestones. This is a perfect way to share with your friends, family, and caregivers about the milestones so they understand them and support you. Simply forward the initial welcoming email to them. Get updates, also, on future books and new ways to be in touch with your child’s developmental needs. [Be sure the initial email doesn’t go to spam; it should arrive immediately.]
The dates are now in [year.month.week] format.
Three Year Old Milestone 1A: 2.11.3
Three Year Old Milestone 1B: 3.0.1
Three Year Old Milestone 2: 3.1.0
Three Year Old Milestone 3A: 3.1.3
Three Year Old Milestone 3B: 3.2.0
Three Year Old Milestone 4: 3.2.3
Three Year Old Milestone 5A: 3.3.0
Three Year Old Milestone 5B: 3.3.1
Three Year Old Milestone 6: 3.3.3
Three Year Old Milestone 7: 3.4.1
Three Year Old Milestone 8A: 3.5.0
Three Year Old Milestone 8B: 3.5.3
Three Year Old Milestone 9: 3.6.1
Three Year Old Milestone 10A: 3.6.2
Three Year Old Milestone 10B: 3.7.2
Three Year Old Milestone 11A: 3.8.1
Three Year Milestone 11B: 3.8.3
Three Year Old Milestone 12: 3.9.1
Three Year Old Milestone 13: 3.10.1
Three Year Old Milestone 14: 3.11.0
Four Year Old Milestone 1A: 4.0.0
Four Year Old Milestone 1B: 4.0.2
Four Year Old Milestone 2: 4.1.0
Four Year Old Milestone 3A: 4.2.1
Four Year Old Milestone 3B: 4.2.2
Four Year Old Milestone 3C: 4.3.0
Four Year Old Milestone 4: 4.3.3
Four Year Old Milestone 5A: 4.4.0
Four Year Old Milestone 5B: 4.4.2
Four Year Old Milestone 6: 4.5.1
Four Year Old Milestone 7A: 4.6.3
[numbering under construction]
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.
This Three Year Old Milestones were last updated on February 18, 2021.
The Four Year Old Milestones were last updated on June 21, 2021.
Three Year Old Milestones
How Understanding Childhood Developmental Cycles Helps YOU!
Understanding the cycles can help you
- Stay patient as a parent
- Know that the behavior passes
- Know that you are are not a bad parent nor do you have a bad kid
- 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.
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 Three Year Olds
See my more expanded thoughts here:
- Child Development Part 1: Misbehavior is Inevitable
- Child Development Part 2: Misbehavior is Manageable
- Child Development Part 3: Misbehavior is Growth
About the Author
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Milestone 1A—Speculation and Mental Sorting
Most Intense: Grows in intensity over a few days
Irritable Period Summary
• Wants to be picked up or carried often, but usually only for a brief amount of time
• Refuses to do chores they previously did, such as put their cup on the sink
• Might be very forceful in getting something they want, such as a particular toy, “No, [person’s name]! I want the blue one.”
• Confusion: might grab you, pull you, get confused, and walk in circles
• May have nightmares at night
• Doesn’t want to go to bed
• High fear of abandonment if primary caregiver leaves unexpectedly
• Wants to be held occasionally, irritable, demanding of your time
New Abilities Summary
• They make better educated guesses about what is going on and sort things into mental sequences.
Makes Educated Guesses (Speculation)
• At previous ages, they could draw conclusions from limited proof such as understanding that Dad is home when the garage door opens. Now they make yet more conclusions and educated guessed about what is going on.
• When they see clouds, they might say, “A storm is coming!” Or if Daddy just walked in, they say, “I can smell Daddy!” Or if you are about to see some swans at a park, they say, “Oh, we could feed them!” Or they might see a cake and say it’s a “party,” as opposed to a mere cake. These all make a next step in the mental guess of what is going on.
• With just a little bit of information about something, they can draw a conclusion. So, if they see a hat with a skull and crossbones, they might put it on and say “Arr.” Because they’re a pirate.
• More aware that you are making a “pizza!” as opposed to just putting pepperoni on dough
• They solve jigsaw puzzles with more reasoning (with an educated guess) instead of trial and error. They actively look for, say, the piece with the funnel to go on top of the train they just put together.
• Evaluates what size block fits into a slot, based on their visual acumen, and less on trial and error
• Can follow along with instructions in picture format with some assistance. You might lay out LEGO pieces on the instruction that comes with them, and they can then assemble them by themselves.
• Can better read or identify the last letter in a word. Before, they may have confused say “mat” and “map.” Now they differentiate them. Or perhaps, completely on their own, while you are sounding out words with them, they identify the “g” in “frog.” (Please DO NOT compare your child’s reading skills to this list. Some children just prefer to read at later ages.)
• Interested in where things “disappear” to, such as where the sun goes at nighttime, where the sun goes as you drive around in the van, or where the garbage goes after it is picked up.
• If they hear funny sounds, like ice shifting in the freezer, they really want to know what is going on.
• May want to make the room dark. Perhaps so they can hear the sounds, etc., and make guesses about what is going on.
• They anticipate better how others might feel, “I’m so excited for him!” “I am so scared for him!”
• May love mystery stories such as The Great Pie Robbery by Richard Scarry. A mystery is a book in which you have to think about “who done it,” i.e., an educated guess.
• In that they grow in making educative (intuitive) guesses and their hearing/smell grows, it’s as if their instincts and intuition themselves are growing.
• May love to put printed or moveable numbers or letters in numerical or alphabetical order
• 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 or a tunnel as they play with trains
• Understands social hierarchies and relationships (moms, dads, grandparents, uncles, etc.).
• Identifies relationships among people, e.g., one character loves a particular dog and another loves a different animal.
• Sorts items based on an abstract principle, such as all race cars go on one side and cars that are not race cars (tow trucks, etc.) go in another. This is a more abstract principle than sorting by say, trucks and cars.
• Notices patterns in clouds
• Can follow patterns (such as from a pattern to a puzzle) to make things and can make up their own free style patterns. Can put two loose triangles together to make a square.
• Spontaneous and strong interest in adding objects
Finds Patterns in Related Events
• Notices similarities about patterns of things not in sight. “Dad saving me from drowning is just like [from a story] the truck that saved the other truck in the mud.”
• They can recall past things and do some mental or mathematical sorting with it. For instance, they can remember they saw something with a pattern of white, white, red, and white and then count that there were thus four things. It’s that they can do it from memory that’s impressive.
• This is indeed “recollection” and bleeds into the next milestone, “Recollection.” Perhaps this ability to sort things mentally helps them with such recollection.
• They can recall the significance of numbers and do things mentally with it, such as recognizing that “8 is greater than 5,” of which they can reliably answer correctly (if math at this age is their thing, which it might not be).
• Accurately recreates something from “real life” that they saw while out and remembered. For instance, puts on a lengthier, more detailed play based on a movie or a party they were at, constructs a familiar place out of train tracks/wood blocks (maybe a very specific tunnel), or draw a crude drawing of a real place (maybe a house or restaurant). It is of things you do routinely or made a big impression on them.
Pretending and Joking
• In their twos, if they were dressed up as a character, they thought they were that character. Now they understand now that if they are dressed up as a character, they are not the character but simply dressed up.
• They similarly playfully admit they are “just joking” now. Mostly they understand that it’s they who or pretending or joking, not as much that others are.
• Interesting note about their perspective: if you put two stuffed animals facing each other and ask if A can see B and then turn them such that they are NOT facing each other and ask if A can see B, they are apt to get the answers wrong. They don’t quite understand yet that something has to be facing something to see it. This comes a few milestones from now.
Applies Social Principles at the Appropriate Time
• Applies fair rules to govern relationships, e.g., lets their sibling take turns with them. What one course of action going forward is right?
• In the late twos, they picked the right tool for the job. They picked a feather duster, not a hammer, to clean a dirty area. Now they see a cabinet is dirty and go get the duster
• Initiates ideal behavior, such as cleaning something that is dirty without being asked to
• Or, on their own, they say “Bye, friends!” when leaving somewhere, as they recognize the social principle, specifically in a situation where they previously did not do this.
• They MIGHT put their own shoes on or change their own clothes in the morning. Or they might demand you do it.
• May learn how to use social principles to their advantage, such as by lying.
• More consistently reasonable about in-the-moment things. For instance, they see they are in the way of something that you need and move out of the way.
• Or they take a bath because they recognize they are dirty.
• Being persuaded by logic like this right now pertains only to one step forward, such that there aren’t any competing ways of doing things. They will not agree to break their bedtime routine, for instance.
Longer Attention Span
• Noticeably longer attention span, stays with something for an hour or longer
• Much longer imaginative and creative play (several hours)
Dramatic Increase in Gross Motor and Other Skills
• Better gross motor skill, especially with their legs and feet e.g., better at kicking a soccer ball or run noticeably faster
• Better at combining gross motor and fine motor skills, such as hitting a ball with a small club or brush
• Notices smells more, might express displeasure about the smells
• Notices sounds more and may love to sing and dance
- Dissipating a Meltdown During Preschool Milestone 1: Pretend to Be Blind
- Dear Daycare: Stop Using Behavioral Charts on Children
Most Intense: 3.0.2 until 3.0.3
Ends: 3.0.3 plus a few days
Irritable Period Summary
• Depends on the temperament of the child and how they channel their creativity and energy. They may be mellow—or they may be whiny, bossy, or demanding of your time.
Bossy, Possessive, Rigid, Touchy
• Wants their own way
• Mad if you take something from them, such as your own phone
• They want to be the one to do things and for as long as they want. They might want to give you more and more vitamins, when you only want one. They do not yet have a reliable sense of “stop.”
• Incredibly pick/bossy about how things should be done: who can get them milk at all, then who is allowed to put the lid on, etc.
• May be highly sensitive when someone does something rather minor to them, say hits them with a balloon
• Grumpy at certain parts of the day but not others, e.g., morning or night
• Their bossiness, if they are bossy, is more about in-the-moment things and directed inwards. It is over thing that affect them and wanting them to go a certain way.
• In the next milestones, their bossiness becomes directed more outwards. It becomes much more about making sure people follow the “rules.”
Doesn’t Handle Disappointment Well
• As it gets more intense, they want things done/resolved immediately (“now!”). These meltdowns can be resolved easily if you can guess what they want—but that is sometimes difficult.
• You might play a game with them and have no control over what happens next. For instance, on a tablet, a type of something comes up to be counted and they specifically want to see one thing, say peppermints, but something else keeps coming up. They are distraught they can’t control this. They might look wildly confused about it (though, in fairness, tablets are artificial and wildly confusing to children designed for a slower moving, more reliable world).
• However, similarly, doesn’t handle the disappoint well if, say, a doctor’s appointment is cancelled.
• Or they get really upset if you throw away old food in front of them.
• I believe this inability to handle disappointment is because they can make educated guesses about what is going to happen, such that they fully anticipate something like a doctor’s appointment. But they don’t have flexibility yet in handling it if it doesn’t happen. This new awareness comes soon—as a shock, of course.
• They don’t handle disappointment well and this may result in meltdowns. They may look like they are in utter disbelief of what is going on. Or they might just demand your time quite a bit.
New Abilities Summary
• Recollection: they can remember things that happened in the past day with better detail and about the meaning and nuances of what happened.
• If you imagine their perceptual awareness as if they are watching a live play, in the toddler years, up until about now, they can understand everything about the stage of the play, the background. They noticed things across time that were persistent: their routines, people, events that happened from a long time ago that continue to burn in their mind. Now they see the actors on that stage, who move around more fluidly.
• A better recollection, specifically to about one day in the past
• When asked what their happy part of the day was, they will now answer with something that did happen that day. Before their answer was always the same: something that happened two months ago, e.g., they were sad on a train ride once. However, the answer they now give is usually about something you just talked about.
• Very perceptive at not just recalling what happened in the past day but also of the emotions and meaning of things that happened, e.g., who was grumpy and why in the past, remembers exact conversations
• These are great clues to your child’s core personality and how they perceive the world.
• A feelings-oriented child may be perceptive about the quirky things that define other’s personalities, e.g., distinctive things their mom or dad say or when their dad says an inadvertent swear word (whoops!).
• A thinking-oriented child may become more perceptive and place emphasis on mechanical things, “This tunnel will protect us from the rain!”
• More capable of finding a specific object in another room. Please find the red toy, bring me back four blocks, etc. They can remember their task longer as they go do it.
• Interested in finding out if something is true or not, e.g., someone says the baby is sleeping—is he really? In the last milestones they thought about where things “disappeared” to. Now they are going and finding out.
• If you present a new story to them, they can understand it and retell it, over and over, pretty well.
• Able to recall some dreams such as “I dreamed about pepperoni pizza.”
• Might let out what they are thinking about. After they mutter and mutter, clearly working something out, they might burst out, “STEAMING DINOSAURS!” And laugh uproariously. Because steaming dinosaurs are funny.
• Has clear thoughts in their head as they think about or work through something, which they do for longer periods of time. You might ask them about what they are thinking about. The answers are fun.
• When talking about mental ideas, they insist that these ideas be linked. For instance, if your sad part was falling off of a bike that day, your happy part must have been riding the bike. They might get upset if you say anything that doesn’t link things like this, as if it’s not even a possibility.
Milestone 2—Deliberate Role Playing and Planning
Starts: 3.1.0, or a few days shy
Most Intense: Varies among children, lasting about a week sometime between 3.1.0 and 3.1.2
Irritable Period Summary
• They are still bossy and rude, but their bossiness and rudeness develops more into making sure everyone follows the “rules.”
• Rude to others, e.g., tells them to “Get out” or “Go away.”
• Might chase children away from places they aren’t supposed to be, such as mom’s bed.
• Orders other kids not to fight
• Possessive of toys or things that are “theirs”
A Sense That Things Float Around, Don’t Stop, or Magically Happen
• They think they can magically bring large things to themselves, such as an entire room in the house.
• They are sincerely worried that things keep going forever, such as the van will run into something on the side of the road or someone running towards them will never stop.
• Given their worry about things going forever, they may get overwhelmed in a situation where things move a lot, such as older kids playing basketball in a gym.
• Blames another child for something the other child didn’t do. Say the three year old built a tall tower and got it too tall and fell over. They blame another child for this. This may happen because things “float” around senselessly in their mind right now.
• Sees things that aren’t there as they make up stories in their mind, like there are sharks in the floor or dogs on the ceiling
• Puts their hands on their eyes as if they are scared to see what they are seeing
• The stories they make up in their mind, as they just sit and think, are longer.
Fear of Abandonment
• Doesn’t want to leave primary caregiver (fear of abandonment)
• May become scared of any other adult that is not the primary caregiver
Sleep and Physical Issues
• Falls asleep at weird times of the day
• May wake up at night upset
• Might start chewing or smacking their lips, rocking hard on a non-rocking chair, or other activities suggesting they are anxious
• Parents seem to see this on and off for about two months in the early threes. It should dissipate eventually.
• Possessive, rude, wants a particular caregiver. This one in addition is marked more by wanting others to follow the rules: stop fighting, get off mommy’s bed.
New Abilities Summary
• Role playing: they deliberately choose various “roles” to play, e.g., pretends to be a bear, a particular character, etc.
• They can be involved in short-term planning, such as making a grocery list.
• As is typical of most milestones, they both go in and out: they apply chosen ways of being to themselves (role play) and make more deliberate choices in their outward reality (short-term planning).
• In the last milestones, they showed they really understand the deeper significance of characters, e.g., a particular car isn’t just a car—it’s a race car—or someone is someone else’s mother, and these things matter. Now it’s as if they want to try on these roles for themselves.
• They are much more deliberate in which one role they pick. Whereas before in their mid-twos, they pretended to be whomever was fun and right in front of them.
• They might say they are a particular character from a favorite story and carry out an elaborate imaginative play as that character.
• May pretend they are a particular animal and starts to walk like that animal, e.g., a frog or bear
• May use their personal charm to get their way, e.g., may act like a cute puppy
• May walk around like they are “the man”
• Might tell you that you are “cute”
• May want to play around with their physical looks or outfits, e.g., may want to cut their hair to look like their brother. They are likely to want to dress up as the person they admire the most.
• May love puppet shows
• They are starting to notice how things keep moving better. They are noticing how things can keep going and which direction they can take. They can “pivot” in their thinking.
• Orders you to follow the rules, e.g. stop at a Stop sign. They sincerely seem to think that things go to total anarchy unless they insert themselves to follow such rules. Truly it shows how wild imaginations spur fear, an emotional driver, to try out their new skills.
• They can be persuaded by the logic of something now, even if it defies a normal routine. This was unheard of before. For instance, they may indeed usually have their diaper changed at night. But it’s not dirty. So, we don’t have to change it. Specifically, this is that they can be persuaded to do something else despite the normal routine.
• Better able to understand the idea of “one more fun thing” and then we are doing something. But at this milestone, it needs to be specific. Like “dump the dirt from the toy dump truck one more time and then we are leaving.” It cannot be left open ended; they won’t pick a “fun thing” on their own.
• Can understand, “If you clean your room, you’ll get a lollipop.”
• Can be involved in simple planning such as putting items on a grocery list. Or they ask you to put something on the grocery list, as they know you are going. You’re out of milk, after all.
• They might make up an impromptu play of something that just happened. You ask them to go to bed. They have two figurines, one wants to go to bed and the other doesn’t. The one who doesn’t want to go to bed valiantly knocks over the one who does.
• They might read a beginner book of about 4 pages with a few words on each page. This is only if language is their thing at this age.
• Very polite. May ask permission before doing anything (the opposite of rude)
• That they can actually plan different courses of action and defy normal routines sets them up greatly for the next milestone in which they become highly unconventional in how principles and procedures can be applied, trying their hand at inventive new solutions—and how.
• In this one, they realize plans can go one of a few ways, based on the relevant information of the situation. They can make some short-term plans. That they are willing to “change directions,” to pivot, marks this milestone.
- Emotional Responsibility: Staying Patient as a Parent (and a Person)
- What To Do When Your Preschooler Hits
- Preschool Milestone 3: A Coming of 3-Year-Old Age Milestone
Milestone 3A—Unconventional Application of Principles
Starts: Hits like a Mack Truck somewhere between 3.1.2 and 3.1.4
Most Intense: The beginning is intense and throughout. Very noticeable change in their head shapes over the course of the milestone may help you see when and why they are irritable, confused, or pushy.
Ends: Shy of 3.2.0 but bleeds into next one
Irritable Period Summary
• This hits like a Mack Truck somewhere between 3.1.2 and 3.1.4. They might become distraught, wildly confused, defiant, or insert themselves unexpectedly into something. Before this, they might be very snuggly, fall asleep more often, or show other mild behaviors.
• These milestones over the next few weeks come rapidly and are hard to pin down.
Tries Unconventional Ways of Doing Things
• This one is very much marked by a child that does things in unconventional ways and absolutely insists on doing things in this new, unconventional way.
• They might do something like insist on putting on their own pants, but they do it purposely wrong by putting both legs in one pant leg. They see if they can walk like this.
• They might have a meltdown as they try to do something the right way but can’t, such as wash their feet, but they have difficulty putting soap on their feet, which is harder to do than put soap on their hands.
• They might insert themselves in an attempt to help, but it might not go well. They might push their sibling in their carseat off of a table—which can be terrible. They sincerely thought they were helping get her into the van.
Hates When Others Do Things Unfamiliar to Them
• Very upset when a previously established rule they knew to be true is broken, such as you take longer than normal to start going after stopping at a Stop sign.
• Upset if someone does something in a way that is unfamiliar to them, such as cleans a toilet bowl differently than they saw it done before
• Asks “Why?” a lot, especially when people or characters behave in an odd way
Belligerent—Until They’re Not
• Very defiant in obeying requests. But when they decide to be cooperative, after being defiant, they are fully cooperative. It’s as if it needs to be done on their timeline. You may as well pad some extra time to get out the door.
• Demanding that you do things in a particular way, e.g., come upstairs right now or hold something in a particular hand
Conflicts and Sensitivity
• Shows intentional spite. They may get angry that someone hurt them, pause to think, then purposely act out by throwing something of the other child’s.
• Gives deliberate, playful insults to others, e.g., the baby is “Poopies.” They laugh a bit nervously at themselves, because they know this might be wrong. They are applying new ways of doing things. They are nervous about which one is right. This is the very first subtle sign that they feel authentic, self-initiated guilt (an evaluation of themselves and their action).
• They might cry in a way that it seems like the world isn’t fair to them.
• May be very sensitive and easily have meltdowns
• Might take a serious spill after tripping. They sincerely seem confused.
• Very intense dreams where they laugh a lot or act out something (like flying)
• Dreams where they seem to recite entire movies or TV shows in their sleep
• Does unexpected and unconventional things, may cry 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, confused and upset when people do something the “wrong” way, demands you come to them
New Abilities Summary
• Marked by a strong insistence to do things in unconventional ways
• It is also marked by a greater self-awareness: they realize they are cute; they apologize more for their own behavior.
• They made flexible choices in the last milestone. Now they evaluate them—sometimes inducing shame even.
• A better merging of fantasy play to the current reality of what is going on
Unconventional and Flexible Ideas, Applied
• Tries out unconventional things for the sake of it.
• This reveals your child’s personality greatly. What boundary are they pushing?
• Are they asking to “fly” in the air in a way such that you are stunned by how much danger they are willing to take on?
• Are they trying to wash their hands AND feet, because they are very clean and organized?
• Are they trying to help get their siblings out the door because they are so very responsible over other people?
• Take a picture of whatever it is, no matter how troublesome it is. This is a coming of three year old age thing.
• Might get around the rules. If you say, “no pushing,” they kick. It’s a little bit funny.
• Can do routines out of order or backwards
• Can count backwards; not because they, for instance, memorized the countdown before a space rocket launch, but because they can count forwards and now they can count backwards
Deliberate and Responsible in How They Handle Situations
• Better at conflict resolution in which something happens and instead of getting immediately mad, they compose themselves and put together a reasonable way to handle something.
• For instance, they state their feelings in a diplomatic way, “Mommy, I’m sad you destroyed my creation.” (You thought they were done!)
• Or they confront their aggressive sibling by saying, politely, “No hitting!”
• Or maybe after an intense conflict with a sibling, they say afterwards, “Don’t hit me. And sorry I yelled!”
• Generously helps others and shares their food.
Less Rote in Situations and Follows Instructions More Independently
• Less rote and more involved in social interactions, e.g., may say “thank you for noticing” after you tell them “good job,” which is not something that they’ve ever said before or that they’ve been exposed to (that you know of)
• They might love that they know to say “cheese!” when a camera is aimed at them. They could say cheese before; it’s that they enjoy knowing that they know to do it now.
• They similarly love to be part of certain rituals, such as saying “cheers!” before drinking or giving good night kisses.
• Loves to make decisions about how to act, such as knowing which bathroom to pick (Men or Women). A truly important decision indeed.
