Developmental milestones - What should my 3-4 year old know?

I've found myself searching this topic many times and seeking out an average milestone comparison for my son. I am sure many parents do this. You want to be reassured that they are on track and ticking off the necessary developments of childhood.

Yes it is important to have an average to compare to so that if there are any causes of concern they can be identified and intervened with early on but on the other hand why do we feel the need to compare children based on cognitive ability such as how high they can count, or if they can recite the alphabet when there are many other more important things to a child.

So for instance, how high should a 3-4 year old be able to count to?

There is no absolute answer, every child develops at a different pace.
Every child has a different learning style and has different parents, careers and lifestyle factors to consider. There's also the fact hat there are different levels of counting, rote learning is simply chanting back the numbers in order. 

How high can your child count and does it matter?

After careful consideration of this question I felt the answer was I dont care and no it doesnt matter. I wish not to compare Dimples to averages of his age because he is anything but average.
He is unique and I have never fussed about rote rehearsal so no he can't chant 1-30 or the alphabet like a robot, but yes he knows numbers and letters have meaning, how to spell his name and identify many numbers and letters. He can match letters and numbers to corresponding pictures so he learns visually with meaning.

I found myself searching developmental milestones of a 3-4 year old and had a light bulb moment. Pushing all comparisons and judgements aside I stopped trying to rank my son on his knowledge base and started to brainstorm my own list; I feel this "developmental list" should be the focus more so than the cognitive comparisons.

A 3-4 year old should know-

That they belong
That they are cherished and loved unconditionally
That they make their loved ones smile
Their full name, parents names and place of residence (for safety reasons)
How to laugh and giggle
How to have fun
That accidents happen
That books are enjoyable
Where food comes from
How to pretend
How to explore and investigate
That it is alright to deviate from others
That they are unique
That every person is different
Not to judge a book by its cover
The family rules / boundaries
That they are safe and will be cared for
How to dream and imagine
That it is alright to cry
How to be kind
How to ask questions, many questions!
How to give cuddles
How to get messy
How to enjoy the outdoors
How to pull faces
That its alright to get angry and let it out appropriately
That its not alright to intentionally hurt or inflict pain on other people/creatures.
When to ask for help and who they can turn to
How to pack up and clean up
How to create things
How to give to others
That manners are important
How to listen to nature and sounds from nature
That they can say no to others
How to sing in the rain
How to jump in puddles
How to smile
That they shouldn't talk to strangers
That oral hygiene is important
How to play independently
How to move to the beat and groove to music
How to sing silly songs
That fruit and veges are delicious
That sun hats and sunscreen are important
That time out is chill out time and not a punishment
How to be creative
How to think outside the box
That grown ups sometimes need time out too
How to dress up as a character
How to make silly voices
How to be a 3-4 year old.

Personally, I think that it is more important to have a happy healthy child who knows they are loved and knows how to enjoy themself then a child missing these things who can count to 100 at age 3-4

Is there anything you would add to this list?

Children learn through Play. 
Here are some posts on the importance of different types of play.

Happy Adventures


  1. Your list is fantastic! It would make a great poster to print and keep :)

  2. That is a really lovely list. I was going to suggest what Amie has. It would be great as a printable list! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Completely agree :) Each little person is on their own journey. Right from before they were even born we have a tendency to compare them. Why do we do this? There is so much knowledge out there and plenty of time to learn it, in each child's own way and in each child's own time :)

  4. I think this list is so brilliant. You've put into words the way I feel about pre-school children and what their days should entail. This list sets children up for a life of positivity and being open to learning....and then there is room for each individual child to develop their own talents and interests too.

    I think it's hard for parents not to compare their children to others- mainly because parents want to ensure they are doing the right thing by their children.

    Thanks for putting it together.

  5. So true and what a lovely list! There should be an exact milestone like that for every age group. Parents will be less stressed and more inspired if they read your list. So. so lovely. It made me smile.

  6. I love this have some fantastic 'milestones' on there!! So many people get caught up on what is 'normal' and comparing to other children that they miss the joy in the everyday!

  7. I loved reading through all these. I'm sure parents would love it as a tick sheet. hehehe

  8. I sing our phone number to Bobo to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" so he'll remember it. It ends with "That's the way my phone number goes." I think it goes along with name and address. We made an All About Me book over a year ago with this information in it, which we read often.

  9. I always tell parents that milestones are just guidelines, look at what the child can do and not what they can't

  10. i love that you focus on what's really important instead of what society tells us. each child is different in that aspect. but the points you made are what really counts.

  11. What an amazing list. so often teachers are asked what do my children need know before starting school, and although some of the counting and letters can help, it is far more important for them to know this list. Thank you this is fantastic



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