Between ages 3 and 5, children’s bodies and brains undergo wondrous transformations. It seems as if their minds begin to open, much as a flower does, and bloom with all the possibilities of childhood.
At this age, there is already a bounty of information to process and store. Also, children become more independent and possess a greater awareness of the world around them, learn cause and effect, and how to manage relationships with their peers and family members. It is an amazing time in the life of a child, and experts have spent centuries studying all the ways in which the brain and body grow and develop in these most formative years.
“From 3 to 5 your child’s motor skills, language, thinking, and social development change dramatically,” according to Great Schools (greatschools.org).
With our gadget and technology driven Internet-age comes an even greater understanding of how these developmental milestones affect who children become as students in the upper-grades and beyond, as well as into young adulthood.
It can be frightening as a parent to find out your youngster falls short of certain guidelines in growth or intellect. But the good news is that with early intervention, these cognitive and physical deficits and challenges can often be dealt with easily, all without scarring a child’s fragile psyche, and with a minimum of hand-wringing on the part of parents.
With all that we now know about autism and its spectrum, there is even more information available for concerned parents and educators on the warning signs that a child is not meeting his or her developmental milestones in a timely manner.
Pediatricians are trained to inquire about a child’s progress in meeting these milestones, so the relationship between a parent and a child’s doctor requires good communication and candor.
Experts frequently weigh in on what a failure to meet certain milestones might mean for a child’s future, and there is often dissent among their ranks on the specifics of an issue. But, for the most part, there is a general consensus on what to expect from a child between 3 and 5. There are measurements for fine and gross motor skills, language and cognitive development, and social/emotional development. The wise and attuned parent would do well to take note of these desired goals and act expeditiously if they suspect their child may need early intervention to assist them in meeting these physical and cognitive goals.
Between ages 3 and 5, your child comes to grasp that actions have consequences, and individuals have feelings, desires and emotions that they don’t necessarily share. The child learns empathy, compassion and develops a desire for independence while still wrestling with their necessary dependence on caregivers. In an article for Scholastic (scholastic.com) Michelle Anthony, PhD, asserts that, “Individuation for children over the preschool years means developing a better understanding of who they are, as well as beginning to understand and relate to others. Creating this personal identity means exploring many fundamental aspects of themselves — gender, race, personality.”
Because different children grow and learn at different rates, it is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to development. Some children may naturally fall behind in certain areas of development, but excel in others, and still some children may be perennially behind the growth and/or intellect curve, and suddenly surprise their parents and educators with an off-the-charts spurt of maturation.
Experts advise parents to be pro-active and not reactive when it comes to their child failing to reach certain guidelines in a timely manner. Progress is often a matter of time, patience and awareness of your child’s strengths and challenges.
According to Great Schools, “You’re the best judge of your child’s development and what is ‘normal’ for him. But if you have any concerns, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician. Just when you think you’ve figured out your child, something changes.”
This jibes well with what I’ve learned from my children and my garden: A late bloom is just as special and amazing as the early spring flower.