• Much more confident in executing routines, such as “Put your backpack in the bin and come join the class” and they do the routine without any help
• May understand more complex road signs and what they mean, e.g., curvy roads ahead
Evaluates Their Own Solutions
• They evaluate if a solution that they come up with is good or bad. For instance, if a solution they thought up to prevent their younger sibling from getting out of an area worked or not.
• Announces they have a “great idea!” of how to solve things, e.g., they get you scissors to help open a package you were fighting with
• Might keep trying new things to get a desired outcome, such as making you laugh
Fantasy and Imaginative Play Applies to Current Situation Better
• This likely blends from the last milestone and into the next one, but they become more “practical” in their fantasy play. In the last one, their fantasy play became much more deliberate, but it was still just for fun. They pretended to be a bear just because it was fun. Now, it’s more applicable to what is going on in the current situation, yet still quite cheeky.
• For instance, they pretend to put magic binoculars on to show you they found a missing toy.
• If you hand them a Hubble Telescope and a globe, they might know it takes pictures of outer space and pretend to do this.
• Perhaps cheekily pretends to “low crawl” up to where you are sitting and eating—so they can steal your food
• They might sing songs constantly, as if they are the background music in a movie, setting the mood about what’s going on. When it rains, they sing “Rain, rain, go away.” As they are cleaning, they might start singing like they are the mice in Cinderella helping her clean, “We can do it!” When they drop their dad off at work, they may even tailor the song, e.g., “Daddy finger, daddy finger, where are you? At work, at work, how do you do?”
Object Constancy of Character and Self
• Much greater self-awareness. They show they are aware they are cute, for instance.
• They may understand more nuances about the moral of a story. They can understand that although people accuse her of being bad, Cinderella herself is not bad.
• They might still be picking their lips or asking you to rub their head. It’s as if they are amazed they actually exist and [have lips, a head, whatever it is they are rubbing].
Milestone 3B—Persistent (if Rigid) Application of Principles
Most Intense: Intense for a few days towards the beginning.
Irritable Period Summary
A “Rules Enforcer” or Comforter
• Meltdowns when things don’t go the way they think they “should” be done
• Wants other children to follow the “rules” and gets mad when they don’t. For instance, if another child doesn’t have their seatbelt buckled in a cart at the grocery store.
• Enforcer of the rules but breaks those very rules in enforcing them, such as yells at others to “be quiet” while being loud
• Or perhaps opposite of being rude and aggressive, they enforce what is “right” by taking on the role of comforter. They may go around taking care of “sick” stuffed animals.
• Gets sad or cries easily, doesn’t want you to leave them, demanding of your time, demands others follow the “rules”
New Abilities Summary
• This one is marked by an insistence on persistently applying abstract knowledge or principles to real life situations. They get more aggressive and serious about it at this one.
Insists on the Abstract Matching the Current Situation
• The abstract idea absolutely has to match the current reality now. If you make a “Three waffle sandwich,” it now must have three waffles.
• They use symbolic objects the correct way at all times. If they see a toy crown, they are guaranteed to try to put it on your head.
• That they expect persistent application of rules explains why they might get so upset during the irritable period when their brother isn’t buckled properly in a grocery cart
Wants to Make an Ideal the Reality
•The abstract MUST match the reality starting at this one. They are thus willing to work towards that.
• From my notes about my first, “What I have noticed is a genuine desire to do what is right. If I ask him to do something, he is focused on it, clearly trying to work towards the end of what I asked him to do, even if difficult.”
• A great activity now is to ask them to set up an activity for another child, such as gathering up objects that are the shape of a cylinder so their baby sister can explore this sensory box. They will persist at this and find objects you yourself never thought of.
• They may do this on their own, anyway, such as setting up a “bedroom” or “play area” for their sibling.
• Comforts other people on their own initiative; may go around giving everyone a drink, takes care of their “sick” stuffed animals.
• Or they might comfort their baby sister, “I know, baby, I know.”
• Or they might try to make people laugh to cheer them up.
• They might take a more aggressive role in conflict resolution. They might adorably “karate chop” someone who won’t stop fighting someone else. Or they might be bossy. Every child is different.
• They are very likely to apologize quickly upon realizing they hurt someone.
• When they learn that some others are less fortunate, say that some people are illiterate, they are aghast. On their own, they offer, “I know! We can teach them how to read!” This is even if they personally don’t know how to read.
• They may try to arrange things the way they want them. They might demand you put on a dress “so you can be beautiful.” Or they might want to cut your nails.
• Won’t let you help them with things, such as putting on their seatbelt
• They can do more physical things that require a bit more persistence and even trust in one’s own body. They might have an easier time floating in the water, riding a tricycle, or doing a somersault.
Can Use Abstract Information and Apply It
• Understands how to play a card or board game such as Richard Scarry’s Busytown
• May be able to read a map such as to know where they are going
• Willingly submits to how things are meant to be done, even if it goes against what they might think is fun
• For instance, they tear apart a gingerbread house to eat it after it’s made, as this was the purpose of building it (whereas before they wouldn’t have wanted to destroy their creation).
• Obeys requests better, such as “no hitting”
Milestone 4—Intentional Imaging
Most Intense: 3.2.3 until 3.2.4
Ends: Shy of 3.3.0
Irritable Period Summary
Sleep Disturbances and Nightmares
• May fall asleep during the day at random times
• Stalls at bedtime (bedtime may be up to 2 hours) or simply stays up late
• Fear of bad guys or monsters at night. May wonder if monsters are in their closet.
• May have nightmares of something they saw and think it’s there in their room, such as they saw a bad guy kidnap a child in a movie.
• Screaming at night or waking up distraught
• Or just waking up if you cosleep and are there to immediately comfort them
• Can describe the dreams they had vividly
• Please avoid scary movies at this one (and before). They have or are soon to have a very vivid, persistent memory. They easily “see the unseen” and remember these scary images.
• 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).
Lost in Their Thoughts
• Stares into space for a noticeably long time
• Wants to linger on something and watch it intently: maybe something at a store, a large water fountain, or how milk swirls on a lid of a cup
Needs to See Things
• Doesn’t like when they can’t see something, such as they are in the car and something is blocking their view
• Hates that things pass them by too quickly when driving in a vehicle
• May be overwhelmed by something overly fantastical, such as a person dressed up as a character
• 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”
• This really depends on the child’s temperament.
• Sad for seeming no reason, rude demands, whiny, clingy, won’t eat
• May be defiant over many things such as getting in the bath, putting shoes on, or going to bed.
• Fickle about food, asks for food then doesn’t eat it; doesn’t eat, only drinks
• Possible major conflicts but this time over what rule itself should apply. Or maybe they just sleep a lot. However, this one is definitively marked by nightmares.
New Abilities Summary
• Intentional Imaging: They can point to nothing at all and say it’s something
• I believe this intentional imaging, an ability to imagine what is not there, aids in many other skills. This includes short term memory, making up new plot twists to stories, and identifying mismatches between theory and reality. Hence, I centered the milestone around it.
• Their short-term memory, in which they remember new information presented on the spot and on their own, gets longer, to about one day.
Intentional Imaging: Conjures Up Images of Things When Nothing is There
• Intentional Imaging: they can point to nothing at all and say it’s something.
• In the plays they make up, they imagine things that aren’t there. Before, if they imagined a “rockslide,” something acted as the rocks, such as blocks. Now they can point to nothing and say it is a “rockslide.”
• Makes up stories about things that are not visible, such as they hand you nothing and says it’s a particular character
• They notice what is going on around them in a persistent way.
• They “eavesdrop” constantly now. They understand what others are talking about and contribute.
• They also remember what was said and use it later.
• You might say “lets teach [the child] to use their tricycle tomorrow.” They overhear this, and, later, when they see the tricycle, they get it.
• Or you talk about how two children need to stop fighting. They insert themselves to get them to stop.
• Or you talk about how cute their baby brother is. They then mimic said baby brother, to get the attention for being cute.
• They might point to a building on a map that you frequent often, say a community pool, and say the address. And they’re right.
• Wants to linger and watch things, such as a water fountain—as they size up everything about how it works
• May want to watch something simple with great interest, such as liquid swirling around on the lid of a cup
• Asks what others are thinking about or reading about
Notices Richer Details of the Present
• They notice yet more complex details of their surroundings or environment.
• Narrates everything that his happening while they read a book, watch a show, or walk through a store: “Oooh, look, a chair!” “A desk! “A bed!” This is happening, that is happening!
• They notice what other people do. They might notice “Mommy is BEAUTIFUL!” when you put on a dress.
• They may notice women’s “boobies.”
• Greater ability to know their way around. When at a new restaurant, if they go to the bathroom twice, they might know how to get back to the table by the second time. This greatly grows in the next milestones.
• A more persistent memory. They may do “Five little monkeys jumping on a bed; one fell off and bumped his head,” which then leads to 4 monkeys, etc., but they start at 19. It isn’t that they can tailor the song or sing it; it’s that they stick with 19, all the way down to 0 that is impressive.
• Loves to talk about their favorite story from start to end, noting nuanced details.
• May act out the characters in their plays with incredible detail, such as collapsing, “and then the Prince fell into DESPAIR.”
• Follows along with a story better. Might fill in the details as you read it or act out part of it.
• Loves to put on plays of known favorite stories, filling in many details.
• May endlessly make up new plays, with new endings from the standard ones they have been told
• You might use this as a tactic when they are in meltdown mode or you need their cooperation. Offer to tell their favorite story from start to end. Successful, veteran caregivers often understand the power of telling stories in getting children to cooperate. This is also a great reading comprehension builder.
• More impressive drawings. As they notice more, it gets put into their work
• May, as such, spontaneously write letters
• Becomes pleasant and cooperative
Evaluates Current Life Situations as Compared to the Abstract, Notices Mismatches
• They are constantly thinking, looking, and evaluating now. They take what is being said (the abstract discussion) and see how it is applied to the real-life situation. If something is mismatched between discussion and reality, they notice.
• They will, on their own, not just understand but identify mistakes clearly, and ones that can be highly nuanced.
• If you say, “Your bedroom is right next to the bathroom,” they might get big, astonished eyes and ask, “Mommy, what did you just DO!?” This is because their sibling’s bedroom is closer to the bathroom. This is thus the one “right next to” the bathroom. You just made a mistake.
• Acutely aware if a family member or favorite toy is missing. They have great emotion wrapped up in the missing person, e.g., sad their “sweet Monkey” is not with them.
• Notices the overall environment. May come up with insightful life observations like, “Mommy, Daddy, and my brother make me happy when I am sad.”
• That they can “see” things when they aren’t there (intentional imaging) may be why they can identify mismatches and mistakes easier. They can mentally hold on to the “right” way of doing things and simultaneously compare it to the current reality.
• They grow in appreciation of mismatches in the abstract and reality, such as they know when someone is “just joking.” They better understand when others, not just themselves, are “just pretending.”
Application of an Ideal to Themselves
• They pick a way to be now.
• They have greater self-awareness. If they are ordering others to be quiet, they realize maybe they should be quiet, too.
• They might force this ideal behavior on others. “Henry, be quiet!”
• May make up a character, such as a silly, wayward chicken, and persist at it, as they walk crazily all around, bokking. It is very funny.
• They are very deliberate, even confident and cocky, in how they adopt personas like this.
• If you say something like, “Emily is..,” they complete your sentence for you, “…smart.”
• More quick and nimble
Picks which Rule Should Apply to the Current Situation
• More arguments about what very rule—what abstract idea—should apply in what situation. No taking? Share? Take turns?
• Can understand the idea of “I will only do this for you if you do this,”
• For instance, “I’m not getting you a new banana until you throw the peel of the old banana away.” They can weigh which course of action they want: throw the banana peel away or not.
• Or, similarly: they can help make pancakes, but only if they wash their hands. Either choice is ok.
• May be particular about rules, e.g., “Give me a hug but just a small hug, ok?”
• Or instead of telling you to “shut up,” they tell you, “Be quiet for a little bit.”
• They evaluate good courses of action handily. So, if you try to convince them that monsters or bad guys can’t get to them because the door is locked or whatever, they readily argue with you. Of course a bad guy can ram right through the door.
Holds onto New Information Across Time
• They grow in how long they can hold onto new information, without any prompting.
• They can hold onto abstract ideas, imagination, principles, and information and its relevance across about one day’s time.
• They might notice that it was raining yesterday and now it is not. It is entirely on their own that they notice it.
• Loves the idea of getting better (a progression across time): maybe that weights make them strong or that their dad does things at work that “makes people better.”
• This milestone has many little intense periods over it. It’s as if their persistency in applying principles over time and in complexity expands throughout the milestone with each intense period.
An Interest in the “Unseen”
• Keeps asking “where did something go?” even though they can plainly see it, such as something on a board game you are playing. Perhaps because they want to linger and look at it longer.
• Upset they can’t see a person in a car driving in front of you, if you are following someone in a car. They recognize it is a logistical problem though: you are in the way of their sight.
• May like to hide from you or behind you.
- Trick for Cooperation: Tell Them a Story
- The Shortest Explanation Possible of How to Deal with Children Without Using Punishment
Milestone 5A—Brings Things Close and Booms Things Away
Most Intense: Starts a few days in and lasts 4 or 5 days
Ends: Bleeds into the next one
Irritable Period Summary
Starts out Subtly and Then They Get Demanding
• Crashes into you with their tricycle
• Wants to make sure loved ones “get down safely” on the stairs
• You might be able to tell this one is about to start when they start thinking about how to magically move things, such as the cars in the traffic in front of you need to magically “boom away” so your car can move again.
• Then they get demanding throughout the day.
• Falls asleep in the day
• A few days in, they might get very demanding, all day. It lasts a few days and dissipates.
New Abilities Summary
Brings Things Closer to or Further Away From Them
• This one in particular seems marked by an incredible awareness of how things are related in spatial relation to each other and how you can get them closer to or further away from each other across any theoretical line.
• They are especially interested in bringing things close together, such as two trains on train tracks. The trains are likely to crash into each other.
• Or they keep making the track longer and longer and longer, like the only thing they care about is making it as long as possible.
• May like to put Unifix cubes in a really, really long line, using 100 cubes or more
• They physically bring YOU to them a lot.
• May love to bring two figurines together for a kiss. I was shocked to learn that both of my boys did this at exactly 1,197 days from their due date.
• May take an unusual interest in giving “introductions” when two people who were separated for a while come back together
• If you say you are going to “beat the storm home,” they notice who won the “race”: you or the storm?
• A big imagination about things that are far away but could be closer. They might pretend to steer a boat and they crashed it into a shore.
• They recognize others have to be looking in a particular direction to see something. They might have their stuffed animal look through toy binoculars. Or they might line up characters in a play to watch other characters do something, e.g. some characters watch a couple dancing or kissing.
• This heightened concern over how to move objects together or further apart, is, I think, a foundational skill for the next milestone, in which they develop strategic (and navigational) thinking. In the next milestone they might, for instance, walk all around a building trying to figure out the best way to get somewhere. Hence, I grouped these milestones 5A and 5B together.
Projects Things Across a Continuum of Time
• They’ve been growing in what they notice across time. Now they notice it with much richer, more reliable detail and about things that span a greater length of time, to about a few days.
• Shows they have strong knowledge of what happened that day and what will happen in the future
• For instance, they say a prayer in which they remember everything that happened that day and ask for help with future events.
• Notices things that changed from a few days ago, such as a bathtub has been drained that you were previously playing with boats in
• Works longer at creating something, such as making a structure out of some kind of toy, making it match the picture shown on the box the toy came in
• Makes educated guesses about what will happen next in a story, e.g., “And now the characters are going to go home,”—as they were just out on an adventure
• May, as such, better anticipate a future event like Santa coming
• They might understand a principle that happens over a longer period of time, such as “Your body will heal it,” about a cut or bruise they just got. Or, “Eating too many cookies will give you a big belly.” However, their understanding of the technical details of how this works may be wonky.
Bigger, More Powerful Wild Imaginations
• In the past milestones, the child became wildly imaginative. In the very early threes, they saw things that don’t even seem to be there, such as a dog on the ceiling or sharks in the rug.
• Then they saw what isn’t even there (Intentional Imaging). They imagined a “rockslide” when there is nothing there at all to represent one.
• In this milestone now, the wild imaginations are still there—and they are big—but the child grows in what they think they can do.
• They see the cars ahead of you on the road and think you can move them by pushing them all out of the way. Or they think someone can “boom hurricanes away!”
• Their imaginations are still a bit unrealistic (they think they can pick up entire cars) but they are growing very confident and feel they are very powerful in what can be done. They, however, don’t quite put themselves in the position of moving the cars. The cars just boom away. There is heroism here—an ability to enact positive change—but not a sense of self. This is next.
Growing Physical Attributes
• More nimble, e.g., does somersaults quickly
Most Intense: 3.3.2 until 3.3.3
Irritable Period Summary
• Note: Different children express themselves differently. Some are very verbal, some want greater connection. Firstborns are likely to be “easier” simply because they have less to compete with.
Meltdowns and “Misbehavior” Over Which Direction To Go
• Purposely goes the wrong way when walking around; such choices interest them intensely now
• Major meltdown when you go somewhere, say to the bathroom at a restaurant, without them
• You were supposed to sit THERE not here. You were supposed to push the train BACKWARDS not forwards.
• Major meltdowns about where they want to go, such as wanting to go to a cookie store when you say no
• In looking at the behavioral patterns, I don’t think this is so much because they want the cookie. I think it’s because they want to figure out how to make that happen. How do you move all these people over to this fun place? Do you walk? Does the cookie store come to you? Do you bend spacetime?
• Grabs you to come see the stuff they are doing a lot
• May want you to be right next to them all day.
• Highly demanding of your attention
• Stalls at bedtime
• Can see demanding or belligerent behavior
New Abilities Summary
• They don’t just pick the right tool for the job at this one, which they did in the late twos. They now pick a strategy.
• They are still a bit like a rat in a maze in these early-three milestones, though one growing in its independence and intelligence. In the previous milestones, they really started to fuse abstract knowledge to real life situations, but it was usually only one singular thing that got fused, e.g., if they are asking someone to be quiet, perhaps they should be quiet now.
• Now they can pick from several different strategies as to how to solve a problem as related as how to move around or what is about to happen next.
• They also have remarkable situational awareness, particularly over things that routinely happen. Their sense of patterns over time is growing.
Heightened Awareness of What Everyone Has Been, is Doing and What’s About to Happen Next
• They’ve been growing in what they remember, from a day ago, then several days ago. Now they persistently notice patterns over about one week’s time.
• They are very aware of weekly rituals that the family does, say you go to a particular restaurant every week. They happily delight in the knowledge that this is what’s going on.
• They may cautiously make sure you actually go to said place that you go to weekly. “Oh! You DID make it to [the restaurant].” Good job, Mom or Dad. You know what’s up, too.
• They might get bossy about going to the right place that they now undeniably know is where you are going. If they see the place you are going to from the highway, they might order you to stop the vehicle right then and there, while on the highway. Afterall, you’re basically there. (Becoming specific about moving in a 3-D space is the next milestone.)
• Understands what happened a few days ago really well. They can recall events from the day or past day entirely on their own.
• For instance, when you ask what their happiest part of the day was, they might say something not discussed between the two of you yet. They remembered an event from the day before, maybe you went to the store together or some other odd event. It’s that they remember it entirely on their own that is impressive.
• Announces “how much fun!” they have with other children and enthusiastically exclaims, “I love you so much!”
• They might no longer need pictures in books when reading. They might sit far away from you and just listen. Their ability to persistently notice what is going on, conjure up images, and follow along in their mind has greatly grown in the last milestones.
Can Make On-the-Spot Strategic Decisions Better
• You may have gone somewhere for the first time ever and they understand the layout of the place, what goes on there, etc., even though they just encountered all of it for the first time.
• They may want to optimize what the best way to get around in this new place or make sure they thoroughly understand where everything is. They may literally take your hand and start wandering all over to try to do this.
• They may understand what is going on at this new place better, “Yeah, let’s go back to that thing we saw when we first walked in!”
• Figures out complicated tools on the spot. Sticks with it until they do, such as figuring out what to do at an exhibit at a traveling science show or how to operate an arcade game
• Can accept advice about on-the-spot strategic decisions, such as “Walking this way is better than another way to get somewhere.”
• They might verbalize this strategic thinking, like walking around saying, “What if? WHAT if …?”
• They no longer have a huge meltdown if you are far away from them. They may put their new strategic thinking to use. “I need to figure out how to get powers to get mommy to me!” It’s fantastical, but they are in the driver’s seat.
• They might have a good strategy to figure something out. For instance, you hand them a sheet with X number of things, which are numbered. To figure out how many X there are, instead of counting, they look for the largest number.
Milestone 6—Specific 3-D Maneuvering
Starts: After 3.3.3
Most Intense: Very intense for up to one week at the beginning
Irritable Period Summary
Nightmares and Physical Changes
• The first part may see an intense period revolving around nightmares at night and a fantastical awareness that large object can fit into small ones (when they can’t).
• They might wake up on and off throughout the night (suggests nightmares).
• Might stall at bedtime
• Might mentally zone out
• Their nightmares may be of something like a dinosaur took one of their siblings and they need to find them. Truly they are “heroic” now—you don’t get more heroic than saving your brother from a dinosaur!
• Their head shape changes. It may look outright painful for them.
• Noticeably bigger and stronger
• More prone to illness or may have a runny nose with no other symptoms
• Demands you all throughout the day, to see what they are doing
• You might have to sit right next to them, as they turn your head for you to look at what they want you to look at.
• This can get pretty frustrating. You might not be able to get anything done all morning.
• Very sensitive and may cry easily over something small, e.g., over a book dropping on the floor or if they stepped on a toy.
Persistent and Aggressive in Getting What They Want
• They might scream, cry, whine, or otherwise persist intensely when they don’t get their own way. For instance, they scream if they can’t have your attention, because you are talking to a doctor.
• Orders others to be quiet, stop talking, or go away
• They can be very aggressive about getting you to do what they want. You might get physically pinned down as they demand you do what they want.
• They might chase who they want around, such as a friend or an adult whose company they enjoy.
A Bit Manipulative
• A delayed reaction (up to 20 seconds) in how to respond to being hurt before they start screaming. It is as if they are contemplating how to respond, suggesting they have greater control and choice in responding.
• Might evoke some kind of adorable character, such as a cute puppy or pity to get help
• Or they pretend to be mute or soft-spoken to get you to help them
• They might pick fights with others. They might especially pick on younger siblings.
Confusion Over What They Caused or Can Cause to Happen
• Confusion over what they do and do not have control
• For instance, they might say they are sorry for things they did not cause. If a baby is crying, they might say, “I’m sorry! I’m SORRY!”
• Some children (I suspect more often empaths, people who directly feel other people’s pain) may show 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.
• Might be super upset that they can’t read, when they’ve never been taught or even asked to
• Intense nightmares, in which they get up on and off throughout the night, might start this milestone. Then they might get demanding and even aggressive in getting what they want.
