For busy parents, knowing the few milestones that pertain to a child’s age can help you guide them at home and during play. Picture:

Is your little one hitting milestones? Marchelle Abrahams reports

While milestones are not hard and fast rules, they are a fair indicator of how children should be developing in direct relation to the tasks they are able to execute.

Educators, therapists and medical professionals can be used as a guideline to ensure a child is developmentally on track, says Justine Schapers, psychologist and therapeutic head at Birdwood Remedial School in Durban.

For busy parents, knowing the few milestones that pertain to a child’s age can help you guide them at home and during play.

It can inform the type of toys you buy and the conversations you have with your little one.

Remember that each child develops at his or her own pace and simply try to find the fun while offering learning opportunities.

Here is Schaper’s checklist of milestones for children between the ages of three and six.

Grade 000 (3-4 years old)

Social and emotional:

  • Manage their emotions to some degree. ie: Not become overly distressed when separating from parents
  • Co-operates with other children. ie: Is able to understand the concept of sharing toys and not resorting to tantrums or aggression every time they are not able to get what they want learn routines and stick to them. eg: Sitting in a ring, sitting at the table for snack time
  • Learning to ask for teacher assistance when needed in conflict situations.
  • Is able to be more independent. eg: dressing and undressing and going to the bathroom (should be fully toilet trained during the day)
  • Is increasing their use of fantasy play and sometimes has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality

Fine Motor:

  • Be able to draw a basic image of a person with a head, basic facial features, possibly arms and legs coming out of the head, this should progress to a body during the year
  • Is able to hold a crayon between thumb and fingers ( not a fisted grip)
  • Be able to thread beads onto a string
  • Be able to hold a pair of scissors and start cutting – supervised
  • Be able to copy basic shapes and draw a circle and lines independently


  • Hops and stands on one foot up to five seconds
  • Goes upstairs and downstairs without support
  • Kicks ball forward and throws ball overhand
  • Catches a large bounced ball most of the time
  • Moves forward and backward with agility

Speech and language:

  • Be able to speak fairly clearly so that another person can understand them. Some children have speech processes which are normal at this age, eg: wed for red, lellow for yellow but these need to be monitored as they can affect phonics development later on, if not addressed.
  • Can speak in sentences of about six words
  • Tells stories
  • Understands the concepts of same and different
By age 3 they must be able to draw a basic image. Picture: AP


  • Correctly names some colours and basic shapes, eg: circle, heart, star
  • Understands the concept of counting and may know a few numbers
  • Rote counts to five
  • Approaches problems from a single point of view
  • Is able to follow a 2 -3 part command eg go to the room and fetch your shoes.
  • Recalls parts of a short story (listening and comprehension)

Grade 00 (4-5 years)

Social and emotional:

  • Is able to understand basic emotions and label happy, sad, cross
  • Wants to please friends
  • More likely to agree to rules – play is more rule bound
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows more independence in routines
  • Aware of gender and gender attributes
  • Is more able to distinguish fantasy from reality


  • Stands on one foot for ten seconds or longer
  • Hops, somersaults
  • Swings, climbs
  • May be able to skip

Fine motor skills:

  • Copies triangle and other geometric patterns
  • Draws person with body
  • Is showing an interest in letters and wants to write their name
  • Dresses and undresses without assistance
  • Uses fork, spoon, and (sometimes) a table knife


  • Recalls part of a story
  • Speaks sentences of more than five words with conjunctions, eg: and, but,
  • Tells longer stories
  • Says full name and age correctly
  • Uses words to express thoughts, feelings and ideas
  • Listening skills are better


  • Can count ten objects
  • Can rote count to 20
  • Can name at least six shapes (circle, square, triangle, diamond, heart, star)
  • Correctly names four – six colours
  • Better understands the concept of time: yesterday, today and tomorrow,
  • Knows about things used every day in the home (money, food, appliances)
  • Engaging more with books and enjoying being read to
  • Concentrates on an age appropriate activity for a few minutes without getting distracted

Grade R (5-6 years old)

Social and emotional:

  • Is able to solve conflict situations by asking for assistance or working it out with peers without resorting to aggression
  • Is able to label more complex emotions
  • Is able to understand and separate fantasy and reality
  • More independent
Between the ages of 5 and 6 they must be able to pedal a bike. Picture: Omeshnie Naidoo


  • Can catch a smaller ball – bigger than a tennis ball
  • Can swing themselves
  • Can climb a cargo net
  • Can pedal a bicycle
  • Are agile: can run, jump etc

Motor skills:

  • Is able to cut out shapes
  • Can draw complex shapes like a cross, square, triangle, three intersecting lines
  • Can draw a detailed person with at least eight body parts
  • Adds other detail to drawings
  • Can write their name, is learning to record numbers and letters
  • Can recognise the names of children in the class


  • Can tell a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end
  • Recalls details of a story
  • Can give birthday, name and address
  • Can listen to more complex instructions eg. Three part instructions and carry these out.
  • Can use correct grammar eg. Irregular past tense swam vs swimmed
  • Uses correct pronouns


  • Can count more than ten objects
  • Can recognise numbers 1 – 10
  • Can name more than six shapes
  • Can name more than eight colours (blue, red, purple, pink, yellow, green, brown, black, white, grey) and differentiate light and dark colours
  • Is starting to learn phonics, sound symbol combinations and by the end of grade R knows all the phonic sounds of the letters, in preparation for reading
  • Starting to rhyme words and remembering rhymes and songs easily
  • Understanding concepts like opposites, number and quantities (half, more, less, bigger than, less than, before, after)

More info:

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