Entering Preschool Can Reveal Need for a Screening

October 10, 2017

By Jessica Vickery, MS, OTR/L: 

Preschool is a big step for little ones – parents, too. Seeing your child in this new environment surrounded by new young friends may raise questions, even anxieties, in your mind. Now that a few weeks have passed in the new school year, your child should be adapting to new expectations and the social interaction. Hopefully, any bumps are beginning to smooth out. But what if they aren’t? Perhaps you are noticing one or more areas where your child does not seem to be on a par, developmentally, with others their own age.

Did you know there are milestones for each age level that help a parent and their teachers assess whether certain abilities and behaviors are typical for a given age? They help loved ones determine whether more help may be needed to address physical, social or emotional issues.

The sooner you catch a delay, the faster you can get your child beneficial assistance. So how do you know if your child is a candidate for therapy to help reach age-appropriate developmental milestones? On our website, we have detailed information about a child’s milestones that will provide you with information for each age group, birth through age 5. Early intervention is important!

Take a moment to review these milestones and discuss questions or concerns you might have with your child’s teacher or physician. Here at Milestones, we offer free developmental screenings for children under age 5, which is a major area of expertise for our practice.

Here are milestones the typical 3-year-old child new to preschool will have reached.

Social Emotional Development/Behavior:

  • Language increasingly important in regulation of interactions; growing ability to express wants and needs
  • Tolerates frustrations, adapting behavior to context
  • Learns self-control
  • Play may reflect child’s emotional experiences
  • Enjoys imaginative and imitative play
  • Increasing ability to think symbolically

Gross Motor Skills:

  • Stands on one foot for 5 seconds
  • Pedals a tricycle for 10 feet
  • Climbs up/down stairs without support, placing one foot on each step
  • Begins to skip
  • Jumps forward with feet together 26-30 inches
  • Throws a small ball underhand and overhand and hits a target at 5 feet

Fine Motor Skills:

  • Holds crayon with adult like grasp (tripod)
  • Stacks 9 blocks (more or less)
  • Colors within lines for large object
  • Draws a face
  • Begins to cut with scissors


  • Dresses self (assistance may be needed for orienting front/back)
  • Adjusts clothing to use toilet with assistance
  • Unbuttons large buttons and can button large/medium buttons
  • Wipes nose with verbal directions
  • Seats self on the toilet and anticipates immediate toilet needs


  • Shows an interest in a variety of playground equipment
  • Explores new movement activities
  • Emerging awareness of safety when near others

Oral Motor and Feeding:

  • Feeding skills resemble an adult’s

Speech, Language & Hearing:

  • 75% intelligible to a stranger
  • Emerging consonants include: p, b, t, d, m, n, w, h, k and g
  • Uses sentences of 3-4 words
  • Uses nearly 1,000 words
  • Asks “what” questions frequently

Check the materials on our website to review additional developmental milestones by age group. And, if you are in the Downers Grove, Illinois, area and you still have concerns, please call us at 630-792-1800. The answers to a few questions can help us determine if one of our 30-minute, observational, free screenings at our therapy center is your next step. (Teachers may request one right in their classroom.)


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