New Ability Summary
Fantastical 3-D Spatial Awareness
• At the beginning, there is a sudden perception that large things can fit into small spaces. For instance, they might think a large stuffed animal can fit into a teeny tiny toy train.
• They might show this in other ways. If you say they are “sharp,” they might think you are saying they are a knife. Objects can magically change into other objects in their mind right now.
• Might think they can “Boom hurricanes away!”
• They might adorably put ear plugs in and think YOU now can’t hear THEM, when it is in fact they who can’t hear you. This suggests their understanding of “people need to be looking in one direction” or “someone talks and the other listens” is still a bit off.
Practical Ability to Bridge Space Between Objects
• They get practical about bridging space between two objects.
• They might become interested in string. They use it to build “bridges” between things.
• In their fantasy play, they might get specific. They might build a “hose” to bring water “close” (their word) to a “fire.”
• Their plays might also involve telling character to “wait” or “I’ll come help you!”
• They might handily figure out to get stools or chairs to get themselves higher to reach things.
• You of course are their favorite object. They might physically bring you to them or move your head to see them.
• Banging things together of course may be fun
• They might get very aggressive about bridging space. They get a running start and say “whoooosh!” as they jump and stick the landing.
• They might be really good at something like leveling overheaped flour in a dry measuring cup with the flat side of a knife.
• They persist at finding a very specific thing, such as “F” on a keyboard or anything else at their current ability level.
• This understanding of practically bridging distance also starts their love of racing. They want to be the first to the van, the first to get their seatbelt buckled, etc.
• They also have some lighthearted fears about “monster chasing them!!”
Solves for the Next X in a Series
• They are much better about going to exactly x on any continuum. They can solve for the next x in a series of things [1,2,3…] … what’s next?
• Much more methodical in solving a problem, e.g., tries to figure out what is the next [whatever] in a series
• Their deductive reasoning is such that they can guess the next [whatever] in a series is, based on the current data set. So, if three chairs are assigned for a certain three children, then the fourth one remaining must be for the fourth child.
• Greater interest in and ability to put steps in a process in order, such as washing something first and then drying it
• Very interested in what might happen next in science experiments, such as what colors mixed together will make what other color
• 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
• Says they want to “solve” something
• Understands tasks can be put off until later. They, as such, may purposely procrastinate now.
Builds Deliberate, Specific Patterns
• They build thing in a more orderly way.
• They might put colors in rainbow order.
• They might very deliberately and specifically build a flower arrangement, “The FIRST flower is going to be. The SECOND flower is going to be.”
• Bringing a “hose” to a “fire” in fantasy play is also an example of being specific and deliberate in fantasy play.
• They get specific about time on a more macro scale: they understand something was X days or Y weeks ago.
• Very good at adding, e.g., five toes on one foot and the other make TEN!!!
• Love to make up nonsense words or type out nonsense words. Who says letters have to follow prescribed order? They are in the driver’s seat now!
• This ability to build mental patterns and handle many mental variables, especially as combined with the desire to be the best/race, is what will grow in the next milestones.
Deductive Reasoning About What’s Not Said
• They also start to understand what was not said.
• Basic deductive reasoning but about things immediately seen and which require a few mental gymnastics, such as “Let’s not get the big one.” “Oh, OK, then we are getting the small one.”
• Or if you point out one way isn’t working, on their own they think, “Ok, let’s try another way then.”
• More socially independent, may make friends spontaneously with children they don’t know
Milestone 7—Compares and Uses Sets of Knowledge
Most Intense: A few days between 3.4.1 and 3.4.2
Ends: Right after the intense period
Irritable Period Summary
• Wants you to again see everything they are doing or do things with them
• They might want you to sit RIGHT next to them.
• Gets mad if you walk away from them
• All this can get extremely frustrating.
Unexplainable Meltdowns, Paralyzed
• They can be like a “hair trigger” with their meltdowns.
• Might have a meltdown even though it seems like they have everything they could ever want
• Might become paralyzed. They might cry that a door is not opened and won’t open it, even though they can open a door.
• In looking through the behavioral patterns, I think these unexplainable meltdowns may be related to their heightened awareness of how spatial objects relate to one another. Their fork is at a 10-degree angle to their plate, instead of a 30-degree angle, and this just utterly paralyzes them. Same deal with the door.
• Might sleep a lot
• An intense, possibly constant need to be near you, in which you do exactly what they say or sit exactly where they want. Or hair trigger meltdowns, in which you can’t figure out what they want. You may very well get to your wit’s end.
New Abilities Summary
Notices and Compares Sets of Knowledge
• Notices patterns of behavior on their own. For instance, if they see it on TV or at an exhibit, “Mommy, bats sleep too!” Humans sleep. And bats sleep. Neat.
• May listen to lengthy explanation about history, government, etc.
• Might repeat words that others say
• Curls up to older children to learn from them
• Cheers for other children
• They might make their stuffed animals do things they do. For instance, a large stuffed monkey sits at a table and has breakfast.
• Loves comparing outcomes, such as racing two toy cars down a track
• They now get into “racing” big time. They might race two cars or race other children to your car or van.
• That they compare entire sets of knowledge is a great bridge between previous and future milestones. Before, they were learning how to get around in 3-D spaces. Now they are comparing entire sets of knowledge (and eventually 3-D spaces) to each other. In a few months, they will realize they don’t have to do everything in a wash, rinse, repeat way within the spaces they’ve learned to move around in. That they notice different patterns of things likely stirs this “outside the box” thinking.
Mentally Categorizes Things and Navigates/Reasons with Them
• They make categorizations in their mind, hold onto them mentally, and use them to help them navigate and make decisions.
• From my notes about my second, “She was [in another room] and yelled over to me about a book we were reading, ‘Look at the next page! See how two of the trolls are sleeping!’ She counts and groups everything. And then she remembers this grouping to make decisions.”
• It’s not just that they are categorizing things. They are using them to navigate: go to the page with X, Y, and Z.
• Might actively tell you, “I noticed I had to pee so I went to the potty.”
• They now don’t just come up with solutions. The verbalize them and reason them out. For instance, where do fish go to the potty? They are surrounded by water. How does that work? You can’t go potty IN the water. Such an interesting thing to think about when you are learning to “swim” in 3-D space.
• Might conclude that if a person has a window down, they might have wanted fresh air. They have more data sets to compare to and draw conclusions at this one.
• This is the first sign of the “periscope” that they develop in their mid- to late threes. It categorizes data and uses it to navigate.
In a “Driver” Role
• In fantasy play, they may want to play driver, inspector, or otherwise someone in charge.
• They may love to pretend to be a driver of a vehicle such as a tank (or boat) while making heroic decisions for it as they move it around on a play map.
• May literally want to pretend they are driving your vehicle
• They might like the task of inspecting things, such as seeing if the eggs in a carton are cracked or not. This is also comparison of knowledge sets: there is the standard—the ideal egg—compared to the reality, the carton of eggs in front of them.
• They can make up a brand-new play about something on the spot and they execute it now more like they are the director rather than in the moment. They think it up, then execute it.
• Might purposely come up with jokes to entertain their sibling
• May make up a creative pattern. They might make up a poem of their own that rhymes, based on something they just saw, such as “Pigs were on the hill and they fell, fell, fell!”
Milestone 8A — Creative Rearrangements
Starts: One week before 3.5.0
Most Intense: The whole thing is hard but one week starting just before or at 3.5.1 is especially intense.
Ends: Shy of 3.5.2
Irritable Period Summary
• Fears show up big time at this one.
• Given their fantastical awareness of 3-D objects, in which they think things can magically shrink, they might have related fears, such as that they or a large toy will go down a bathtub drain or that their brother will spontaneously turn into a “bad guy.”
• These fears may make them scared to do things like go down the stairs or get into the bathtub.
• With their heightened awareness of how far away things are, they might have an unusually heightened fear of cars hitting them when in parking lots.
• You might want them to get out of the van, but they feel unsafe. But, they offer to wait in another (specific) part of the van while you get their sibling out.
• Gets mad at you a lot. Maybe because you can’t reach up and get an airplane for them.
• Fear of “monsters chasing them”
• Demands your attention, to do things with them or watch them do things
• Gets mad when you walk away
• Might have instant, whiny meltdowns
• Might interrupt you a lot (to get your attention)
• Does not want to separate from their primary caregiver, such as if you leave them with a babysitter or walk away
• Wants their lovey (a blanket or stuffed animal used for comfort)
• They want a particular box of waffles to get a waffle from, a particular TV episode, or a particular vitamin.
• Decision paralysis. They want a very particular TV show or movie but won’t pick which one.
• Gets mad that they can’t decide how a movie should end
• Gets mad they weren’t the one to turn the lights off in the room
Bossy, Controlling, Aggressive
• Some children are more prone to whining and some towards aggression, yet others a mixture of both.
• Might get aggressive towards you at times, if you don’t do what they want. You might get actively punched for the first time ever.
• They might push back on you. For instance, when you playfully “mess” with them, which they previously liked, they now stop you rather forcefully (by nearly punching you) to get you to stop.
• Or they kick things and throw things (probably more likely of boys). Playfully wrestling with them helps.
• May whine and whine when they don’t get something they want instantly, even after reassurances and consoling. This is worse in some children than others but can be very, very trying.
• Very bossy and aggressive towards other children but if you press harder you might see it’s because they are concerned for the safety of the other child (more likely of empaths)
• May open all the mini-blinds
• Might throw all of their toys over a balcony
• Might rearrange all the stuffed animals in their bed
• Refuses to put their own shoes or clothes on, demands you do it
• Or wants some amount of cuddle/connection time before putting their clothes/shoes on
• Defiant to get in the bathtub
Physical Accidents and Changes
• You can somewhat expect some big accident where they fall or slip on something during the intense part of this milestone.
• It is as if their desire to try out their new skill overrides their footing and causes problems. They might fall off stairs or kick out stools from under them, accidentally.
• Both my daughter and youngest son did this exactly 1,252 days from their due date. This is just shy of 3.5.1. It’s an especially difficult time.
• Highly repetitive. They might keep doing the thing that previously hurt them over and over. Or they keep asking the same question, despite it being answered.
• Coinciding with this increase in aggression and accidents is likely growth of their feet, hands, muscles, and lung power. Also: they can really, really wail now.
• They may spit a lot or become very drooly.
• They might have a larger need for sleep, might seem very tired yet won’t sleep
• May stay up late, talking to themselves in bed
First Sense of “Forever”
• First sense of “forever.” They think edicts are forever. If you ask them not to go on the stairs, say because you are cleaning them, they might later burst into tears. They want to go upstairs, but they think they never can do that again.
• Ear splitting screams, intense whining, a constant need to be near you, or aggression. This one is INTENSE.
• A loss of their footing as in a way to take a major spill is almost assured—and for them to not really learn from it.
New Abilities Summary
Specific About Spatial and Other Awareness
• In the last milestones, they became much more aware of the distance between objects. They had a gross misunderstanding of how to get things to them (the first wild mental awareness) or what can fit in what (the second wild mental awareness). Now, they get (slightly) more realistic about this.
• It is as if nature gives them an overabundance of a skill that they then learn to refine. In this case, they learn that they can bridge things across space, but at first they are wildly off about it: a large stuffed animal can fit into a toy train. Now they see the actual shades of this.
• Very specific in labeling what they are doing, e.g., “I’m on the SIXTH step!”
• Very specific in categorizing things, e.g., octopus have EIGHT legs and crabs have SIX
• Insistent on getting a specific type of something, such as a particular character from a vitamin jar
• Describes things in very stark terms, e.g., “That bird is DEAD.”
• Loves to sort and group things: how many of THIS are there and how many of THAT?
Integrates Sets of Knowledge
• They’ve been noticing entire knowledge sets and how they relate. Now they integrate them together.
• They might they make up logical rules that unite two sets of knowledge such as “Red is 1, Orange is 2, Yellow is 3” as they assign the colors of the rainbow a number, thus integrating together the ideas of numerical and rainbow order together.
• Makes up logical rules to govern relationships but which are inaccurate, such as “1 + 0 makes 10.”
• They might start to get very “meta” about the knowledge they are integrating. For instance, they notice “water is wet!” And this is funny to them, because the very definition of “wet” is “something with liquid,” which, for nearly every wet thing, means water.
• Drawings become more realistic, such as drawing a “dragon’s teeth” or a rocket. Perhaps they are more interested in making the pictorial representation match the real life (or visionary) example.
Physically Puts Together Related Things
• They go and gather things that strike them as similar.
• If they see a flamingo video on your phone, they might call up an app on their tablet to show you another flamingo video. It’s not just that they made the connection. It’s that they’ll go get the resource to compare the two things.
• Another example: They may learn to read a word such as “pig.” Later, they find another book that they remembered had “pig” in it, so they can read it to you or a different person.
• Or they make a craft and realize, after they made it, that it looks like their favorite toy. They then hide said craft. It is probably near said toy.
Creatively Mixes and Matches Objects
• They come up with creative ideas by mashing two different things or ideas together.
• They might get a toy cash register they happen to have to be a “bank” as you play a separate game, such as Monopoly Jr.
• Or they come up with a brand-new smoothie, such as a “Chocolate Smoothie.” It’s brilliant, really.
• Or you teach them how to play Go Fish and they make up a new game where something other than cards are matched together, say the color of blocks. As such, they have made a totally new game.
• Or they might make up other games where they mix and match ideas/objects, such as playing hide and seek with a set of toy animals
Puts Smaller Bits of Something into Something Bigger
• The value of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts now.
• They might put together knowledge of how to draw small shapes to draw a bigger picture.
• Or they use small parts to build something bigger, such as bubbles in a bathtub to make a “dog.”
• Or they use the parts from a science kit to build something bigger, such as a “boat.”
• They may be more intellectual about putting smaller parts into a bigger skill. They may put two separate skills together into a more masterful skill, such as applying their knowledge of functional reading and the mechanics of reading together. They know the bathroom sign says “Women” and they sound out each letter, verifying for themselves that it says “Women.”
• If you try spelling things so they avoid knowing what you are talking about, the gig is up. They know “p-a-r-k” means “park.”
• Letting them play with smaller pieces to make something bigger can really unleash creativity. While you may have some levers, catapults, bolts, nuts, pulleys, and slides to make specifically some simple machines, they turn it into “boats,” steering wheels, trucks, and upside down slides in which “nets” catch marbles. They want to make things safer, more novel, bigger, faster.
• I suspect that this interest in taking small things and building with them is when the toys they play with become smaller, such as how young children very famously play with the bigger “Mega Bloks,” and then at older ages prefer smaller LEGO bricks.
• As they are starting to chunk up things into a whole, they may start to get pickier as well. They want a very particular episode of a TV show, not just any.
Inserts Themselves into Situations More
• Just as they physically gather objects together, they also throw themselves into situations more.
• They’ll play the game their older siblings are playing.
• Wrestles with dad more
• Strongly interested in animals, such as pigeons in the park, likely to chase them
• May love to help out with younger children
Highly Evaluative of Others
• Very interested in and evaluates others or things on a deeper, almost moral level.
• So-and-so is their best friend (or is not their best friend).
• Mommy is a great cook.
• Their house is “amazing.”
• Their sibling is doing something ALL WRONG.
• May admonish you when you forget to say thank you or you’re welcome
• They might taunt you: “Mommy, taller than you!” “Mommy, stronger than you!”
• If you ask them what their sad part of the day is, they might trip themselves. And then say their sad part was tripping themselves. THEY control it.
• Similar to wanting to control how movies to end, they are overly ambitious in how creative they can be or what they have control over.
First Sense of Extended Time
• The first age (I have found) at which they might remember something from long ago, such as picking up grandma at the airport last holiday or something you did at a restaurant two months ago. Their long-term memory is growing.
- Your child at 3.5 is likely a mini-tornado. Understanding The Hills of Child Development may help.
- Buy Misbehavior is Growth: Three Year Olds
Milestone 8B—Personal Reflection
Most Intense: A few days somewhere between 3.5.3 and 3.5.4
Irritable Period Summary
• This again bleeds from the last one. You may notice this one starting because they become much more interested in others and where they fit in (adored, rejected?)
Destructive and Demanding
• Becomes a “mini tornado” again: might take movies out of their cases, throw toys (or their socks) off a high place, unrolls rolls of toilet paper, opens the mini-blinds, take heads off their dolls, or open all of the cabinet doors. (Prepare your house and heart for this! It can be maddening—or cute—just depends on the situation.)
• May be demanding and in a way where they gather up many things to bring to you and do things with
Still Has Heightened Fear
• Still has irrational ideas and fears of what might happen to them, although it’s getting more refined. They recognize they won’t go down the bathtub drain, but they think small toys will (when they won’t). They are a bit more precise about what the actual threat is. Although this might make actual threats all the scarier.
• This continues to make them fearful of things like new, scary staircases.
• Alternatively, a more thrill-seeking child might purposely go towards the danger, such as waiting last minute to jump away from a bike coming at them.
New Abilities Summary
• They throw themselves into the middle of more situations and figure things out on the spot well, as they did in 8A. But now they also take on more personal responsibility about how they handle themselves in the situations. They grow to be more cautious but also more responsible.
Physically Sturdier and Manipulates Objects Handily
• Their bigger feet, lung power, etc, makes their presence that much more known and their actions that much bolder. They have a hearty laugh now and a gigantic wail.
• They easily and sturdily persist in trying new activities, perhaps learning how to use a swing, how to make it twist then releasing themselves, or how to get up a playground apparatus that requires some diligent, focused climbing.
• They handily manipulate puzzle pieces. It’s no thing for them that a puzzle piece is upside down. They understand that and put it the right way.
• They may already be operating a remote control and turning on the TV.
Interest in Other People
How this plays out depends on your child:
• They may love to chat up strangers while out, such as the grocery store.
• They may want to make sure their younger siblings learn just like they do.
• They may be fascinated by children going fast on a bike.
• Can take a noticeably greater interest in art, especially of children
• May ask questions about others. Like, “What do zombies eat?”
• They might become overwhelmed with sadness over something that happened to you. They might be sad you had to stay at the hospital. Their new sense of “forever” probably negatively impacts this.
• 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: they might know they won’t go down the bathroom drain but think some of their smaller toys will (when they won’t)
• This shows that other people (and objects) are becoming more “real” to them. Others have their own good and bad points, etc. Objects, as well, have their own identity (their baby brother won’t go down the bathtub drain).
Inserts Themselves into Others More
• A highly social child might “work it” in social situations. They gush about how they and another have the same color clothes on, chat them up, etc. What better way to make friends than to notice you both are wearing red shirts?
• Teaches others (e.g., grandma) what they know
• May be very protective of younger siblings
• They might take a big interest in helping other, younger children. They might come up with a clever solution to do this, like, “Everyone calm down! Mommy will be here to help us by teaching us a lesson!”
• Very much understands what other children are doing and may ask to do exactly that. For instance, you are doing an activity that requires you to be with a child every X hours, as you make a sun dial, and they ask to do it and stay with it.
• They continue to integrate, compare, and gather. They might see a character with goggles on and go get their own. But now they really ham it up big time.
• They may want to get things for you. They want to be the one to get baby wipes for the baby.
Cautious, Hesitant, Wants to Get Things Right
• As they insert themselves into situations more, they want to get it right.
• Likely to want to watch you do something first, such as color, rather than do it themselves
• May try to get words exactly right. For dolphin, they try “DO-FIN” “DAH-FIN” “DOLL. FIN.”
• They transfer risk. Instead of looking over a high place, they might ask a stuffed animal to first.
• Quite scared to go down a scary set of stairs
• They start to become much more mindful of their surroundings and actions. If they see you are sleeping, they might say “Oh. mommy is sleeping,” and leave the bedroom as quietly as they can.
Sensitivity to Rejection (or Expects Adoration)
• Their first sense of taking something deeply personal shows up here.
• They might ask you to do something and you say, “Not now.” The tone of your voice suggests you are irritated, and they run away, “I asked mommy to play a game! And she doesn’t want to be with me!”
• May be more painfully aware when they are socially left out. For instance, at a dancing class, they are asked to pair up with a friend, and they are the odd one out.
• The very first recognition of authentic shame appears (if they are at all prone to shame). They realize they did do something harmful. They might quietly whisper to you that they broke something, so you can help them fix it.
• Not all children will be sensitive to rejection. Some fully expect adoration. They gush when they meet a new friend and see them again, “Oh! I get to see you again!”
Milestone 9—Deductive Reasoning Across Time
Most Intense: 4 or 5 days in between 3.6.1 and 3.6.2
Irritable Period Summary
• It starts off mild. They might just want to be by you. It builds to a child who is:
• Very possessive. Another child can go get any toy whatsoever and they are mad the other child has it.
• Screams or has a meltdown when they can’t have their primary caregiver, or if primary caregiver leaves their side suddenly
• Orders you to sit and watch them play, for activity after activity
Bossy. Also Aggressive, but Towards the End of Being Bossy
• They may get bossy. How they do it depends on their personality:
• If they are otherwise easygoing, their bossiness in their sweet little kid advice can be adorable.
• They tell people they are doing things all wrong. They might give a lesson to young sibling on PLACING things not THROWING things.
• Might throw things, as if to experiment
• May playfully hit and kick adults
High Propensity for Shame
• In the last milestone, they realized they really can be responsible for a situation going poorly, and, thus, developed the potential for shame. This (might) show up in a big way now.
• They might get upset to the point of screaming when they are made aware that they hurt someone.
• They might fall to the ground in frustration when they realized they caused something bad to happen, such as they are the ones who moved something, say the TV remote, yesterday, which is why it is lost today.
• Very upset when something doesn’t go the right way. For instance, if they fall off a chair, you forget to get them something, or another child escapes outside on accident.
• May be highly protective of loved ones, very fearful for siblings for example
• Very upset when they can’t be the one to help someone
Fears Persist Day After Day
• Has a persistent semi-rational fear such as that there is a snake in the house or tigers are chasing them, the same threat of which they worry about day after day (i.e. across time)
• Sleep disruptions: might unexpectedly fall asleep in the middle of the day
• Or gets up in the middle of the night
• The exact behaviors depend on the child, but they are indeed intense during the intense period. Perhaps big meltdowns, highly possessive, whiny, very bossy, destructive, takes toys, throws, etc.
New Abilities Summary
Deductive Reasoning as Across Time
• Very good deductive reasoning as now applied across time (past and future)
• They may see a puddle and conclude “It rained yesterday” (which would have happened previously).
• Or “The garbage can is gone so the garbage man must have come.”
• This comes in handy when you, say, tell them that you are currently out of milk and much later they happily offer, on their own, remembering that you are out of milk, “Can I have juice then?”
• Very good at remembering things from the past, such as how to play games
• They can think into the future, such as thinking about what they want from Santa.
• Or they might think about math problems mentally and across a continuum of time. They might know they have 4 of something and you are about to buy 2 more, so they say, “Oh, I’ll have 6!”
Has Something in Mind and Does It
• They have something in their mind that they want to make a reality. They now gather up everything needed to make that happen. They persist with the idea until it’s done.
