Social and Emotional Development Milestones for Preschoolers (Ages 3 - 5 Years)

  • Social And Emotional Development Milestones For Preschoolers (Ages 3 - 5 Years)

    Caregivers often think learning basics, like recognizing colors, shapes and letters, are what preschoolers need, but teachers say helping children develop strong social and emotional skills are even more important.


  • mom and daughter playing with blocksMilestones for Preschoolers

    Reaching milestones, like sharing toys and taking turns, trying new things, and learning to manage strong emotions, are going to make a big difference in your child’s school success.

    The loving relationships that your preschooler has developed with caregivers and family will help them feel more secure when they are in groups of other children. From ages 3 – 5, children are starting to be more aware of the feelings of other people, want to have friendships, and practice being more independent. There are many ways caregivers can help them.


Milestone Checklist

  • mom and son on floor playing with dinosaur toysMILESTONE CHECKLIST

    Developing strong social and emotional skills can help child feel confident with building relationships, taking initiative to get their needs met, expressing how they feel in safe ways and asking for help when they need it. However, not all preschoolers progress at the same pace. If you are concerned about your child’s growth, talk to your healthcare provider.    

How You Can Help Your Preschooler's Social and Emotional Development

3 - 4 Years Old

  • provider and preschooler boy playing with sand3 - 4 YEARS OLD

    Preschoolers are starting to enjoy interactive play and being with people, but also are learning how share toys and take turns, which can pose some challenges. You can help them by making play time a practice session. Take turns putting pieces into a puzzle, or using a shovel or truck in the sandbox. Talk about what if feels like to wait and help them manage their emotions. Say things like, “Waiting can be hard, let’s take a few deep breaths while mom takes her turn.”

    You can also show what it looks like to respect others by practicing saying I’m sorry, please, and thank you. Talk about why it’s important to show courtesy to other people and model a healthy friendship.

    Puppets, dress-up and pretend play give preschoolers the chance to see what it’s like from another person’s view. Play along with your preschooler, and let them play the role of another person. Ask them questions about what they feel and how they think others may feel to help them practice dealing with everyday situations. Ask questions like, “How do you think Janet would feel if Ella wants a turn with her favorite toy? What should she do?”

Age Four

4 - 5 Year Old

  • teacher reading to children in classroom4 - 5 YEAR OLD

    Accepting responsibility for small jobs around the house helps preschoolers learn a work routine that will contribute to school success. It also makes them feel valued in the household. Start with tasks like putting napkins on the table at meals, or helping with a pet. Make it a routine and let them know you noticed their efforts, “I see you putting your trash in the can, thank you for helping clean up. This will leave us more time for stories tonight.”

More Resources for Parents of Preschoolers

  • Social and Emotional Health: A Guide for Families with Children Birth to Age 8

    Social and Emotional Health: A Guide for Families with Children Birth to Age 8

    A guide for families who want to help children (0-8) to be socially and emotionally healthy

    Get the Guide


    Social Emotional

    Learn tips from Pathways.org to support your preschooler’s social and emotional skills

    Visit Pathways

  • Parent Tips for Preschoolers

    Parent Tips for Preschoolers

    The Center for Disease Control provides a list of tips to help you navigate the preschool years.

    Get Parent Tips


Contact Us

  • Contact Us

    The Michigan Department of Education offers more help to find resources to meet your needs.

    Contact Us