• They might order you to sit, as they go and get some LEGO pieces, to act out a play they thought up. In the play, you and they sit together while they make “coffee” out of the LEGO pieces, complete with kitchen, etc., and you drink coffee together. Also, your favorite thing to do, which they can observe anyway, is drink coffee.
• In addition, they want you to read book after book to them, look at animals, and practice counting.
• Or they might turn into a mini-tornado, rearranging everything in your house. They might move a garbage can from one room to another (“It’s where it belongs!”); take a fitted sheet off of a bed and try to put a flat sheet on (“This is the right one”); move all of the night lights around; get many flower vases out to make different flower arrangements, put strange things in them, like coffee stirrers; get out creative toys and build the structure as based on the instructions or pictures on the box that comes with it; and drag their stool out and made a piece of toast on their own for the first time ever.
• They might also do something quite athletic and exuberant now, like ride a bike for the first time or go sliding down a hammock.
Plans Across Time
• They might keep asking to buy a toy. Or if you ask what they want as a present, they might want something for their creative play. They want a new bridge or hill for their toy train set. They definitely have something in mind for it.
• May save up their own money to buy a toy they want
• May be really good at completing jobs from a list of things to do.
• Completely committed to doing something like decorating a Christmas tree
• It’s as if they can hold onto ideas in their mind with more clarity and with a sturdier ability to get ideas right or to know what is actually real.
• Can better recognize that 1 + 0—the written equation—is equal to 1, not 10
• Understands upcoming events with more reliability and precision. A holiday is on X day; Grandma is coming on Saturday; they go to childcare every Thursday
• They might know the clock is at a certain number.
• Good at knowing what is real or fake (such as fake toy eggs are fake). The nature of objects is more solidified in their mind.
• Likes to read (beginning books) or at least pretend to
• They start to design things. Their crafts might start to take on a distinct design, like making a new star shape or adding a stripe or two—instead of randomness or everything is all one color or the same shape they’ve always made.
• Or they design pillows all around them to make a “throne”
Gets More Proficient with Their Hands
• Very receptive to learning the proper way to handle things, such as how to hold a DVD properly or how to throw a frisbee (use this to your advantage!)
• Very good at doing something like picking out a movie, opening the Blu Ray player, putting the disc in, and operating a few buttons on the remote and television
• Might pull up a stool and make toast—all on their own
• May want to put on their own seatbelt
• Better use of their hands, e.g., better able to catch a ball
Fluid, Flexible, and Proactive
• Whereas before they were cautious and deliberate in in-the-moment situations, now they are fluid and proactive.
• They start to say new words, such as “kangaroo,” on the spot, easily. They might start copying what everyone says.
• They are very fluid in social situations. They meet someone new and they immediately give enthusiastic introductions of who is who to the other person.
• Or someone accidentally loses their shoe and they promptly go pick it up for them. They didn’t want the other person to lose it, after all.
• They might dramatically carry in the heavy grocery bags to the kitchen and announce they are a “Big strong man!!”
• If you are crying, they might wordlessly come up to you and wipe your tears.
• Might ask to be the one to give their sister her lemonade that day
• Challenges adults. Dad might say “Diesel [the fuel] dropped in price,” and they challenge him, “No, Diesel [from Thomas the Train] dropped jobi logs!” Diesel is the name of one of the trains, who did indeed drop jobi logs. They need information in their mind about past events to challenge such things in the now.
• Or they admonish their dad that he said, “Bad words.” What were they? He said, “No doughnuts.”
• Hands and feet might get bigger
Milestone 10A—Enormous 3-D Imagination
Starts: A little after 3.6.2. It can be very mild or intense depending on the child.
Most Intense: For a week around 3.7.0
Irritable Period Summary
• Highly possessive of toys. If a toy is out and just happens to be “theirs,” no one is allowed to even touch it.
• Possessive of primary caregiver, “My mommy!”
Bossy, Rigid, Stubborn
• You have to do everything as they want.
• There’s no not accommodating them immediately at this one. If they want to go to the potty, you’re going to the potty. If they want a toy in the van, you’re getting the toy in the van.
• When they order you to dance, you’ll instinctively comply.
• There might be a very particular process in how things are done now. They stand at the van door. You count to three. You open the door with the automated controls. They pretend they opened the door. And they get in the van.
• They want to be the one to do nearly everything.
• You might have trouble convincing them they can’t touch a hot pan.
• They might want something outright impossible, such as you have to sit at the end of a bench while simultaneously next to both them and their sibling.
• They might refuse to do something they are usually very agreeable about (like taking a bath). They are stubborn and upset, but not terribly communicative as to why. They just shut down.
Hard on Themselves
• If they can’t get something to work right, they may get mopey and hard on themselves about it.
• Or they get very whiny and upset when they can’t make things go the way they want
Sleep and Physical Issues
• May have nightmares
• May have a slight fever
New Abilities Summary
• This is marked by an impressive ability to imagine a very large 3-D concept, such as outer space.
• This shows up in their imaginations as they imagine what to do in a larger space, such as how to fix a road to improve traffic.
• They seem to get the “bigger picture” too and across time, as they become more reliably cooperative for longer periods of time (about a half a day).
Can Imagine an Enormous 3-D Space
• They can create a vivid realistic 3-D picture in their mind, e.g., can understand the idea of outer space or earth.
• They may love books about space and rockets.
• They might imagine having a party on the moon.
• They might create new stories with this 3-D awareness. They might hear someone needs to go to outer space, so they urgently offer to make a “rocket” out of wood blocks.
Likes to Hear or Create Larger 3-D Scenes
• They might like to hear highly imaginative stories (creating a 3-D picture with words) as a way of learning, such as a story about how a plane takes off, with many details (This depends on their personality. A highly “rational” and pattern-seeking child will listen to the details of an airplane taking off.)
• Or they might beg you to tell the story of how they were born, in intricate detail.
• Depending on their personality, they may want to be involved in everything and they have a very specific process to do it. They want to be the ones to open the refrigerator door, you get the milk, you pour it, they smell the milk, you put the milk back, and they close the refrigerator door. And it’s always like this without deviation. They control this large-ish space. (This insistence on the same thing over and over is more likely of highly “present” children, who tend to be S on the Myers-Briggs, as opposed to N, which is pattern seeking.)
• They might create elaborate scenes, with a bit of a story, with their blocks or LEGO pieces. The two of you, represented by something such as a LEGO, are trapped in a fence.
• A renewed interest in building 3-D shapes out of various objects, such as magnet shapes or wooden blocks
Big, Realistic Imaginations
• Highly imaginative about what they might like to do and in a big but fairly realistic way, e.g., build a new road somewhere to relieve traffic problems
• Their very first “imaginary friends” may appear, although they are unlikely to be “friends” now. “Workers” might help them build a road. Or they might offer to their toy cars that they can come with them to the playground. What they imagine now is likely to be similar to the imaginary friends they eventually develop in their mid-4s.
• You are more likely to find out about these imaginary people if you probe them with questions. “You need to build a road?” “Will you need to move the buildings over there?” “Will you need an excavator?” “Will anyone help you?”
Loves a Knowledge-Based Adventure
• By “knowledge-based adventure,” I mean something where they are given a bit of information and then can go do something or solve something.
• An example might be a treasure map they are given, which helps them find a treasure. They might take this map with them the rest of the night and next day. It is an important thing, indeed.
• Or they might love something like the “Wilderness Explorers” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In this, you get a map with places to go visit and do things at, getting a stamp at each.
• Loves to read or at least pretend to. It seems to make them feel big and important.
A Very Fluid, Robust, Joyful Personality
• They easily and very rapidly respond to in-the-moment situations now and with full, fluid personality.
• You might get a “no way!” from them now—after saying something totally mundane.
• Or they admonish you, whispering, “Be quiet! Be as quiet as a mouse!”
• Or they see the Pixar movie Cars for the first time in a while and cheekily run around, throwing their butt out exclaiming, “Kachow!”
• Or they put on sunglasses and ask their baby sister, “Baby, do you see how awesome I am?”
• Or they might get adorably bossy. They might tell another to “Calm down!” This is said like “Chill, dude!”
• Complete strangers might get the biggest kick out of how “full of life” your child is right now.
Focused and Committed
• Whereas before they were cautious to color, now they are highly focused in their coloring (or gluing, cutting, etc.)
• I was stunned to find out in my journals that all three of my children did this at about the same age in development. It was at 1,316 days from due date for the girl and exactly 1,318 days from the due date for the boys. They colored with impressive verve. This is, again, following a period when they were timid to color.
• They might take note of how very careful they are being in coloring and they might surprise you with how long they stick with it.
• They easily string Pony beads on shoestring (to make “garland”).
• They broom the floor, the walls, and the ceiling.
Follows Requests for a Longer Amount of Time
• They obey requests better and longer. You might ask them to play in a particular room, and they do.
• They are willing to be by themselves longer and may even actively leave the room you are in, for another one, for a good long while.
• Or you tell them “No hitting,” and they comply for the rest of the afternoon or evening.
• Or if you make cookies for Santa, they are relentless that they are for Santa and that no one eats them.
Accommodating of Others
• Very accommodating of you. If they are too heavy to carry, they understand, and let you just hold their hand instead.
• If you don’t like when they sit on you, they might brush your hair, knowing it sweetens you up as to let them stay there.
• Thinks about the feelings of others
• They are perceptive and inquisitive. If you are staring into space, they might ask, “Mommy, what’s wrong?”
• After someone explains perhaps deep breathing or resting to a child, they copy it and say, “I do this to calm down and not be an angry brother.”
• Very interested in specific smells, such as of milk or human sweat
A child with a vivid realistic 3-D imagination will love to visit a museum, cave, aquarium, historic site, etc.
Milestone 10B—Segmented Knowledge
Starts: 3.7.2 or shy of
Most Intense: From shy of 3.7.3 until one week later
Irritable Period Summary
Easily Has Meltdowns, Sensitive, Clingy
• At the beginning, wants you by them often
• Gets very upset if you leave
• Wants you near them at bed, might physically grab you so you don’t leave
• Jumps on others and lays on others
• May easily have meltdowns over the slightest of things
• Highly sensitive to when they have been hurt or perceive they were wronged
• An unusually high interest in scissors, strings, etc.
• If you get out stuff to make an activity, they are likely to be more interested in the stuff to make the activity, e.g., the scissors and paper, than the activity and ask for them and use them.
• Your entire kitchen might—might—get covered in string (or tape, etc.)
Confused, Particular, Can’t Make up Their Mind, Contradictory
• They want outright contradictory things and can be insufferably choosy.
• They want a TV show on and then get mad when you do turn it on. I believe some nuance of what they want is hard for them to communicate, such as, “Put it on but skip the introduction” or something similar.
• Or they become totally hysterical when something about the nuance of the way something should go doesn’t go that way. For instance, they love to watch a particular video before bed (of, say, a song). One night you hit “Skip ad” instead of letting them hit the button—and they become distraught.
• Changes their mind constantly as to how they want to do something, such as where they want to sit to put their shoes on, roaming the house, trying to find the perfect spot—the stairs, no; the top of the stairs, no; etc.
• Or they might get super choosy about something and you have no idea what they want. They might want a “waffle,” and you offer everything you can think of, but nothing satisfies them. As it turns out, they wanted their sibling’s waffle.
• Says someone took their [something] but you have no idea what they are talking about. They are on a mission to find, say, a “bridge,” but you have no idea what they are looking for. And you are otherwise with them 24/7.
• They might want to head butt their sibling. But “no hitting” is a rule. So, they ask you if “no crashing” is a rule or not. Because this is totally different than “no hitting.”
• May wake up the in the middle of the night from nightmares
New Abilities Summary
Large, Detailed Knowledge
• They have a lot of knowledge now and they are very specific and nuanced about it.
• Develops an impressive memorization of facts, such as what a certain animal eats or the names of the planets
• May become interested in all of the technical details of something, such as how some simple machines work
• Their vocabulary grows and so does their sentence complexity. It has more detail. Instead of saying, “Sit by me,” they might say, “Sit right next to me.”
• If they are reading, you might read a sentence to them, and they read it back, but they make sure they get every. single. word. right.
• Very technically accurate, even if contradictory. For example, “You just hit your brother.” “No, I hit his TOE,” or any other similar example
• Loves to answer questions to test their knowledge and understand the world, such as “Are trees living or not living?”
• May ask you questions like, “Mom, did you know … ?” Because they know.
• Asks curious, pointed questions like, “Do peperoni have a backbone?”
• That they start to break up all of life and their knowledge base, of which is really large now, into segmented, detailed chunks is this milestone. That they can integrate these segmented chunks into an integrated theme is the next milestone.
High-Level Overview of Situations
• They may set the table every day for the family, but they realize now that they might do it differently based on the circumstance. Is dad home today? Because if not, they won’t set a plate for him.
• They have a higher-level understanding of the nature of how things operate, such as conflicts. They describe the process itself that went down. So, if they get into an altercation with someone, they might say, “I’m sorry I made you angry, but we worked together to find a solution.”
• They may act out funny things based on the circumstance of the situation. They see you and they are just waking up from a nap. So they re-enact a scene from Disney’s Frozen when Anna just woke up, “The sky’s awake! So I’m awake!”
• May ask you what the rules are. The three rules are x, y, z. Is n the “fourth rule”?
• They might ask you, “How is it going, Mom?” What’s up, Mom? Right now, how are you feeling?
• With their higher-level overview and being able to segment knowledge into chunks, they draw more advanced conclusions, using if/then logic.
• A garbage can is on the driveway. But dad already put yours away. So, this one on the driveway must be a neighbor’s garbage.
• Indeed, set a breakfast plate out for dad if he’s home, but not if he’s not home. This is if/then logic.
• Asks intelligent questions based on observed facts with some logical conclusions. “Does the sun use electricity since it’s so bright?”
• With some assists, they can play “Twenty Questions” now. This is different than “I Spy.” In I Spy, you are looking for something that is around you, say the answer is someone’s shoes. In Twenty Questions, something is in someone’s mind, totally made up. Maybe it’s Jupiter, a black hole, or a whale in the ocean. You ask a series of questions, “Is it living or not living?” “Does it require electricity to move?” Based on the answer, you ask a new question. They can understand this kind of game now, where there is something imagined that you are guessing and ask questions in an if/then way to get you to the answer.
Breaks Traditional Routines
• Given their advanced thinking, they are likely to break traditional routines now. They see the whole situation. And they question things.
• If you do something day after day, they now challenge if it has to keep going that same way.
• They might playfully refuse to do something the family does every week. Nope. They are not going to the restaurant like you do every Thursday. They are staying home tonight. Mom.
• They might all of a sudden refuse to take their bath at 7:30 at night, which they’ve done since they were 6 months old.
• They might want a different breakfast than normal. They normally have X but now they want Y—probably something they saw someone else have.
• It is interesting how jealousy plays a role in child development. It causes them to try different things.
• This ability to apply if/then logic and break established routines may be why they are so fickle in the irritable period, trying one thing, then changing their mind, over and over.
Absorbs and Applies New Knowledge Quickly
• Very handily remembers information told to them, day after day. They are an utter vacuum for knowledge.
• They can apply what they know to real world situations handily.
• After reading a book with activity ideas, they immediately want to go try them out.
• If you tell them about a surprise party for someone, sometime after this, they may innocently and happily go tell the person.
• They can apply a lesson to themselves that they hear in a story, on TV, or that is told to them, such as “You can be a big helper in your family.”
• Can learn new sight words quickly
• Understands new, advanced words immediately and uses them accurately such as “aquarium,” “Riverwalk,” or “blister.” Before they simply repeated the word back. Now, it is highly reliable that they will understand any new word taught on the spot, say it, and start to use it.
Does Things with Their Hands
They love to do things with their hands. They might:
• Send marbles down a Marble Run
• Cut paper
• Paint with watercolors
• Stamp shapes into aluminum foil
• “Saw” things like separating wood blocks with a toy saw
• Cut fruit
• Hold and swing a hammer while helping an adult
• Put bracelets on their wrist
• Write letters nicely, put on makeup with impressive ability, or operate the remote better
• Play with string and other materials to make “bridges”
• Tie things up
• Be interested in simple machines and how things move (both boys and girls may show this)
Most Intense: 3.8.2 for just a few days
Irritable Period Summary
Extremely Particular and Picky
• They want a very exact episode of a TV show or they want X movie in a series, such as in Star Wars.
• Very picky about which waffle they get out of the box
• Mad you threw away food—that just fell on the floor
• Mad you can’t respond to them within milliseconds
• They often have trouble communicating that they want a particular nuance of something, resulting in frustration.
• May have nightmares, such as you dropped them off at the donation store
• May want you late at night, suggesting nightmares
• They are so fearful of abandonment at this one that I recommend making it a point to lovingly tell them you would never leave them behind, etc.
• May keep getting up at night, wanting to color or work on a skill
• May fall asleep during the day
• During the time of nightmares and sleep disruptions, you may see head shape changes, such as it elongates.
• Imagines fake threats against them and has a story about them. “A light saber hit me and hurt me.” Or, “Hippopotamuses are chasing me!!!” Or, while in the car, “Robbers are at our house stealing our stuff right now.” Or, “A black hole will suck me in.” Or, if near some large rocks, “Bears are in the cave!”
• They might tell you there are dinosaurs or snakes in their bed.
• A child who is very picky and particular and may have nightmares
New Abilities Summary
• This can be summed up as they understand that the parts make up the whole. They see many details of things and how it is integrated into a larger theme. They are perceptive at first then creative.
• They see more exact details of things that go down around them and, more, what they mean.
• They might note when an adult behaved poorly, say the adult was short with a child. They cite exact reasons, e.g., “That boy had no choice,” as the adult was very abrupt and rude to the child.
• They might retell a scuff up between them and another child, over and over, going over all the details of what happened.
• They might ask you what’s wrong, if you seem sullen or are just quiet.
• Able to correctly identify who is at fault over something. Before, they said so, but often got it wrong.
• Totally in awe of a show like Cirque du Soleil. Also, they want to go back to that neat show about dinosaurs you went to once.
• They eavesdrop now in a way that shows they see the bigger picture.
• If they overhear someone on a phone call saying they would like some art from them, they might go start working on it.
• Or they overhear you talking about moving to a new house. They don’t like this at all.
• They can string together specific incidents of action to understand an overall theme.
• They can pick up on the moral theme of longer, more adult stories on their own, e.g., “Luke [Skywalker] has to decide to be a good guy or bad guy.”
• They can tell you the plot of the movie, e.g., about Star Wars, “The bad guy tries to steal the robot that looks like a basketball.”
• Can relate a book of a movie to the movie itself, such as a book of Wall-E to the movie Wall-E (while watching it)
• Understands the plot of a movie more readily as it progresses
• Begins to prefer movies with real people instead of cartoons
Understands the Rules
• In the last ones, they developed large, detailed knowledge, as well as a better understanding of the overall picture. Now they understand specific rules that govern human behavior.
• They know the three rules are no hitting, no throwing, and no taking. But “no tickling” was not a rule. So. All is good there, right? As they look you right in the eye as they do it.
• They understand that something is going to the “next level,” such as they are training to become a Jedi and going to the “next level.”
• A sense of justice itself. You might now get told that something is “so unfair!”
• May enforce a general way of being on other children, such as how to eat properly at the table
Creatively Does Things with Themes (Details That Make up a Whole)
• Draws real life things in stunning detail, maybe an entire roller coaster or a train with details about how it works
• May follow along with a complex documentary and draw out the details of what they just learned
• Easily follows along with a complicated game, such as football or checkers
• For a cheeky child, they might put on funny videos, and it seems like they do it to learn how to be funny.
• Might tell you a very long elaborate story about anything at all, but in which there is an overall theme/plot with a beginning, middle, and end and many details: cherries need picked off of a tree, then washed, then packaged, then put on a truck, then delivered
• Their drawing or crafts may now have quite a few details and complex themes, such as colors or shapes that change logically
• If you are going somewhere, say to see beehives, they might gather up everything related to bees in the house: a book on bees, toys that look like bees, etc.
• They might like to count numbers by breaking them up across two hands. They hold 2 fingers up on each hand to make 4. They like doing it like this. They marvel at it. It’s like they are thinking, “My own hands can be a calculator!”
Core Personality Integration
• They may not show you this is happening, unless something goes wrong, such as they think you think poorly of them. Thus, they confront you about it. But in that they put things into themes and in that they see other’s good and bad traits, they are developing a portrait of themselves, too. Here are some things that may alert you that this is happening:
• They ask you to see their positive attributes and give detailed reasons why they are good, “I put the dishes away, I am kind to my sister …”
• Fully expects and imagines that others see their good qualities. As they listen to a baby babble, they announce, “The baby is telling me why they love me.”
• They might delight in knowing why you just laughed, “Mommy, why did you just laugh?” “Because you made me laugh” “I made you laugh!?” Yes, you cute thing.
• Puts on clothes to define themselves, such as a football jersey. They’re the winning quarterback.
• May tell story after story. These stories are them grappling with different ideas to decide how to be—until they can hook them onto something. Indeed, like being a winning quarterback.
• Tells you what they love to do, such as sing and dance
• Takes pride in doing things to improve their wellbeing, such as brushing their teeth well or eating healthy food
• Tells you definitively what they are not good at, “I’m not strong, so-and-so is strong.”
• Or describes others are “big and strong!”
• Gives reasons for why they love someone or may say “And 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.”
• Loves when you take notice of what they are doing
Plays the Cool Hero
• Might do many things with a pair of cool sunglasses on or a funky hat
• May love to fantasize they are a hero, such as a football player winning the game, reenacting all the moves they see on TV, putting on a jersey, and going to bed with their “winning” ball
• Does new, daring, heroic things, such as riding their tricycle up a big hill
• Interesting note: both of my sons had this cheerful “desire to be a hero” at exactly 1,358/1,359 days in development, which is around 3.8.3. My first wanted to pretend to be a football player. My younger son wanted to get up a hill on a tricycle. The exuberance and cheerfulness with which they did both of these things were identical.
A Beginning Ability to Put Themselves in Another’s Shoes
• They recognize that other people have experiences as well. It kicks off a better understanding of someone else’s perspective. It often starts with how they treat stuffed animals or dolls.
• Very caring and loving to stuffed or real animals. They may want to take care of and protect them, perhaps tucking them into bed at night with their own special blanket: a baby wash cloth.
• Or they ask you to try to send their favorite stuffed animal to the moon. Imagine watching a beloved stuff animal being hurled up into the air, suspended for a second as they “look” down at you, then coming back down. Neat, right? I think they “see” such facial expressions better now.
• Coaches and consoles their stuffed animals as if they are real. They might assure their stuffed animals that, “We would never leave you in the van. We would never leave you on top of a tree.”
• They might pretend their stuffed animal is playing a game, as they play for the stuffed animal.
• 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.”
• Keenly aware that someone else is dizzy, may try to make others dizzy
• They are in awe that they are cold. “I’m so cold!” Like it’s a new awareness
• May want to help their sibling learn how to do something, like go down the slide. They want them to have this experience, too.
Most Intense: At the beginning for a few days and again at 3.9.0 for a few days
Irritable Period Summary
• Possessive of what they are working on
• Hates when someone breaks something that they built
• May hit their sibling, if they mess with their workspace
• At the start of this milestone they are a little bit possessive. 5-10 days in they get very possessive.
• Might be aggressive, rude, or bossy, likely in setting their own boundaries
• Super possessive and may thus get rough with their siblings or friends
• If they think something is “theirs,” they take it.
• Can be expected to never share
• They all of a sudden don’t say words right. For instance, they might say “blue” or “boop” as they try to say “Blippi”
• May be in a confused “do loop,” especially at bed. You need to read a book and the light needs to be on, but they also need to go to sleep and the light needs off, but then they want to read the book, and the light needs to be on, etc.
• They might run around in circles many times per day, as if it brings great comfort to them. I wonder if more flat-footed children are more prone to this, as they seem to like to have firm sensations on their feet.
Sensitive / Focused
• Gets really upset if you yell at them or think they are “bad”
• May start to hate loud noises distracting them
• May blame other children for something they did
• May physically grow
• Boys’ voices might get slightly deeper.
• Very upset if someone tries to take something they have or interrupts them when working.
• You might see a physical growth spurt or hormonal changes, such as their voice changes slightly.
New Abilities Summary
• They become very precise in more than one way.
• They’ve been holding onto an enormous amount of knowledge in the past milestones. They’ve chunked it up into details and put it back into a new theme. Now they throw this data around in a very precise way.
• They might see the nuances of time. They might say they are going to “be back in 5 minutes,” and they are approximately right. Or, “I just dropped something. It will take me a few seconds to get it.” Or a stain on the floor “will take about a half hour to dry.”
• They like to make two creations of something and to make them be exactly the same height.
• Takes an interest in measuring things and can measure things with a ruler
• If they are mathematically inclined, may write numbers bigger than 100
• Gets advanced ideas exactly right
• Very precise in estimating price. Something is $8. They have $5. They should put the item back.
• They might notice things are a “close call!” You almost hit each other. That was a close call.
• They can better understand fast forwarding and rewinding a movie.
• Makes things go slow, then fast, then slow
Highly Precise in Their Imaginations, Thinking, and Perceptiveness
• They might be able to increment the day it is mentally. Yesterday was July 10, so today is July 11.
• They might notice that “The Parthenon is in Aladdin (the movie).” They’re right.
• They get jokes on a more intellectual level. Their sister says something funny. They look over in acknowledgment that Big Sis was funny.
• Might talk about what they would do if they had $100. They would buy a house.
• May be able to read words without pictures serving as an assist
Takes Social and Other Risks
• Takes social risks, e.g., says “WAH Wah wah” when someone else’s joke falls flat.
• Much chattier with strangers
• Might yell at people they don’t even know who are breaking the rules, say teenagers walking in the middle of the road
• More willing to ask for help when they need it
• May have dreams at night where they heroically do something or accomplish something, such as riding a bike—a skill that they’ve been working on
More Precise Control of Their Hands
• More precise in how they hold, say, a pencil and how they draw
• Might like to trace over letters they see with a pencil
• They might pour cereal in up to the right place in the bowl, instead of letting it overflow and dump all over.
• Better mastery over something like zipping up a jacket, zipping up a wallet, or operating a remote (could do it before; they just get much better now)
Initiates Impressive Creative Projects, with More Details
• Initiates their own highly creative projects
• Initiates projects which are impressive and with more types of parts, such as making a “light saber” out of a paper towel roll and green construction paper.
• Or draws a map showing the downstairs of their house
• May become detailed in their drawings and thus a drawing machine: snow men, trees, race cars, spiders, a sun, a butterfly, Curious George holding a pig
Milestone 12—Two Alternatives
Most Intense: 3.9.2 until 3.9.3
Irritable Period Summary
• Extremely stubborn about how things should go.
• They might totally refuse to go do what the family is doing.
• Demanding and stubborn about how to do things.
• You peeled the banana peel all wrong.
• They are extremely rigid that the thing they want (a cup or toy) is a specific color and that the other colors are definitely not acceptable.
• They come up with solutions that satisfy both you and them now. YOU go to the pool. THEY are staying home.
• They seem to now recognize that others have their own identity, needs, etc.
Cynical and Distrusting of Others
• But in that they recognize others have needs and can make plans, they seem totally untrusting that others will do that properly. They need to order you around.
• They are convinced their brother was going to take their snack, when he wasn’t.
• They are in complete hysterics as you are driving because. Before even getting to the restaurant, they are certain you are going to order 6 chicken nuggets instead of what they want, which is 8 chicken nuggets.
• Or they get mad that you didn’t use the word “SOMETIMES” when describing how something works, e.g., “The sun SOMETIMES shines” on their face.
• They get upset with you over tiny details of things. For instance, their dad always says, “Look at this little heart!” before you watch a video together, and he forgets to do it once. They are completely distraught.
Meltdowns Over Who is Faster or Better
• Meltdowns over what likely seem nonsensical, but which is likely over who is faster or better
• They might get after you ask someone to get you a piece of paper, and their sibling got it first.
• Or you are playing with balloons and they are upset their sibling’s balloon is higher, thus “winning”
• Very upset with things that are distracting, like loud noises when they are trying to watch something. Or if someone hits them accidentally
• They are starting to become like a dog with a bone now. They know what they want, despite any distractions (and they thus don’t like them).
• They might agree to a solution to something, such as they turn the TV off. But then they realize that this is a bit of a trick, change their mind mid-action, and announce, “No! I want to watch a MOVIE!”
• Their arms and legs get longer.
• When they run around now, they might crash into things, such as walls. They don’t know how strong they are yet.
• If you cosleep, you might get kicked and elbowed while they are sleeping.
• They smile in their sleep, as if they are having pleasant dreams.
• Around 3.9.3 might show an epic meltdown, and it may be regarding what two different people or different things do. Maybe they want you to go to the pool while they stay home, or they have an epic meltdown that someone got somewhere faster than they did.
New Abilities Summary
• Can reliably mentally hold onto two ideas at once; can thus compare each or methodically test one or the other
Tests and Compares Ideas, Things, and Systems
• Gathers up all the supplies they need to do an “experiment.” Then they set up the experiment, perhaps one you’ve done with them previously.
• Formally tests one idea as better or worse than another. They might build rockets out of paper and tests them “one by one” to see which can go higher.
• There is methodology and thought to their experiments. If, say, balancing weights on a fulcrum, they might do it methodically, by taking out the heaviest objects first.
• Verbally says they are “testing” their ideas
• Loves science experiments, especially if two things are compared
• Compares themselves to everything and always wants to be the fastest or the best (as seen before but it’s much more intense)
Can Reliably Hold onto to Two Ideas at Once
• They notice, without doing it but just looking at something, that something odd-shaped and large, like a large stuffed animal will NOT fit into something small, such as a small basket. This is significant because in the last milestones, they were wildly off about this.
• They understand North and South (two directions) even as you drive around. They might say, “We’re going north, but if we turn around, we would be going south.”
• If they do a play, there is a greater trust now that the other person will deliver their lines, and they can respond on cue.
• It’s as if they can persistently hold onto two separate ideas at the same time at this one. Whereas before, they could not. Any given idea or thing became totally wonky in their mind if their mind was focused elsewhere.
• Hence, also, why they are so painfully aware that someone is, say, faster than them at something
• Develops theories involving two things, e.g., “Boys can rock climb, but girls can’t.”
• Before it was “One person can do something, and another can’t.” Now it’s “Boys can, and girls can’t.” They generalize now.
• Or, “If we got into a car crash, we could try again.” Two alternate versions of reality.
• Or if something goes wrong, say flour puffed up at them from a kitchen mixer that wasn’t locked, with flour all over their face and clothes, they say, “It’s Ok. Sometimes we make mistakes.”
Sizes Up Others
• The overly optimistic skill that kicks off these milestones is a sense they can make decisions for other people. They learn they can’t and why in these late three milestones.
• You as such might see them size up what others can or can’t do.
• They check the truth of what you are saying. You say it is raining. They go and check. “Mommy, you were right.” It’s not to prove it to themselves. It is to see if YOU were right.
• Sizing up that “Boys can rock climb and girls can’t” is also sizing up others.
Adopts Other’s Personality
• They adorably adopt other’s personality into their own. Other people are more real to them—but so are they—and they mix and match some characteristics.
• For instance, Blippi says, “That was so much fun learning about _!” They might apply this to their current situation. “That was so much fun learning about building train tracks!”
• If they learn that someone else got a patent because of a “great idea” they had, they might announce they are also a great thinker with great ideas.
• They might put on a play of one of their favorite books with full emotion, hitting all the details, such as playing the happy, go lucky pig from a Gerald & Piggie book by Mo Willems.
• They are safe and secure in their own personality but adorably taking on others. They hit all the right words, notes, and cues in how they act out the other’s character.
Very Immersed in Projects and Social Play
• Initiates games with other children, such as Go Fish
• Can play independently of adults
- “Would You Rather?” Questions May Help with a Defiant Child
- For the Child Who Loves to Race and is Defiant, Counting to 3 and Other Yardsticks May Help
Milestone 13—Persistent Focus on One Idea with Many Variables
Starts: Some time before or after 3.10.1
Most Intense: For up to a week starting around 3.10.2
Ends: It might last until 3.10.3
Irritable Period Summary
• They still have two solutions: one for you and one for them. But they might have some more complex details to it. They insist you order food inside of a restaurant, not go through a drive-thru, while they play in the playground, and then leave. (In fairness, it would work.)
• They are upset you turned right instead of left. Because going left would have got them to where they wanted to go, which was a particular restaurant, playground, etc.
• Very bossy in a specific way. You might have to take turns when helping them get dressed.
• Shows stronger identification with their biological sex in which they want to behave in ways in alignment with their sex, such as insisting on going in specifically the boy’s or girl’s bathroom
• Or they want to be called “handsome” not “pretty”
• Or they insist on only singing the part in a song where the same sex person that they are sings
• Still utterly hates distractions. “Daddy! Too loud!”
Aggressive, Rigid, Possessive
• May be aggressive, hits their sibling
• May stab their sibling with a pencil
• May kick and cry as they are insisting on the (totally workable, in their eyes) solutions that they came up with
• Won’t let you do an activity with another child, keeps harassing you to do what they want
• Might be “over” cuddling. They might give you the side eye when you ask to cuddle.
• Can be very whiny
• Demands, while whining, to have very specific, nuanced things. It can be very grating.
Very Confident in Making Decisions—Which Can Cause Problems
• They become very comfortable with making decisions that have several variables, such as when to cross a road based on more factors, such as if the vehicle has a turning signal on or not. This may cause them to dart out into the road on their own unexpectedly, as they felt it was safe to cross.
• Or maybe they categorize things in their own way such as something is “the orange one” and another is “the gray one.” You have no idea what the orange or gray one are, and they are whiny and distraught about demanding you to go to one or the other.
• Might fall asleep easily during the day
• Might stay up late at night, practicing new skills
New Abilities Summary
• They have the ability to persistently hold onto to two ideas at once, as seen in the last one. Now they can keep ahold of one or more ideas in their mind while evaluating them against the larger picture, with many variables.
Persistently Moves Forward with One Idea (or Themselves) While Other Stuff is Going On
• They persistently hold onto one idea or even sometimes a literal object and accept its constant nature as other things happen to or affect it. They push their one idea (or themselves) forward.
• They understand that north is only a particular way. It’s not this way, this way, or that way. I list this first as it is an illustrative example for this milestone. They just seem to more reliably understand that the reality around them is sturdy. It’s not at all wonky to them anymore. North is north.
• They might ask why someone in a story gets taken to jail. They remark, noting on their own, “But that character is not a bad guy.” They persistently hold onto the idea of the character of the person: he is good. This doesn’t change because guards are taking him to jail (just like north is north). Why is this bad stuff happening to him?
• They might note that 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 might want to make such decisions more.
• They may constantly ask you to help them identify letters or read. Reading provides useful information to a child who is now steering their own “ship.” Which button do they pick to restart versus resume a movie? What are road signs actually telling them?
• In their imagination now, they might want things to happen with them being the main star. Maybe they sit down with you and want a “teacher” to come teach them things. Or maybe they make up a play in which they were sad, but all the neighborhood kids come help them. They are the “one thing” while many things around them happen.
• You might see them intently look at something with one eye while the other eye is half closed. They intently, even slyly, size something up, as they perhaps hold onto the object slightly away from them. Focused: that is this milestone.
Encourages Others to Persist
• They might order you to keep persisting. “Keep singing, Mom!”
• Or they parent their Dad after he cut himself shaving, “It’s OK. Your body will heal it. But you should be more careful next time. I hurt myself a lot! But it’s by accident…”
Focused and Fast at Games
• They are more persistent at doing things and may play games better or build things faster.
• A very mechanically oriented child may put together something like a Marble Run, which is fairly complex to put together, by themselves. They do it faster than you can.
• May be more focused on games with some more complex logic, such as Connect 4
- When Children Whine: Be Like a Firefighter on a Mission to Heal Their Emotions
- Anticipate a Child’s Needs to Reduce Whining
- Play 20 Questions or I Spy to Resolve Communication Issues with Your Preschooler
Melting Point Race
These are two of my children looking at something intently with one eye half closed as described above:
Looking intently in one direction. At one thing. Nothing is distracting them. Said things is slightly away from them. This is this milestone. They are soon to “push the bounds,” as in the next milestone, noticing things and what they can “magically” do with them beyond where their hand is holding the object as pictured.
Milestone 14—Pushes Bounds
Starts: 3.11.0 or shy of it
Most Intense: A couple flare ups throughout, each lasting only about a day.
Irritable Period Summary
• May easily fall asleep in the day
• They might get aggressive in getting their demands met.
• By push the bounds, I mean literally. They literally push things away from them.
• They might punch things to get their way. They might punch the chair you are in to get you out.
• Or they might punch a box of food you offered, if it’s not what they wanted
• Upset if they see another child with candy and they can’t have it
• Communication problems, especially over things that move just outside of their immediate environment.
• They might say, crying and distraught, “Look at that one!” and you don’t know what “that one” is. It turns out to be a bug that flew away.
• Or they become whiny and distraught to rewind a movie to a particular part. They might be able to communicate this with the right word (or not), but they are irritated by the nature of the problem itself.
• They can be very whiny in their demands and it can be very grating.
Highly Nuanced and Thus a Bit Rude
• They remain specific to the point of rudeness. If someone praises them for being a “responsible young man,” they yell back, “I’m not a man! I’m a boy!”
• Or they starkly and inappropriately call a person “fat.”
New Abilities Summary
• This one is marked by skills related to things that move from their body out, literally. Casting a fishing line or spraying a hose are examples.
A Sense That They Can Magically Push or Pull Objects Slightly Out of Reach
• They want stronger, more powerful tools to make things happen. They reach for their cup, which is out of reach, and wonder how they can get it. (You just go get it, right?) It is as if they are thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun to get it by magic!?”
• I believe this fantastical thinking may kick off the next cascade of skills, where they push boundaries. As such, this magical sense will slightly precede irritable behavior.
• They notice things that extend across a distance that is beyond their physical reach, such as “our stairs go all the way to the ceiling!” Or they are totally mesmerized when you open the sunroof on a vehicle.
• If they are handed a mechanical pencil or something similar, they are guaranteed to extend the lead as far as it can go.
• Very upset if a toy building structure isn’t complete. Maybe you play a Jenga like game, where you build a wall. They very clearly notice that an initial brick is missing. It needs to be complete.
Physically Pushes the Bounds, Exuberantly
• Very exuberant
• May want to do bigger physical things with more verve, such as swing on a swing. It’s the joy and exuberance with which they do it that is of note.
• Throws their whole body into the things they act out. They may run in place while describing how they have to save someone.
• May put face paint or marker all over their face. But you should see how proud they are!
• Might crash a birthday party they see while out (no, they weren’t invited)
• Their physical gestures might show how they “push the bounds.”
• They put their legs and arms out dramatically as they order someone to stop.
• They might chase their sibling around, wanting to hug them.
• May rush to open a door for someone
• After someone playfully messes with them, they pop up, “YOU CAN’T CATCH ME!”
• Loves to be flipped over and tickled
Intentionally and Easily Grows in the Skills They Have
• They do something strikingly independent, all on their own, without being asked to. They might take off their shoes on their own. Or anything else that they hadn’t previously been doing but now do.
• They happily announce that they can learn new skills. If they see a kickboard (used for swimming), they bubble, “I don’t know how to swim. But I can learn!”
• They may push themselves to go down a slide or climb a ladder they previously didn’t go on.
• Big jobs are done right: your entire back porch may be swept of all sand
• Might try something new. They might use watercolor paints for a project that typically uses acrylic paint. In addition, they try out colors they’ve never used before, in ways they’ve never colored before.
• They might wander around and find things that need fixed and try to do just that—just because. Maybe a railing in your house is missing its cap or anything similar.
• They might pick up on a new skill easily, especially one in which things move over a distance slightly beyond them, such as learning how to play ping pong, cast a fishing line, or spray a hose.
• Or they easily take to activities in which an object moves with them or others on it, such as pulling a wagon or riding a pony
• They surprise you with how long they can keep up with things now. They might walk the whole way on a nature trail or further than normal when at an amusement park.
More Realistic About What Can be Done
• In the previous milestones, they seemed to want to puppeteer those around them: you do this, I’m doing that. Now they seem to realize others have limitations, wants, needs, etc, and/or need to be slightly persuaded.
• If you can’t get them milk right away, they might conclude, “Mommy must not have heard me.”
• To get your cooperation, it’s like they plot. They sit up in bed, “Wait a minute! What if we were to go downstairs?” Because they want to go downstairs. It’s as if they realize they have to be a bit sly to get you to do what they want.
• They size up their environment with more realism.
• They might walk into a room and start evaluating it, “My brother isn’t here.” “We don’t own any pets.” Or as noted, they might note that they “don’t know how to swim (yet).”
• But this realism often coincides with a solution to pushing the current reality to something better. Their brother isn’t here—but they can pretend he is. They don’t know how to use a kickboard used for swimming—but they can learn. We don’t own any pets—but this stuffed animal can be my pet.
• They have both realism and a desire to push the bounds. Creative, effective solutions ensue!
Just Plain Smarter
• Somewhat into the milestone, they get just plain “smarter” in the way that we adults consider “smart.” They are more alert, faster, and seem to know what’s “up.”
• The skill here is not what’s important. The skills are what they are. It’s the speed in which they do it that is of note.
• If they are adding already, they might add to 10 with shocking speed.
• They might find things in a “find it” book with amazing speed. Or they find things in nature with similar speed, such as birds or squirrels.
• They easily follow along with even adult-themed movies, noting what the characters are doing, etc.
• May cheekily play a role, such as bopping their head to music. They stay in character, both for the joy they derive from it and that it makes others laugh. But mostly the joy they derive from it.
• May be very cooperative in rules or requests, such as staying quiet at the library, going to the potty, etc.
• They really can be a delight in through this age.
Runs a Longer but Still Short Gamut of [Many Things]
• They are pushing the bounds more outside of their own physical being, perceptually and physically, but the gamut they run is fairly short. Anything that gets too long gets scary and wonky.
• Their “pushing the bounds” causes an errant view of how long things last. They seem to think that things last forever, when they don’t. So, if you are telling them “no more videos” at night, they might think this means “no more videos, ever.”
• They develop deeper emotions. They may become more seriously contemplative. They are in deep thought as they persist with their ideas. It looks almost as if they are frowning.
• They are soon to run a much fuller spectrum of human emotion. They will have lower lows and higher highs and their humor will also run the full gamut, becoming serious, quiet, and dark as well as silly and charming to elicit laughs.
Sizes up the Bound Visually
• Towards the end of this milestone, they start to size up visual distance, weight, or other things that run across a spectrum by visual perception alone.
• They might look at a train pulling many cars and conclude, “that train has a heavy load.”
• Or they might start to identify what is impossible
• Their stories may reflect this. A claw is about to get something but then—what!?—stops. Why did you stop, claw? The claw only goes so far. There is more drama and suspense in their stories.
• They may really like when you draw something for them because “Then I get to see it!” You bring something that could have been far away close to them.
• Corresponding with this stage can be especially aggressive behavior, especially in boys.
Likes to Hide in Small, Dark Places
• They might hide themselves in a “tent,” such as under a table.
• They like to hide here for some amount of time, maybe a half hour. They might rattle off what’s on their mind, perhaps running through all the math facts they know.
• All of my children did this around 1,448 days from the due date (just shy of 3.11.3)!
• With as much as they like to push the bounds, realize what is going on outside of their space, and sense the many variables all around them, maybe they just need a break!
Four Year Old Milestone 1A—Magical Metamorphosis (What If and Watch This)
Starts: Between 3.11.3 and 4.0.0
Most Intense: At or around 4.0.1
All of 1A and 1B can be fairly intense for some children while other children might show intense behavior only during the peaks.
Ends: A few days at and after 4.0.2 can be an especial delight.
• They become more aggressive.
• Hitting, throwing, taking, acting out
• They might harass their siblings a lot, such as when you are giving their sibling attention.
• They might push their siblings off a swing if they want it.
• A typically whiny child might be unbearably whiny right now
• They might kick or punch more, even just lightheartedly.
• There is a jovialness and an assertiveness to them. They might, for instance, poke their body through two people to make sure they are included in a photo being taken.
• How aggressive they get is dependent on the child’s personality and situation. Some children are naturally more aggressive. And life situations, such as moving or health issues, will affect their behavior.
• Reminder: Take a note of your child’s behavior and how it affects you. It might affect your relationships, goals, or work.
Physical and Sleep Changes
• Coinciding with this kicking are longer legs and longer feet. More, their legs are stronger.
• Their whole body feels heavier and denser. As such, they might unexpectedly slide down a slide quicker than they can handle.
• They might fall asleep unusually early at night. Or they might stay up late.
• A few fears might show up, such as “the floor is lava!” Fears and physical changes/growth often coincide.
• Although it’s more difficult to detect in some children, an otherwise noticeable head shape change starts this milestone at around 4.0.0 or sooner. Bulk is added near the forehead and then the head elongates noticeably within 5 days.
• Demands you stay with them late at night
• Demands your attention in the daytime
• May be in your lap a lot
• Might be a bit grumpy
Can’t Stop Themselves
• Does destructive things seeming ineluctably, like cut a doll’s hair
• Deliberately throws things
• May do things to make things “beautiful.” Like put marker all over the dresser or cut their hair
• Sincerely can’t stop themselves from doing certain things, like peeling at things they shouldn’t (like chipped paint on a wall or their fingernails) or hitting people with something (like a toy sword)
• Won’t stop when asked to stop
• Gets very upset when you ask them to stop, such as walking off dejected when you tell them that them lingering on you is hurting you
A ~Relationship~ with Doors
• They have a heightened interest in doors.
• Does not like when they are locked out of a room (say, because you are getting dressed)
• Might kick the door—or just politely knock
• Might slam doors
Can be Chill
• They might love to wrap up in a blanket or snuggle into a favorite stuffed animal, cozy, just being with their thoughts.
• Or they might ask you to be next to them by patting the area next to them on the couch. They may clean off all papers, books, etc., so you have room to be by them.
• They are very assertive and in a physical way. They might hug and tackle their sibling and not let up. Or maybe they just playfully kick and poke you a lot.
New Abilities Summary
• They intellectually mash together two different ideas or stories together constantly. Superman helps Thomas the Train. Or they wonder, “Can cats lay eggs?”
• Magical Metamorphosis: they wonder if things can change into other things. Also, two highly creative ideas or stories bump around together in their mind.
• They may have questions about what can turn into what. Questions such as: Can their brother can turn into a girl? Can put your head on theirs? Cats can lay eggs? Can they fly?
• They might tell endless stories about heroes and superheroes. Superman saved us and took us to an island. A boat crashed on a beach, but we figured out how to put it in reverse.
• In these heroic stories, two different stories get mashed together. Superman appears in Thomas the Train adventures. A rocket might start doing more what boats do (sinks, gets a hole in it). You, their parent, all of a sudden turn into a bad guy. What!?
• It’s all a bit of mumble jumble, but in these stories, they are mashing creative ideas together and getting an enormous brain power boost in it. As things accidentally morph into other things in their mind, they get to ponder interesting questions like, “what would happen were ROCKETS get holes in them and sink in the water?”
• Their mash ups of stories occasionally touch back to reality. If you are stuck in your vehicle on a steep hill with a narrow road and must drive backwards to get off, they may tell you a tow truck can help. And they tell a detailed story of how that would work.
• Or, if a new baby is coming, you may need to sell your current car, as it’s too small now. This actual thing, your car, needs to “transform” into something else (something bigger). Also, it will sell for $14 or $15. And you should be patient while selling it.
• In general, things are always “too small” right now. Things needs to be bigger and better.
• I suspect more “analytical” children (being more analytical or more fantastical, I think, is a spectrum and neither is inherently superior) are less prone to fantasy and more prone to realistic things that can change or morph. They may be fascinated by big, realistic things like blimps and stories of them, such as the Hindenburg, which caught on fire and crashed to the ground.
• Many other things hilariously change or morph into other things:
• They might tell their joke: “1 plus 1 is pizza!”
• Loves the idea of “magic” making things happen
• Given their love of big things that move and change, they might love hot air balloons.
• Children of this age may also like to “morph” other things as well, such as your walls—with some crayons.
• They might like things that morph, such as a “Water Reveal Pad.” With a “pencil” that is filled with water, a picture is revealed after “coloring” on a blank page.
• Ponders “what if” situations:
• They might ask “what if” a lot.
• They might say things like, “We need to solve this mystery!”
• Their motto is “let’s see if.” Let’s see if we can hook this hook to the tv. Let’s see if their stuffed animal, a monkey, can swing on a crane as if it’s a tree.
Physically Pushes the Bounds: “Watch This!”
• In the last Three Year Old Milestone, they started to push the bounds. They became fascinated with things that were near them but that could be pushed away, such as casting a fishing line or spraying a hose.
• Now, they want to test those limits in a more physical way. The best way I can describe it is that, in the last one, they threw the anchor over the boat. Now, they want to tug on it to make sure it is working.
• They might demand you watch them do something big and dramatic. “Mommy, watch this!” As they run and do a little hop.
• They are more physically daring. They might run and then jump on their scooter yelling “Woo hoo!”
• Or they might purposely do a roll on gymnastic rings
• All day long they say, “I did it!”
• They might love to swing.
• On swings, they demand you push them “faster and faster!”
• Has increased lung power, such as blowing a dandelion or blowing up a balloon
• They are more deliberate in the challenges they take on. Imagine a child with a hand on their hip, looking around, pondering what to do next. Go outside in the sandbox? Do a little hop? Several things they can pick from. Which one? Hmmmm.
• They might want to take on big challenges, like carrying a heavy basket at the store. They commit to doing it despite the difficulty. They see how long they can do it.
• Loooooooves superheroes.
• Or maybe for the first time ever, they mention some new superheroes.
• It’s as if they don’t want to be contained by a room or house because they want to do big things.
But Also Understands Better What is “Good” and Realistic:
• They have “magical metamorphosis” thinking but they also get a bit of realism.
• They don’t “cheat” at games as much, such as no longer skipping spaces on board games. They might be able to play Hopscotch correctly (again, doesn’t skip spaces).
• They can win at a game like checkers, if you go easy on them.
• They might be surprisingly good at other games that involve some mechanical strategy, such as Plumber (an app involving setting up pipes correctly).
• Really wants to be good or do good. They might hear you talking about what is good and they announce they are committed to being nice.
• They are always listening, watching, and understanding what adults say and do and note more about the emotions involved, e.g., may note when you were angry (beginning introspection).
• 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 (a possibly renewed) notice in this.
Likes to Ride Things
• At exactly 1,468 +/- 1 day (almost 4.0.2), all three of my children pretended to ride something. One, on a kid-size motorcycle. Another, on a bouncy horse at a playground. Another got in a cardboard box and pretended it was a car to “catch bad guys.” Vrooooom!
• In this time, they also might have a high propensity to stick their tongue out.
Attaches to a Particular Character (or Topic)
• They might (or might not) attach to one particular character right now.
• This character may be Wonder Woman, Wall-E, etc. I find it endlessly endearing to think of who they attach to and why.
• They are obsessed with this character. They may want to dress like them every day.
• They get excited that they know everything about this character: where they live, what they do.
• It’s as if they are emphasizing the nature of the character: Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman and acts like Wonder Woman, not Superman. Things have been crazily metamorphosizing otherwise in this milestone. Things get a lot more real towards the end and into the next milestone.
• They might emphasize the identity of objects: something is a “puncher punch.” Or “The giant truck is a giant truck.”
• They start to size up things as well, with details, based on what they do know. “An SUV is a truck with an extra window.” Objects have been metamorphosizing in their mind, and, I think, with this extra creative practice, the actual identity of things becomes clearer and more firm for them, in their mind.
• A more analytical child might attach to a topic rather than a person.
- Preschool Conflict Resolution Tool: Make a Book about a Conflict with the Child
- A Park Day or Seven: Reconnecting With Your Four Year Old
- Four Year Olds, if Needed, Can Handle More Rules and Restrictions
Four Year Old Milestone 1B—Realistic Interchangeability
Starts: A few days after 4.0.2
Most Intense: At or around 4.0.3
Ends: There are a few days break between this one and the next one, which starts before 4.1.0.
Irritable Period Summary
• Remains highly demanding of your attention.
• Might still tell you they would really like you to be by them
• They might adorably ask to be by you, “I would really love to have breakfast with you.”
• They might want to be RIGHT next to you, such as underneath you while you are doing a plank.
Grumpier, More Easily Frustrated, Possibly Angry
• They can be quite grumpy.
• They might be back to whining and harassing their siblings.
• They might get very angry sometimes, perhaps if they are not allowed to do something or if, say, they can’t get to you because a door is locked.
• Their hitting and throwing might be so out of control that you find yourself putting away all balls, toy weapons, etc.
• They are more independent: they might do things on their own initiative more, such as getting out of their bed on their own in the morning or insisting on doing a puzzle by themselves. This independence can come with a frustration if they can’t do something successfully.
• They are very likely to draw on walls, etc.
• They might playfully kick you.
• It’s not malicious in how they do it. They just do stuff like this. They are very deliberate and calm when they do it.
Moodier, Private, More Independent
• Can be withdrawn, quiet, and clingy
• They seem to value privacy and space more.
• Might tell people to “go away” or retreat to their room and shut the door.
• Prone to exaggerations, such “We’ll NEVER see my friend again.” Or, “Halloween is gone FOREVER!”
Wants an Impossibly Immediate Reaction
• They ask a question, and you start to indeed answer, but they yell, “NO! LISTEN to me.”
• Or they are telling you, “Mommy, mommy, MOMMY. LOOK!” And nothing you can do can look fast enough for them. You promptly say, “I see it!” but this is totally unsatisfactory to them.
• You might have to repeat back to them their question, showing you fully understand it, before answering it. Even if you go to answer the exact question they asked, they feel you aren’t listening. Repeat back the question itself and do it with unparalleled facial expression, showing you are interested in what they said.
• This 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 aggression like kicking people in the foot or jumping on them. And they can also still be quite demanding.
New Abilities Summary
• Previously, things were accidentally, magically changing in their imaginations. Now they get realistic about how such things operate.
Challenges You About What Should be in What Set
• They’ve been noticing how things might be mashed from one creative thing into another. Superman used to suddenly appear in a story they are telling about Thomas the Train. Rockets used to turn into boats. As they evolve and get practice with this, now they question if X being in Y makes sense. What is Superman doing in a Thomas the Train story!?
• They might see a box of diapers in the master bedroom. This doesn’t make any sense. Diapers should be near the changing table. They ask about it.
• Or they notice you sometimes put their sister’s sock in their drawer.
• They notice entire sets now. A set is items in a list. The set of even numbers up to 10 is [2, 4, 6, 8, 10]. The set of things in the master bedroom was normally [a bed, a table, a dresser]. The diaper box didn’t belong.
• Given their interest in sets, they become more resourceful and realistic in which items in a set can be interchanged.
• They can interchange parts. If they are playing with something and missing a part, they are willing to find a different but workable part. They might impressively find a LEGO brick from a different kit than intended, but which still works.
• Or they use Lightning McQueen instead of Goldilocks in a Three Little Bears Play. As long as the particular attribute needed is satisfied. In this case, simply a “character” of some sort needs to play Goldilocks.
• They might put their shirt over their feet and say they are a “pizza,” because it makes a triangle shape. Then they take the shirt off of their feet and tell you they are “back!” They understand they can’t actually morph; there is more realism there.
• They can understand a concept like socks are interchangeable, but shoes are not.
• Clever and creative at explaining things. You might ask them what does “strong” and “fast” mean. They may say, “Dash [from the Incredibles] is fast, and Mr. Incredible is strong” As they run around their room showing you. They handily matched the ideas in these two sets.
• They are mature about mistakes that arise when things are in the wrong set. It can be changed back. If you put their sister’s sock in their drawer, they may say, “Mommy, you made a mistake. That’s Ok. You can work on it.”
• Or they recognize “Sometimes I make mistakes.” It’s that they verbalize this now that is of note.
Firm Understanding of People and Players
• In understanding what individual items make up a set, their understanding of moral or other social themes becomes more specific and exact. Who does what is more firm in their mind.
• They may learn that the children in Pinocchio turn into donkeys at Pleasure Island. But this won’t happen to them, because they’re a girl. They personally are not in the set of the type of people who go to Pleasure Island [specifically boys who skip school].
• They might better understand a theme in a book 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.
• They might readily recognize that a group of children are being way too rough for them and readily agree to play somewhere else. This set of children is not for them.
• Their stories get more realistic in a detailed way. A superhero jumps over specifically three cars, picks up something to about here, etc.
• They may have questions: why are you so sad, why are you so excited, why did this character do that.
• They might want to learn about moral themes such as asking “What is this song about?” as they ask what the chorus and words of a song mean.
• That a song elicits the strong reaction, “what does it mean!?” in some children doesn’t surprise me. Information throughout most of human history was conveyed in a holistic way, with sights and sounds. Songs call up for them an idea that an important life lesson is about to be imparted.
• They understand lessons pertaining to “the earth” or “the world” better, as if the concepts themselves are more crystallized for them.
Persists with Information
• Information seems entirely implanted in their mind now. They forget less and less, including about things in-the-moment.
• They persist in solving a problem. Say they are doing a more complicated puzzle than they’ve done before. They can get mildly flustered for a minute or two when something goes poorly, but they will come back to finishing it.
• They comply much easier. You can ask them to go get their favorite stuffed animal, and they do, without complaint.
• On the flip side, if the bedtime routine is reading two books, it’s what you will be doing. If they’ve laid down, they will remember this was missed and demand it.
• They might talk in their sleep, repeating what they learned that day, such as a new dance routine.
• They can even be sly and clever. They might joke around that they are going to “trick” you with a math game, as they do it in a “snobby valley girl” way.
• They might like to set up serving stations or be a “waiter,” loves to help set tables/serve food
• Or they slyly hide their favorite stuffed animal for you to find. It’s how they are a bit more “stable” that is of note. They STAY in this character (snobby girl, waiter, or other) they are making up for a bit of time.
• They really are much calmer at this one and less whiny or aggressive. It is likely stemming from this ability to persist, intellectually and emotionally, with in-the-moment things, despite moderate frustrations or distractions.
Notably More Independent, in a Private Way
• They seem to value their privacy more: an ability to do things or learn things without you there.
• They might do something they previously couldn’t do, without you even watching, such as climb up a difficult ladder. They just slip off and do stuff like this.
• They might tell you to sit away from them while they [x]. They don’t need you to help them!
• They might figure out how to use a toy that launches some type of projectile. The projectile launches at you at totally unexpected moments. It’s quite funny.
• They might spontaneously start spelling words, which other people previously shown them how to do.
• They can clean up an entire room (bedroom or toy room) on their own and in fact may want to. But don’t get your hopes up! It is probably a one-time deal.
• They might be able to clean their entire body in the bathtub.
• If you cosleep, they may surprisingly slip out of the bed without you in the morning. Before, they waited and demanded you go with them somewhere.
• They might reliably execute a routine in the morning, such as changing clothes.
• Less likely to wake up Mom or Dad in the morning
Evaluates and Updates Their Own Behavior
• They can evaluate past decisions to improve in the future. For instance, they conclude they should have let their tablet charge longer, so it lasts longer next time.
• Or if they bump their head while running, they might say, “Maybe I should go slower next time.”
• They can come up with reasonable solutions when asked about things going wrong. You might ask, “What would you do if you found your sister’s socks accidentally in your drawer?” If she was asleep, they would wait. If she wasn’t sleeping, they would put it in her drawer.
• Some of their ideas to solve problems can be intense, such as using a light saber to cut off their sister’s hand when she hits them.
Social and Relationship Changes
• Settled on who is their best friend
• Very friendly and intimate with their friends, may hold hands, etc.
- When a Child Turns 4, You May as Well be Ready with Lessons About Social Behavior
- Preschool Conflict Resolution Tool: Family Meetings
Four Year Old Milestone 2—Identification of Internal States
Starts: 5-7 days days before of 4.1.0 [y.m.w]. Irritable behavior might not be seen right away.
Most Intense: A few flareups throughout
Irritable Period Summary
Wants things to go their way
• There is one particular day around 4.1.0 where they might be unusually demanding that things go their way or that you pay attention to them.
• The smallest details might bother them: you wrote their name on their soccer ball, for instance (as they were about to go to camp).
• They might demand your attention but they come up with in-tune things to do it, such as becoming interested in a book you are reading.
• Very jealous if someone so as much looks at something they want to look at.
• Might be whiny, aggressive, or demanding of your time. Whatever your child tends to do.
Physical and Sleep Changes
• They might fall asleep unusually early at night.
• They might get physically taller and heavier.
• Their voice might change. It sounds part toddler, part little kid. If you have an older child, you might confuse your four year old’s voice and the older child’s voice on occasion.
New Abilities Summary
• They can identify their own and other’s inner states. In doing this, it’s as if they realize they exist.
• Understanding not just practical problems but people’s feelings about problems, they get much better at coming up with agreeable solutions to all.
• They can see the flow of parts in a chain, debug broken sections, and eventually see the overall cycle of many things.
An Awareness That They are in Their Surroundings
• They become aware not just of the things that are happening, but they are experiencing them. They will attach emotions to what they are doing.
• They might say something was “really cool to watch!” They noticed that they did in fact watch something and that they liked it.
• Or they might say, “Going to the playground makes me so HAPPY!”
• Or they might say, “Mommy, I love being with you.”
• They might identify how much they love to learn or that learning about things is “so much fun!”
• They may say an answer to a math problem is “beautiful,” “100. That’s beautiful.”
• They might notice more about their appearance or clothes, such as that their shirt is “jangly.”
• They might tell you how they want to be. They want to be SMART, not pretty.
• They might tell you they are doing something just so you can take a picture of them doing it, such as swinging.
• They might demand you take pictures of things they like, with them in it. They want to capture their moment of happiness or something that struck them as beautiful.
• They can more easily hear the tune to a song and hum or sing it back.
• This can be thought of as the “I exist” milestone.
• In this one, I think they realize they exist as within their surroundings. In next milestones, they will be taking this awareness and committing the many events that happen to them in their existence to memory, creating a persistent 3-D awareness that lasts day after day in their mind.
Identifies Their Own Internal States
• Similar to identifying that they are doing something, they can identify their own emotions and internal states.
• They now recognize they were just sleeping and now they are not.
• They might play around with knowing they are or are not sleeping, “Mommy, I’ll pretend I’m sleeping, and you wake me up.” Or they say hi to you and then pretend to be sleeping.
• They are more sincere in saying “I love you.” You say “I love you,” and they, in a knowing way, perhaps with a little sigh, say, “I love you too, Mommy.”
• If you say their nose is red, because they are cold, they argue with you. Their nose isn’t red, it’s [whatever color they come up with]. They are aware—and assured—of this.
• They feel more comfortable running around with a blanket on their head as a Ghost. If you can identify your own processes, you’re more Ok with going without them for some time.
• They might now be Ok with being blindfolded. You might play “Find Your Tree” now. You ask them to close their eyes, walk them to a tree, then walk back. After they open their eyes, they go find their tree.
• Towards the end of the milestone, they can recognize that if they have earmuffs on, it is THEY who now cannot hear well. Before they got this wrong and thought YOU couldn’t hear them.
Deliberate in Their Emotions/Charisma
• They purposely create emotions and facial expressions.
• They are assured to become very expressive with their face. They might show they are happy, sad, surprised, shocked sly, contemplative, etc., all one after the other in one sitting.
• They might put on their brother’s hat and tell you they are their brother. They know they aren’t. They know they are being super cute in doing it, though.
• They might invite you to “fake laugh.” They told a purposely corny joke and invite you to slap your knee.
• They can be bolder in how they do things, on purpose. They might shout, “HEY, MOMMY.” They do it in this bold way, making their voice be loud and their posture be bold, on purpose. They are trying to get you to notice them.
• They might change how they say “Mommy” or “Daddy.” “Come here MaaAAAaah-meeeee!”
• They are more deliberate in how they use their gestures. They very carefully do a “choo choo” motion. Or they walk away, stop, look back at you, and give you a very pointed, cute, “come here” wave.
• 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
• They might enjoy walking around with earmuffs on or a blanket over their head. They control which stimuli they process.
Spelling and Reading
• They take a strong interest in spelling, reading, and possibly writing.
• They might show off a word they know how to spell. They come up to you, spell it, and run off. Show off.
• They might show interest in more spelling activities, such as practicing spelling words, matching letters to object, or watching videos on spelling.
• They are unusually interested in following all signs, such as STOP signs, reading what sewer plates say, or reading the signs at any park or business.
• They take these signs very seriously. STOP means STOP.
• Some children might want to write down what they know. They might show interest in “writing” numbers, such as typing numbers by 10 (10, 20, 30, etc.)
• Or they might write math equations. Typically children this age will write that “1 + 0 = 10.” They’re not wrong. They’re just figuring out how double digits work for now. They’ll understand that 1 + 0 = 0 in a few weeks or months, with some simple explanations.
Immediately Imaginative Stories as Triggered by [Something]
• Something totally catches them and they start telling stories about it.
• Maybe they see a picture of a boat in a book, which has many details on it (a crane, etc.) and they go on and on about what the boat can do.
• Or they hear that, say, a blimp can explode. They go on and on about how to save it.
• Or they learn that a driveway is made with concrete and they think about how to build one.
• They might “come alive” after being around a certain person. Something about being around their dad, for instance, causes them to turn into a pilot.
• Play Doh creations are likely to turn into the earth, the moon, the sun, etc.
• They might tell you that you plant seeds, they grow, and that’s how you get popcorn.
• Their solution to most things right now is that things in their way can get boomed away, punched away, that they can fly over cars, etc. It is a bit more specific now, however. Something can jump over 3 cars or they can boom 10 people away.
Loves to be “In” Things
• They love to be “in” things.
• If they see a map, they might try to put their toys or trains “in” it, by going underneath the map.
• They love when things go “in” things in movies or books, such as a rocket comes back “into” earth.
• They might love to be in, say, a lookout tower. They keep asking to go back.
• They might build solid parking spaces for their toy cars, so they are nice and protected.
• They might utterly insist that their sister be buckled in a swing, so she doesn’t fall out.
• They might love marching around to songs like “The Ants Go Marching,” as they stay in single or double file, parading around to the song.
Monitors Other’s Emotions
• They recognize other’s emotions, as such.
• Before they came up with solutions: one for you and one for them. Mostly it was what seemed semi-good, such as you go to the restaurant while they stay home.
• Now they monitor your emotions to see if the solution they have for you is good. They are sensitive to your emotional responses and keep trying to get one right.
• They might become interested in what you are interested in, so you will spend time with them.
• If their sister wants the tape they are using, they say “I know!” They scurry off and come back with tape for her. Then they tell her, “Now stop annoying me!” (As they can better identify her and their own internal states.)
• If you are playfully messing with their sister to take her pencil, they inform you, “You can have the pencil when she is done.” They are concerned for what is happening to their sister.
• A more empathetic child may even now “catch” your emotion, such if you are sobbing because a friend was diagnosed with cancer. “I am so sorry your friend was cancelled!” they tell you, as they cry and rub your arm. They keep tabs on you, emotionally, all afternoon.
• In their pretend play, they might ask for road signs such as “stop,” so the other vehicles can be warned about a road ahead.
• On their own, they tell declare that you should not run the vacuum cleaner when their sister is cleaning. They don’t want to wake her up.
• After their sister trips, they ask if she is ok.
• Takes delight when their younger sibling learns something, “Hooray! My sister knows who Dopey is now!”
• They get jealous of their siblings or others even seeing things. If something they want to see from the van is on their sister’s side, they get jealous. Others aren’t even allowed to see what they want to see. They have a heightened awareness that others can see, feel, etc.
• Imaginary friends make an appearance in a subtle form.
• Before they had people in their stories. But now they interact with them.
• They might help “pigs” get into a cave, so they don’t get hurt. They actively talk to the pigs now.
• They constantly try to fix problems.
• If something on the TV stops playing, they go behind it to check the cables. Or maybe the batteries in the remote.
• They might come up with solutions for their siblings. Their older sister may be asked to sing a song on a stage, but she is “worried others will see her.” Your four year old offers to build a cannon to “punch” the others away.
• They may want to make sure everyone else is “safe.” They won’t leave the house until their sister comes, too. As noted, they demand she is buckled properly in a swing. Entirely to make sure she is safe.
Shockingly Aggressive in Trying New Things
• There is a sense of “what can I do now?” They are far more aggressive in trying new things. In particular, they seem to want to know what fits in what now. What they do is dependent on your child. A more physical child might see where their own body now fits. A more analytical child might experiment with physical objects. This happens more towards the end of the milestone.
• They might totally surprise you and scurry up a five-foot tall ladder.
• They might try to go down every slide they reasonably can. They constantly scan looking for new things they can try.
• They might see what fits in what. For instance, you do a Goldilocks play and make chairs that are “too tall” and “too wide.” They find figurines or toys that can fit on the too tall and too wide chairs.
• They have a lot of exuberance and verve. They might turn on lights they couldn’t previously reach. They might push a toy truck around longer and faster than they previously could.
• A child super gifted with language may even be “reading” instructions to put something together, such as using the pictures from a LEGO book to put a LEGO set together.
• They might do more on their own, such as get dressed in the morning or help clean up (or they might not).
• They have an idea and make it happen. When making cookies, they might have exact ideas of what cookie shape and color they want to make.
• They might be better at jigsaw puzzles because they are more aggressive and interested in finding out what fits in what.
• Coinciding with this new aggression (as is often the case), they might get physically taller and heavier.
• If they see you doing a project or baking, they happily come over and stay with it.
• They might spontaneously enjoy skip counting, perhaps writes out 10, 20, 30 etc., up to 100.
• Or they love to skip steps as they walk, like they are turbo charging the process, making it faster
• They might spontaneously like to cut things in half.
Interested in “Chains” and Cycles
• More towards the end of the milestone, they are interested in things that happen in a set routine, one after the other.
• They urgently tell you that milk ACTUALLY comes from cows.
• They might be fascinated with their ankles and knees (joints). They marvel that their legs and joints help “stabilize” them.
• Fascinated that the legs of a table balance it
• Debugging problems is also a “chain.” In the chain of batteries -> remote on -> tv works, where is it breaking down?
• They might build a city out of their toys with proper traffic lights, railroad signs, etc.
• They might love to play “grocery store.” On their own, they set up aisles, a cart, a cash register, etc.
• They may love to hook things to each other in a highly practical way. They really want their toy race car to hook up to a trailer.
• When they play musical instruments, it may now be more enjoyably melodic.
• When they tell you that you can have a pencil after their sister is done, this is also a “chain.” First she is going to play with it, then you.
Four Year Old Milestone 3A—Body Parts Are Reliable
Starts: Mildly at shy of 4.2.0
Most Intense: Shy of 4.2.1 until 4.2.1
Ends: Bleeds right into the next one
Irritable Period Summary
The Days Leading Up
• You might know this one is about to be on its way, because they might:
• Think of something big. Perhaps they say a meteor is about to crash into your living room. They think of very big things like this, pertaining to outer space or dinosaurs.
• Stay up late at night
• They are highly demanding.
• They might make you keep watching what they are watching, such as a video of a train about to crash. There is nothing more interesting.
• They might gather to themselves things they find important now. They might get a ladder out and rummage through a pile of books to find the exact one they are looking for.
• It is always “come play.” They might want to play Hide and Seek, pretend to put out fires, or pretend to rescue animals.
• Might demand you keep getting toy after toy, which are in another room that you would have to go find
New Abilities Summary
• They know, firmly, now that other people see what they see, which is different than what they see. Everyone has their own perspective.
• Before when they put on earmuffs, they thought YOU now couldn’t hear them. Now they understand that it is they who can’t hear you. When they put them on, “And now I can’t hear the TV.”
• 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!”
• If they go upside down, they might make the joke, “Hey! Why is everyone upside down?” But the realize this is a joke, and they are the ones upside down.
Really Deliberate with and Cognizant about Their Bodily Movement
• They are really confident and deliberate in how they use their hands and other body parts.
• They might be really good at making salt dough or Play Doh creations. They seem stronger in how they use their hands, and they stick with it until their idea is complete.
• They might wash all of their body parts now or get completely dressed.
• They might really enjoy building Lego kits or doing Marble Runs right now. Anything where they get to build hands on.
• They might verbalize how they are using their body parts to solve issues. “I closed my teeth and I stopped the milk from spilling out.” Or “I used my hands and took my shoes off.”
• They take note of how they use their body to solve problems. They might be proud that they were dirty, but they stayed up in a certain position to avoid getting the rug dirty.
• Towards the end of this one, they might make up a huge problem to solve, such as saving a cat from a tree. They put on a firefighter hat and everything to solve it
• Might build intensely and creatively. They have an idea and follow through with it. They might figure out how to cradle several objects in a makeshift basket (such as by using a cloth eye mask) and then lifting things up with a toy crane.
• If you ask them to make a castle out of blocks for a play you are putting on, they might make the castle, the dungeon, the ballroom area, and a library.
• Their castles might be elaborate in some way, such as packed full of blocks.
• They might get play Doh and wrap it around a figurine to act as a new dress.
Four Year Old Milestone 3B—Attunement
Starts: Bleeds from last one
Most Intense: 4.2.2 until 4.2.3
Ends: Bleeds right into the next one
Irritable Period Summary
• You might be back to having a child who wants you ALL day.
• They might keep asking you to watch them do a “Cannonball!!!”
• Wants to be right by you, all day, sitting with you, cleaning with you, etc.
• You might not be able to get anything done, because of how much attention for right now.
• Keeps wanting you to see something. This can get really annoying, for instance, if you are a woman and they insist you come into the men’s room with them.
• Take note of your emotions and your relationship right now. They might be taking a hit.
• Might fall asleep in the late afternoon or early evening
• When they look around like they are amazed or scared by what they see, new brain growth is happening.
• They might all of a sudden be scared or amazed by the stairs in your house, as if they are seeing, for the first time ever, that there are distinct stairs and you must walk on each one to get up and down the stairs.
• They might declare they have to “hold on” when walking down the stairs, as if they realize for the first time ever that it’s a risk to do so. Or they might say, while walking, “the stairs are slippery!”
• They might “see” a river or lake at the bottom of the stairs or on your floor.
• They may be intensely fearful about getting hurt (such as with bullets if they read about it in a story)
• There may be an appearance of imaginary friends. A guy named Joe might help them find a missing tiara.
New Abilities Summary
• They are extremely attuned to what you do.
• If you take a series of photos with them next to an adult and play them at rapid speed, you might see that they are copying what the adult does down to the microsecond. If the adult slightly opens their mouth, so do they, etc. They are intent and focused, watching what you do.
• If you get frustrated with them and throw your arms in the air, they do the exact same thing. They even look at their arms and hands and shake them to see that they are copying you exactly.
• Makes stark observations such as that someone has a big belly or asks if a woman is pregnant (who is not)
• They might do things for you that you have always done for them. If you always rub their back, they now offer to rub yours.
• Loves to help Daddy in the garage, copying what he does.
• May adopt the behavior of another sibling.
• May have endless questions. “Why are you so excited?” “Why are you sad?” “Why did every character in every book do the thing they did?”
• They want a lot of attention right now. But on the bright side, they are always up for a lesson. Before, you might have a hard time prying them away from a movie they were watching or whatever else. Now you have a very eager student.
- A highly attuned child may love the “Freeze Song.”
Four Year Old Milestone 3C—Resourceful Solutions
Starts: Bleeds from last one
Most Intense: 4.2.3 until 4.3.0
Irritable Period Summary
• Gets up late at night, often
• Might be upset they can’t make what they want to happen happen when up late at night, such as turn on a movie.
• Might fall asleep early and get up at 4:30 am
• More prone to illness
• At exactly 4 years 3 months, there is a strong likelihood they will stay up very late. During this time, they might want to build a “house.” They might demand you go to a vacant lot and tell you all about how they would build a house there. Or they might set up bins and blankets in their room to delineate a kitchen, bedroom, etc. Or they might build a “fort” or a house with a “dancing ball.” But around 4.3 expect them to build some kind of house.
• They might build this house during the daytime instead of late at night. However, they are still very likely to stay up late at night, even if it’s very out of character for them, and they might, say, want to open the curtains to the window and talk about all the houses outside.
• Demands you watch every second of a movie they are interested in. (They are, after all, learning how to be highly attuned as seen in the previous milestone.)
• Very demanding of you all day: play hide and seek, play train tracks, etc.
• They want to be sitting by you always
• They sit by you and it’s right in the crook of your arm or neck. They might burrow in so hard that it hurts, such as they keep hitting your boobs.
• They might demand you drop everything to bake a cake.
• They love to be with you in the kitchen, helping with dishes or cooking.
• Again what they do is dependent if they internalize or externalize. A child who internalizes gets really upset when they think they are wrong. A child who externalizes can get aggressive.
• May harass their siblings.
• May hop on mom or pop
• May do a “Cannonball!!!” a lot
• Their behavior also depends on how many things are asked of them: how often they have to get dressed to go somewhere, etc.
• Possible meltdowns if they don’t get their way.
• Might be meltdown city if you ask them to do something like get ready and leave somewhere
• Might be super defiant to do anything at all, like leave the house, get in the bath, etc.
Jealous, Possessive and Fearful
• Might have a 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)
• Wants their own way
• Very liable to take everyone else’s toy and completely think it is “theirs”
• Very jealous of who has mommy, may even directly tell you this
• They might get taller. When you pick them up, it feels like they are a verifiable tree trunk.
• As such, carrying them becomes much more difficult.
• Picking them up to get out of the bathtub might be harder. You might find yourself asking them to get out by themselves more.
• Walks faster
• Their facial features seem more intricate.
• They may have more fears.
• They seem to have a beginning sense of mortality. If they see someone about to die or thinking about dying in a movie, they might get really scared. For instance, they see Rose about to jump in The Titanic.
• Their fears plus physical growth may make accidents more likely, such as they trip and fall over face first.
• Possible meltdowns, defiant and stubborn about how and when to do things like putting on shoes or socks, may harass others like siblings or parents, may be very demanding of your time and that you do highly physical things with them constantly (be near them, play “mailman,” watch them be a cannonball, etc.)
New Abilities Summary
Resourceful and Imaginative Solutions
• It’s not just that they have make-believe problems and find the solution. They think of solutions that they have to go get the materials for—and do.
• If they want to make a scene of traffic with a traffic jam, they might ask you to get the little toy road signs you have, as well as tape to act as the road.
• They might surprise you in how resourceful they are, such as making a dress for a doll out of rose petals.
• They might be interested in issues related to limited resources. If there is a game with only 2 players but you have 3, how does that work?
• As noted, they might demand you stop everything to bake a cake. This is because they had an idea: they want to serve it to everyone in the family.
• As noted, at 4 years 3 months, they are almost guaranteed to want to make a “house.” How they do it will be unique to your child—take note. But they have the idea in their head and go make it happen. This is very characteristic of this milestone.
• They make more deductions, intellectually, using a few bits of information to make a conclusion, as well. If they see a light show with a coach and castle, they can guess it’s based on Cinderella.
Proactive, Persistent, and Reliable in Solving Problems
• After the irritable part of this milestone (and the last two, which all blend together and are very difficult), they become very forward about solving social problems.
• Handles social conflict well, such as by arranging taking turns for the last piece of food
• They might stick up for their baby brother. They counsel other children, “It made my baby brother really sad when you took his monkey. Ok?”
• They respond very well to being taught how to behave in certain social situations and even seem thankful that you taught them.
• They are cognizant of what day it is and use it. They can understand that today is Tuesday, and it’s garbage day. So they get their garbage bag and take it to the garage without asking.
• Very aware for instance that someone is coming over and if the door rings, it might be that person. Details are very implanted in their mind now and they use them persistently.
Imagines Themselves Solving Big Problems
• All things that get fixed right now are blown up to something big. If Dad is changing an outlet in the house, they imagine you are installing an elevator in the house.
• Takes it upon themselves to solve many things. “Oh no. What can we do? I know! How about a ladder to help us!”
• They may be very forceful about solving problems. They might swing their hands like a gavel, hitting the open palm of their other hand as they say, “We need to solve this problem!”
No Problem They Can’t Solve
• They might accept 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.”
• They might want to raise the Titanic
• What they want to solve reflects their core passions, e.g., a child who wants to fix a restaurant may very well be a child with a passion for cooking.
Cheekier Understanding of What is Going On
• They understand what’s going on around them and they are cheekier about it.
• They sense when you withhold information from them. For instance, you sneak off to have sex and they keep asking you, “What are you doing, Mom? Where are you going?” They know you aren’t answering them fully.
• If you put on lingerie and they find you, they ask why your shirt has “holes” in it.
• May make funny or offhand comments about success of survival like “I am going to be with Mommy. She helps keep me alive.”
• If you joke around with them and say something ridiculous, they pause and look at you like “Errrrrm, no,” before responding.
• If you try to lecture them, you might get a four year old’s equivalent of “Bla, bla, bla” in response.
• If you are taking their picture and didn’t get it and ask them, “Can you say cheese again?” they say, joking and smiling, “Cheese again!”
• Their giggle fits and infectious laugh right now is of note.
• You might do something like call Wonder Women, “Wondey” to elicit it.
• Or read a funny book like those from Mo Willems.
• They 100% know if they are dressed up cute that they are cute, such as in a huge parka on a cold day.
Highly Curious and Inquisitive
• If you go anywhere, they want to investigate everything, perhaps what the words on benches say.
• They might notice interesting things, such as a model engine or statues while out.
• They might ask you to pick them up so they can “see more.”
• They might want to know why you can see colors in the day but not at night.
• Very interested in numbers. If they haven’t yet, they might want to count things all the way to 100. Or they might take an interest in lessons on even/odd numbers or skip counting.
• 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.
Compartmentalizes Their and Other’s Roles
• They’ve been developing a recognition that everyone has their own perspective. They seem to get how this interacts a bit better. They know they are X in the overall scene and another is Y.
• They might get how characters in a book interact better. When reading The Very Busy Spider, for instance, they recognize that the spider is quiet and hard-working even though the other animals keep trying to get her to frolic and play. Before, they took one side or the other: the spider or the frolicking animals (and which side they take, I think, is quite interesting!). Now they understand the interplay better. If they were more on the frolicking side, about the spider, they say, “But she was very busy.”
• Might follow along with a chapter book better and even become concerned and immersed in the book. They might notice and become sad that younger siblings don’t get to go to wizard school in Harry Potter
• They might enjoy picking a role and playing with others in pretend play more. If they stomp around to the song, “The Ants Go Marching,” they might assign themselves the role of “the little one,” and they go and suck their thumb, tie their shoe, climb a tree, etc.
• In imaginary play, if you are playing a game where all character walk, they realize the character they have is a bird and can fly. They realize each thing’s unique capabilities better.
• That they “compartmentalize” who does want might show up in their play. They might endlessly love to put fruits of a certain sort in a basket or cup and others in a different basket or cup.
Can Reverse Roles
• They might get super complicated about the interplay of roles and how people can disguise or deceive others. If a character in a book disguises himself, they might note, “If they disguise themselves as X, others think he’s X, but if he disguises himself as Y, they think he’s Y!” And they might take it to the level, “But what if everyone thinks they are X when they are Y and then they pretend to be X!” That would be super tricky.
• Or they might marvel over something like, “If Wonder Woman used the lasso of truth on HERSELF, then SHE would have to tell the truth.”
• They might like reversing roles with you, where they are the Mommy and you are the child. They might do this especially after they think they did something wrong.
Respects Others with Respect to the Overall Situation
• 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?” Or they recognize doing things is hard for you right now, because you are pregnant.
• Similarly, if there are, say, cleaning ladies in your house, they are very observant and mindful of them. They don’t want to disrupt them. They ask about how they might get something into another room, even though the cleaning ladies are there. They tiptoe down, “I am not going to distract them!”
• Notices and really grateful when others are “nice” to them
• They might take notice of what makes others happy, such as their baby brother likes playing with train tracks.
• They might be able to accurately identify what the saddest part of the day was for their sister—when she fell down and hurt herself.
Good at All the Steps in Processes
• 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.”
• 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
• Highly interested in reading/sounding out words, may even cry or get upset if they can’t read.
Four Year Old Milestone 4—Obsessions
Starts: A bit after 4.3.2
Most Intense: ?
Irritable Period Summary
• Might get up in the middle of the night and come find you
• Might tell you all about what is on their mind
• Might not want you to leave them at night
• Can get moderately angry. Might throw something when they are frustrated with it
• Gets out lots of stuff and has it all over the house
New Abilities Summary
• Marked distinctively by them becoming obsessed with something, in a good way
• They get really good at working through something for hours or at something highly technical over days.
• Impressively persistent at solving at problems, such as taking two hours to solve something that someone showed them previously—and does it!
• On their own, they may perfect something. Perhaps they’ve been reading or learning how the Titanic sinks. They can tell the whole story, down to devastating detail, about it. They work on telling it day after day.
• May obsess over a topic or tell you they obsess over a topic, “I think about dinosaurs all the time!”
• They want to build a LOT. They may get out every puzzle/science kit you have and want to do it.
• May want a best friend
Space and Dinosaurs
• They are super interested in space and dinosaurs
• They might notice a picture of a planet and want to talk about it
Four Year Old Milestone 5 — Astute and Forward
Starts: A few days shy of 4.4.0
Most Intense: A few days somewhere between 4.4.0 and 4.4.1
Ends: 4.4.1 or 4.4.2
Irritable Period Summary
• Very demanding to have a particular caregiver at night
• Wants your attention a lot
• Wants to do every single board game you have in your house
• Jealous other children have your attention
• Almost anything can unexpectedly upset them.
• Might be very upset if something gets “ruined,” such as you open their “beautiful Valentine’s card,” which they didn’t want you to open. The envelope itself was the “beautiful thing.”
• Might be super upset other kids don’t do what they want. They stomp off, “Guys. I’m LEAVING.”
• Some kids might be upset that things end or go away, e.g., Christmas is over or Halloween is over.
• A child who externalizes may get more aggressive, such as lunging at a child who took “their” balloon (after they were done).
• All of a sudden wants something very different from normal, such as a different meal than normal at a restaurant. They have a really big meltdown if you failed to ask what they wanted for dinner.
• VERY sensitive. Might scream or have meltdowns over everything, wants your attention, extremely upset over anything and everything. It can be maddening but it is short lived.
New Abilities Summary
• Astute means they take in information very well. Forward means they use that information in very proactive ways. This is very rapid now: they absorb information and put it to use quickly.
Astute and Forward
• Very, VERY reliably understands all the going-ons around them
• Very active in taking in new information and using it. For instance, they understand how much something costs (astute), which they then use to make a decision (forward). While looking through shirts at a store they announce, “Hey mom! This shirt is FIVE BUCKS!”
• Or they need to remove all size 4 clothes from their dresser as they are now size 5. They do this with verve and commitment. When they find the offending size 4 clothes, they march up to you, “This is totally terrible! It’s a size 4! I need size 5!”
• Not having it if others are disrespectful. Another child tells them to stop crying and they respond, “No! I am a girl who cries. Ok!?”
• 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!”
• Evaluates potential new challenges and accepts them like “I am going to read more books than my brother.” You didn’t suggest this. They came up with it on their own.
• May want to help you with more stuff, like putting on lipstick
• 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!”
Bodily Gestures Suggesting They are Thinking
• 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 to tell you to stop talking because they are thinking about something
• And/or they might wave their hand around while mulling an idea.
• Or holds up one finger, “I know! I have an idea!”
A Loss of a Certain Kind of Fantastical Thinking
• They are watching ice skating on TV. They then step on some bean bags. You ask them if they are ice skating. They look at you and say, “No. I’m standing on bean bags.”
• No longer responds to “distraction” as well, not even the more imaginative kind of distraction that worked in the threes. For instance, to get them downstairs they don’t want to go down, you offer to tell a story. They tell you, “that makes no sense, mom.”
• If they had an issue with it, they get better about realizing Christmas will come again; it’s not gone “forever.”
• This realism may make them more upset. They might realize they’ll outgrow their favorite dress, for instance.
Very Exact with Their Hands
• Really loves to draw, cut, and tape things
• Might pull tape off to exactly X length and put it on an object in a way that is very lined up and well done
• Really good at folding paper in half
• May make elaborate things with paper, like an airplane with wings (that they cut out) or even a book of something
• Really loves when a parent sits down and draws their favorite things with them, maybe a boat or an airplane
• They might take a spontaneous interest in counting things in groups.
• They might see 3 blocks together. They keep counting them over and over, “1,2,3,” and then “4,5,6,” and on and on.
• They might line up something in a grid, such as 3 rows of 3 bean bags.
• They might really love counting past 20, over and over again.
Loves the Ridiculous
• Although they are getting realistic, it makes them giggle at the ridiculous that much more.
• A joke they might like is, “Do you like broccoli?” Yes. “Do you like ice cream?” Yes. “Do you like BROCCOLI ICE CREAM!?” Ew, no!
• 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 (hours) with other children
Four Year Old Milestone 5B — Reading and Planning
Most Intense: A little before 4.4.3
Ends: A little after 4.4.3
Irritable Period Summary
Super Close to You
• They might demand to be right by you for much of the day. It can get very grating. Or it might be seen as a positive if you have only one child to deal with and can do all the lessons and activities they want to do now.
• They are far more physical with you. As they walk by you, they might purposely “bump” you such as with their shoulder.
• They may use your body as a playground. The want to use your legs as the “water” that a ship is going to sink in. Having them be so near you and having to frequently ask them to stop (as they are near sensitive areas) can be very irritating.
• As they ask for your attention, try to run between your legs, pop up behind you, and put things right in your face, it might literally make you dizzy.
• They might get a bit taller and their head might get bigger too. Old hats might not fit, etc.
• In growing, they might trip and fall more easily.
• They really change big time now. Their entire face really seems different. It’s more intricate.
• They might get unusually aggressive. They might unexpectedly punch you in the crotch. This should be fairly temporary. For now.
New Abilities Summary
• They take an incredible interest in “reading.” This may be indeed words themselves. But it can also be any picture they see on a 2-D surface.
• You might show them a diagram of how something works, and they can understand and explain what they just learned.
• They might, however, indeed take an interest in reading itself. They might spontaneously pick up a book and take an intense interest in reading it.
• They might actively try to teach themselves to read. They might put on videos to learn to spell. Or they might ask you to spell with them on a Word processor.
• They are likely to be able to identify at least 1 or 2 words, such as the title of a favorite movie.
• A language-gifted child (some children are and some children aren’t—please don’t compare your child negatively to these lists!) can also possibly become a voracious reader, reading beginner book after beginner book.
• As they read, they don’t want to have to spell out the words. They want to just be able to read the words. I always advocate an approach to reading where you just say the word for the child, in lieu of making them sound out every letter.
• They might be very interested in an academic app like Starfall Academy, phonics apps, Plumber, or want to play Minecraft like their older siblings.
• As they watch videos, they understand words like “Skip Ad” better. They better know what to do when they see it.
• They may also be more adventurous in using the remote, going up, down, to the left, etc., as they navigate their way around the screen. It is, again, as if symbols and movement on a 2-D surface pop out at them much better now.
• They similarly might enjoy being the person to push “Start” and “Stop” on a stopwatch while timing someone or something.
Plans What They are About to Do by Sizing it Up Intellectually
• Instead of just doing something, they might plan out what they are about to do better.
• If doing a maze in a workbook, instead of just doing it, they might hover their crayon over it first, figuring a path that lets them go from start to finish. Once they have a workable solution, they actually do it.
• They might realize they can actually make something or do something, based on their skill set. For instance, you taught them how to sew. When they see something, such as a corn bag, they tell you, “Hey! We can make one of these!”
• This ability to intellectually plan causes them to have more initiative. They might notice that today is Tuesday, and it’s garbage day. So, they get their garbage bag and take it to the garage, without asking.
• While you are super busy, they might hear their new baby brother is crying, find his bottle, and feed him entirely on their own.
• They might look at a chart tracking children’s success at something, say of how many books they’ve read. As they look at how many books their brother has read, they say they want a reading chart of their own and conclude, “I will win!”
• They overhear you talking about getting a pet. You joke you might get a zebra. There is a very knowing, understanding, unexpected giggle that comes out of them as they overhear you talking. A pet ZEBRA!
• When they overhear something, such as something on TV or a conversation, they might pipe in, “I know exactly what is going on!” They know exactly what is going on, on TV, or what you are talking about.
• They might invite you into this planning process, dictating what you are about to do, “Yeah! Let’s work as a team!”
• There is a better overall understanding of any process itself, as it goes down in real time. They might use the phrase, “so far.” Somebody has found 3 of the things they are looking. Your child says, “They’ve found 3 things,” and they follow themselves up thoughtfully with “so far.”
• This ability to follow plans/steps as they happen over time and in real time is what will grow and grow in the next milestones.
Cheekier, Planned Jokes
• They purposely try to make you laugh with a joke.
• They might wait for you anywhere and scream, “Boo!”
• They might wait for you to come out of the shower. When you get out, they are dressed up like Darth Vader, waiting to surprise you.
• They might wrap up their jacket on their head as a turban.
• They are a scary ghost here to scare you. They reveal just one eye and tell you, “Mommy, one eye is looking at you!”
• They might put on a costume to go to the grocery store. They announce, “People will think I’m hilarious!”
• They might copy you, say when you are exercising, in way that is very funny.
Figures Out More on their Own, Sticks With It
• They figure out more on their own. They might figure out how to use a mechanical thing like a hospital bed they saw for the first time, almost entirely on their own.
• They might figure out how to assemble a bird feeder, taking the whole thing over from you, doing it entirely on their own. Little to no explanation needed.
• If their fitted sheet is being washed, they might try to put on another one and nearly does.
• They can easily set up a board game now.
• They might enjoy seeing how things apply to the real world. Magnets, they figure out, stick to metal and not plastic.
Highly Creative in Exact, Planned Ways
• They are very creative and playful in what they build.
• They might build a wood block creation that has a sliding roof, to reveal something.
• They might do something really complicated like build a ship out of LEGO bricks but such that it can easily crack in half, which they need for their story they are setting up where it cracks and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
• Colored blocks might get stacked in interesting, creative arrangements, in which they slope down at an interesting angle—in rainbow order.
More Exact in Many Areas
• They might have more realistic and detailed drawings, like a dinosaur with roller skates and a hat who gets killed by meteorites. Or they draw an elaborate mountain scene.
• Their enunciation might improve. Instead of “pashengers,” you now hear “passengers.”
• They might now even use the word “exactly.”
• They might be very exact with their hands. Free handing it, they draw an airplane with symmetrical wings.
• Or, again free handing it, they might draw perfectly straight lines, such as the decks on a ship.
Very Expressive and Aggressive with their Hands
• They use their hands aggressively now, to communicate and make things happen.
• They might readily give a “thumbs up” sign to things they approve of or agree to.
• They might “buzz” like a bumble bee, frequently and with verve.
• They might spread their hands out a lot to show people things, “See?”
• They might spontaneously trace letters with their fingers.
• They also might readily playfully “punch” things they don’t like.
• I recommend a lesson here on not putting their hands near door hinges. Their curious hands and fingers are highly prone right now to getting stuck in a door, which would then slam or shut on them.
Deliberate with Emotions
• This is the first age where they seem to have some deliberate control over their emotions.
• They might step on a sharp toy and instead of having a meltdown, they seem to wrestle with their own emotions to not scream/cry, but rather deal with it.
• They might play around with emotions big time. They might theorize their dad will be mad at them if they demolish a tower they just made (dad would not be mad).
• Or they might purposely put their face in a mad face.
• Really, they seem to just be playing around with the emotions, noticing how they can create them or respond in more deliberate ways.
Intuitively Remembers Things from Long Ago
• This is the first age I found where random old memories get kicked up. They might:
• Shockingly all of a sudden remember a toy they used to have, which went missing 18 months ago
• Remember a room from a house they haven’t lived in for months
• Or they might remember that time you let them eat pizza in the bathtub (which was a LONG time ago!)
• They don’t say “I remember this thing from years ago.” But they very clearly remember some thing or way of doing things from months, if not years ago.
Four Year Old Milestone 6—Big Ideas Across Time
Most Intense: Between 4.5.2 and 4.5.3 and lasts a few days
Ends: 4.6.0 with possibly a few flareups until the next one
Irritable Period Summary
Much More Aggressive and/or Whinier
• They become much more noticeably aggressive or whiny.
• They might be much more aggressive. They might often punch you or others in the butt/crotch or knees (it’s at their level).
• They might seem like an “Energizer Bunny” with how much they run around and even taunt you.
• They might “punch” things a lot—using their stuffed animal to do it.
• They might say they are going to “punch bad guys!”
• They might whine intensely / scream at the top of their lungs.
• They 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.
Genuinely Confused and Out-of-Control
• They might get out of control as if overcome by passion. They might, for instance, cut things that should not be cut.
• They might get upset if someone takes “their” ruler, which was just a ruler another child happened to find in their room. After you give it to them, they throw it.
• They might stomp off a lot right now telling you, “Mommy, I’m MAD at you!”
• Refuses baths
• They seem genuinely confused. They might tell you they don’t know what they are allowed to cut or not.
Very Upset if Left Out
• They hate to be left out.
• They might want to be hyper involved in what you are doing. They might want to help you with multi-step things, such as making coffee. If you don’t invite them to do this, they become deeply upset.
• They won’t take “no” as an answer from other children when they want to play.
• They might try to force their siblings to do things.
• They might stomp off to another room if they feel you aren’t paying attention to them or doing what they want.
Fears That Are Ever More Realistic
• Alligators might be under their bed—but they’re fake.
• They might, for the first time ever, declare that someone is going to “die.”
• Or they say that they are going to “kill” bad guys.
Sensitive to the fact that time/events are finite
• They realize something definitively is about to end, such as the last Easter egg to be colored.
• They might know they are taking turns at a game, but when they realize it’s the VERY last possible turn, they insist it be their turn.
• They might tell you they do NOT like cleaning things up. It eats away at their time. They could have been doing something much more fun.
Physical Changes and Sleep Issues
• Their head might be absolutely enormous right now.
• Might want to stay up late, working on new skills, such as reading
New Abilities Summary
Remembers and connects events as across time (up to several weeks, even months)
• In the last milestone (or you might see it just now in this milestone), they started to shockingly remember things from months or even years ago: what a toy looked like or a room in a house looked like, which they haven’t seen or been in for years.
• This memory increase likely plays a role in their new mental connections across time.
• They make more connections as across time and over space. On their own, they can identify things and their relevance back to a week or so.
• They might see a restaurant as you drive by it and say, “We went there last week.”
• Or when they see a park, they say, “That’s where we looked at the stars at night.”
• They might remember where you parked your vehicle after you get out of a store.
• Keeps you appraised of all events going on all day, “Daddy is going to take a shower,” “We’re going to eat lunch now.”
• You might ask them what they want to do, and they say they want to go to a special playground that they overheard you talk about the other day.
• 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 need an unusual ingredient for something you are making. They guess that ingredient may have come in the mail.
• They might tell you who they want to dress up as for Halloween (which is months away).
• I believe this is the age where they start to remember things day after day such that they stick. If you think back to age 4, I bet that is about the time you remember what you regularly did: you went to school or stayed at such-and-such house. You might remember your house or where your aunt’s house was. You likely do not remember these things from when you were age 3.
Loves to pretend that they “magically” changed
• They love to do things in which they magically morph without you seeing.
• They might tell you to look away, then they do or change something, and then tell you to look at them. It’s as if something changed by magic.
• Or they might run from one thing in the backyard to the next, sneakily. They do it in a way such that you don’t see them. Thus, it’s as if they pop up by magic.
• I believe they do this because life is now a continuous “reel” for them. Objects stay persistently for them, around them and across time. They seem to be playing around with the idea that they do persist, but they can make it look like they do not persist. They are testing you, basically.
Good at Multi-Step Processes
• They can easily remember several steps in any process, including ones just presented to them. They can stop, linger, and ponder any step. They know where they are in the process, where they are going, and what next step might best. They can even recall what the steps were from something you showed them weeks ago.
• They can play a game with complex steps, such as Robot Turtles, Mastermind, Sorry, or Checkers. They understand the instructions easily and pick up on strategy better now. For instance, they can tell you, in Mastermind such-and-such peg is the right color but the wrong spot.
• They keep up with the games all the way until the end.
• They really understand “protocol.” Any game or procedure has steps and they follow them, strictly.
• They might love to take part in something new, such as passing out candy at Halloween. They do it in an exact and fair way. They mind both how much they and the people at the door get. They are 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)
• 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 might bow to say, “Good night.”
• They can retell the plot of books that are fairly long, such as Richard Scarry stories
• Perhaps their ability to see all the steps causes more independence. They might, for instance, be Ok with going into a public bathroom stall by themselves now.
• Their drawings may reflect this new deepening protocol. They perhaps draw out some routine you have in the house, such as where to put dirty dishes by drawing 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.
A Lot More “With It”
• They very much understand what’s going on and have an elaborate personality in the goings on. They will step in and play easily.
• For instance, you play I Spy. They have an idea in their head, but you can’t guess it. They sing “I can’t tell youuuuuu!” when you ask them to say what it is in a way that has a lot of personality.
• Or they understand you are playing charades. They unexpectedly step in, “My turn!” They might pretend to be a frog, for you to guess.
• Or they understand you are doing “Knock, Knock” jokes and they make one up. “Knock knock!” “Who’s there?” “Raspberries!” “Raspberries who?” “Raspberries are realllly tasty!”
• If playing hide and seek and they can’t hide before the seeker counted to [x], they might stop mid-running with a look like “uh oh!” They know the time was up and they didn’t get to their hiding spot. It is thus on them, but there is little they can do. It’s cute.
• Or they are playing a game, such as Battleship, and their brother tries to pull one over on them. They give a look like, “Oh, don’t even.”
Really wants to help others
• They LOVE to help others.
• They might want to make you coffee. They might get upset if you make it without asking them to help you.
• They might really want to make their brother a sandwich—and does. They make the entire sandwich on their own and give it to him.
• When they ask you to make a smoothie, it might be because they want to give it to their sister.
• Unusually willing to help out around the house, such as putting their dishes away.
Proactive, helpful empathy
• They might 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. At first, they get really upset. But then they take the leadership role to calm people down and find a solution. “Here I’ll show you how to do that.”
• They might want to actively help calm down their younger sibling. They might offer to take their sibling on a walk to help calm them down.
• They might say something like, “Thank you for calming the baby down.”
• If you tell them that it’s wearing on you to clean, because you are pregnant, they enthusiastically offer to help.
• Shows dramatic increasing empathy and desire to see others have fun or enjoy themselves. Their happy part of the day wasn’t when they were happy. It’s when their sister was happy.
Deeper Understanding and Conversations
• Your conversations with them get deeper and their perceptions are stronger. They get all the steps in the process and, as is natural, they draw deeper conclusions about what they now know.
• They might love to see the books they read on TV or in a movie. They can relate ideas better, not just facts.
• They might watch movies in a way that shows they understand more. They might have a sly smile when watching say Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. They know he’s playing games and the whole thing is kind of funny.
• They might call you a “liar” when you said you gave them lemonade (and you did), but some misunderstanding happened, such that they think they didn’t get lemonade. It’s with deeper, more fervent conviction that they say these things. These things happened and they, the decider of truth, call you a liar.
• If they have headphones on and you ask if they can hear you, at first they say “No!” Which meant they obviously could hear you. The next time, however, they update. You ask and they play along, “What? I can’t hear you!”
• They are intensely interested in “big picture” history, such as space and dinosaurs and have been, but now they have a deeper interest 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?”
• This one has a strong element of understanding ideas across space and time. One striking way is long term planning.
• 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. They offer to help do that.
• They can 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.
• If you can’t find something that is outside, they might draw the route to get to it with sidewalk chalk
• As noted, they might think about what to dress up as for Halloween (which is months away).
• They might draw out something, such as a race car track, then build it.
• They might bubble over with excitement on how “all I have in my head are ideas and solutions!”
• They wrestle with the big life issues they discovered in the last milestone, e.g., they were worried about their favorite restaurant closing. Now they have better ideas of how to keep a restaurant in business, “The restaurant needed more people to stay in business.”
• 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?
• Expresses the knowledge that practice makes them better, e.g., 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)
• They might love to have a “style.” They get a kick out of being dressed up, recognizing that they are dressed up.
• Their “style” can be a more long-term thing now. They may be into styling their hair or picking out a full outfit for a big party coming up. They might stomp, sashay, or strut around with their new look.
Emotional Restraint, Maturity, and Fortitude
• They started to get good at emotional restrain at the last milestone. Now they get really good at it. They can get really angry or be in pain, but consciously decide how to respond.
• They are now willing to breathe to a count of four after getting really angry.
• Capable of enduring pain. For instance, a hair stylist is rough in brushing their hair. You watch them tear up but endure it.
• Much more accepting of doing things with people other than their primary care giver. At bedtime if they can’t have mom, they might be like, “Oh ok. That’s just how it’s going tonight. Mom is putting brother to bed, not me.”
• Or they might be willing to sit by someone other than the primary caregiver at dinner.
• Capable of waiting for an exciting event to come up
• More willing to try new foods
Imaginary Friends and Fears
• Imaginary friends show up!
• At first they might say there is a “baby” sitting next to them. If you probe them, you might find out it looks “just like them.”
• They might have their beloved stuffed animals do markedly more mature things. They might make the stuffed animal talk like they are the ventriloquist.
• The longtime beloved stuffed animal, which is an animal, might now be a “boy.” It’s much more human.
• They may ask if they can get “REAL” toys, by which I think they mean toys that come alive.
• They might like to watch something in ways that their toy comes “alive,” such as they watch a rocket launch live (while holding their toy rocket).
• Eventually they might have elaborate imaginary friends. I believe imaginary friends are a child’s growing intuition. It’s their dearest friend—their own intuition—who will always “be there” for them. Who/what they are is highly unique to your child.
• Their friends may “do work” for them or “stay and protect the house” when they leave.
• Or they may counsel the friends on how to use the bathroom.
• They might pretend to have races with their imaginary friend.
• The imaginary friends seem to come out when they do something new or possibly scary, like go to the pool for the first time or visit a new, exciting place.
• They love to count everything.
• They get good at reading double digit numbers.
• They enjoy working with double digit numbers, such that they get up to 100.
• Kissing them 20, 30, or 100 times is a great way to learn numbers.
• Or count alternating. When they are working hard on it and then blurt out “31!” say in response, “32.”
• They might explain how to add or subtract like it’s a story. “First we had 12 eggs. Then we took 3 away. NOW we have 9!”
• They can more easily answer a question like “What is 7 + 4?” without using their fingers to count.
Four Year Old Milestone 7A—“I Know What’s Going On and About to Go On”
Starts: Between 4.6.2 and 4.6.3
Most Intense: 4.6.3
Ends: It is short lived and mild. A few days after 4.6.3
Irritable Period Summary
“Sees” Threats That Aren’t There
• Things randomly “come alive” for them now, in their mind. This might make things seem scarier than they are.
• They might not want to go outside, because a bush was shaking, seemingly on its own.
• They might cover their eyes like they are scared of something.
• They might want you to “protect” them by stopping threats to them, e.g., tackle bad guys to the ground.
• A game such as Dodge ball might be entirely overwhelming for them now.
• If they aren’t in the mood to talk or explain themselves, this might explain why they just shut down. They might seem afraid to move, particularly when looking at something outside. They don’t move until you console them.
• Sometimes having more realistic fears makes them yet more scared. A bush shaking is not as scary as, say, a flying dragon, but the bush shaking is real and might ACTUALLY BE something scary (in their mind.)
• They might repeatedly try to do something, like hook something on something high, and they keep falling over while trying to do it. (Fears and physical accidents tend to coincide.)
Growing Fear of Death
• They are much more aware of how things progress over time. The realization of YOUR eventual death might worry them.
• They might worry about you getting old. They offer that maybe you can brush Rapunzel’s hair, as in Tangled, to stay forever young.
• They might wonder if people can “undie.”
• They seem to understand that other people can die before realizing that they themselves also can die.
Highly, Highly Possessive
• They become highly possessive, in a way that they want all the things. Everything is “theirs,” for one reason or another.
• They might want their sibling’s basketball, because they think it’s theirs, as you just bought it, and they were there when you bought it. They don’t give up in their insistence that they want it.
• They might get really upset if someone is working near the same workstation as them, such as on the same chalkboard.
• They might get really upset if someone else finds a child in a game of Hide and Seek, when they were the seeker.
• They grow tremendously.
• They are taller, heavier, and their head is bigger.
• They can’t stand to be even a little bit dirty. They might ask to change slightly dirty clothes right away.
A more aggressive “player” in their environment
• In the last milestone, they started to understand where everything around them is, highly persistently. In this one, there is a stronger element of acting within that environment. They are bolder and more aggressive. It’s best described by what I wrote about my youngest, “He’s fully aware not just of his environment but how he is a player in that environment.”
• They might want to turn off all the lights in your house to enjoy your Christmas tree. But you need to change the baby. So, they turn off all lights except the one in the changing area. They wanted to make sure you could see.
• They might be more interested in playing on a tablet and might start to get good at a game like Minecraft, in which they move around in the area, doing things, a lot.
• You might go to a mini-golf course. They are having an issue getting the ball into the hole, though they keep trying. You tell them to “whack it” (hit the ball hard). They do, resulting in the ball sinking into the hole.
• If thunder clouds are rolling in, they take keen notice and want to go back home.
• You can ask them to do something and they probably will, such as, “Can you get the toy from upstairs?”
• They might initiate their own lessons and experiments more, perhaps putting numbers in order or on stairs.
• They are more realistic in their pretend play. If they are pushing a truck around on a “road,” to get out, the people have to first open the door.
• They might say, while carrying items to your vehicle, “I know how much I need to carry!” They know they need their juice and their beloved stuffed animal.
• They might build a “wheel” out of something, such as shape magnets, and get a kick that it can go left or right and up or down.
• They might be more aggressive in their play. They might get any given “rocker” toy (such as a rocking horse) going really hard.
• They might kick and punch you more.
• They know when you are talking about them. If they hear their name or a story about them, they follow along, “Yeah! I did that!”
• They utterly melt if you praise them in front of others.
• Inversely, if something goes poorly, they are highly aware of it.
• If they are asking their brother to do something and he doesn’t, they ask, exasperated, “Why are you IGNORING me?”
• If they get melty over seeing, say, Cinderella in a beautiful dress, they might cover their face in embarrassment.
• They might an enjoy an activity where you put toy animals in their habitat, such as a shark in water; a caterpillar on leaves, etc.
A Little Mismatched
• They might like doing things that are purposely mismatched.
• They might put two different shoes on.
• Or they purposely put the wrong color cap on markers.
• Duality might show up in their creative efforts. They might color a star red and white. One side is hot and the other is cold.
• Building a wheel that can go up, down or left and right is also the sort of “duality” you might see now.
• This is the highly creative stage in a hill, in which they are creative just to be creative (and often mix and match things), that leads (usually seamlessly) to a fearful/aggressive stage.
Memory Upgrade / Notices Gaps
• There is a memory upgrade. They actively challenge themselves to remember things that are not there.
• They might ask you to show them how to spell a word. They then utterly insist you put your example away so they can practice spelling it from memory.
• They know what is not there better. You might point out that 8+2 and 9+1 both add up to 10. And they might say, “So does 10 + 0.” They recognize that “nothing” is also a sort of “something.”
• As they tell stories or recall events, they notice pauses and gaps more. They might recognize you made, say, Borax crystals, and you did such, such, and such, and then waited “FIFTEEN MINUTES!” and then the crystals were ready. They more persistently recall the entire narrative, pauses, gaps, and all.
• In their pretend play, they might experiment with gaps in something. Perhaps there is a gap in the road, made of wood blocks, that a truck has to get over. It’s a small gap, the truck can still get over it. If it’s too big, the truck cannot.
• Note: this and the last milestones show an increase in an understanding of death itself. They will soon face their own mortality—a terrifying thing for them, but also a coming of age thing in which they become yet more hyper aware of their environment and how they fit in it. Perhaps this emerging awareness that “nothing is something” drives this awareness of death. Things can not be.
Stories and Thoughts About How Things Change Over Time
• They might come up with highly imaginative stories in which things change or evolve over time.
• A long time ago, people had machines, but the machines weren’t very good or stable, so they had to improve them. “at first machines were just boxes then they got wheels and then they got motors”
• They need to steal superpowers that are in a basement, but it’s protected by a monster, which they have to get around and escape.
• Or, you are going to a moon in a rocket. Buckle up!
• Or machines are all over their room and apparently drill things.
• They might show they know that if they work out with 1 pound, they get a certain amount of strength, which allows them to work out with 2 pounds, then 3.
• They might think about what they will be like when a “grown man.”
• Or they might taunt you, “Mommy, I’ll be taller than you someday!”
Thinks (or wishes) that they can “fly”
• They might love to pretend they can fly
• They might say they want to fly.
• They might flap their arms like wings.
• They might make their toys “fly,” but they do it in a way like, “Isn’t it crazy that this toy is flying!?” They know the idea is ridiculous but also hilarious.
• They might set up a train track with a train on a balcony and wish they could send their train flying across the room.
• They might think their rubber boots allow them to completely jump over rivers.
• They might love to swing on swings.
• In talking with children, it seems as if they don’t necessarily think they can “fly” but rather they think they can jump a lot further than they actually can.
Quiet Thinking Time
• Even the most extroverted kid all of a sudden wants lots of time alone to think
• Might swing for a long time (an hour)
• Colors for a long time
• Just sits and absorbs their surroundings
• A lot more willing to do things on their own, such as get their own toy or blanket.
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.
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
• 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
• 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”
• 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.