Preschooler Health Tips

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Your Child at Five Years Old

This is a brief summary of what to expect for a five-year-old's development. If you have any specific concerns or questions, you should address those with your child's pediatrician.

Physical Development

  • assists with making own bed

  • colors within the lines

  • ties own shoes

  • jumps rope

Social Development

  • is aware of gender

  • separates fantasy from reality

  • comforts friends and others when they are sad

  • understands there are rules when playing games

  • expresses feelings

  • wants to please friends

  • wants to be like friends

  • agrees to rules

  • likes to sing, dance, and act

  • shows more independence

Cognitive Development

  • uses past, present, and future tenses correctly

  • groups similar objects together

  • understands the idea of today, tomorrow, and yesterday

  • identifies most letters and numbers

  • retells a story from a picture book


Five year olds still need lots of sleep and many will still take a nap. During the school year, bedtime should be strictly enforced to ensure your child gets enough sleep, usually no later than 8pm.


Keep children healthy by encouraging them to eat a variety of foods, get regular exercise, and choose a diet with plenty of grains, vegetables, fruits, and vitamins to meet their growing body's requirements.


Preschooler Nutritional Needs

Your preschooler eats three meals and two snacks a day, drinks 2% milk, and rarely eats sugary desserts. Does that mean he is healthy? That all depends on what he is eating for his meals and snacks, and whether he is getting adequate exercise. According to the USDA, the average preschooler between the ages of 3 and 5 with daily physical activity of 30-60 minutes needs about 1400 calories per day. Those calories should be divided up as follows: Grain group - 5 ounces, Vegetable group - 1.5 cups, Fruit group - 1.5 cups, Milk group - 2 cups, Meat & Beans group - 4 ounces.

What does all this mean? Basically, you should offer your preschooler a variety of foods, watch portion control, and try to include at least 3 food groups at each meal. That means lunch should not be a couple of hot dogs with french fries. Instead, go for half of a turkey sandwich, some cucumber slices, and a small serving of fruit for dessert. Preschoolers also should not be eating sugary cereals, cookies, ice cream, fried foods, whole milk, or other excessive fats and sugars on a daily basis. These treats are fine once in a while, but they should not be a mainstay in their diet.

MyPyramid for preschoolers offers a customized meal plan for your preschooler based on age and activity level. They also offer sample meal plans, snack ideas, and ways to help your preschooler maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Your Child at Four Years Old

This is a brief summary of what to expect for a four-year-old's development. If you have any specific concerns or questions, you should address those with your child's pediatrician.

Physical Development

  • walks backwards

  • jumps forward many times

  • somersaults

  • walks up and down stairs

  • uses safety scissors

  • cuts on line

  • copies squares and crosses

  • prints a few capital letters

  • draws a person

Social Development

  • enjoys playing with other children

  • takes turns and shares

  • seeks out adult approval

  • understands and obeys simple rules

  • likes to talk and carries on conversations

  • understands jealousy

  • fears the dark and monsters

  • begins to understand danger

  • has difficulty separating make-believe from reality

  • feels anger and frustration and may still throw tantrums

  • enjoys pretending, creates imaginary playmates

Cognitive Development

  • groups and matches objects

  • organizes materials

  • asks "why" and "how"

  • tells own name and age

  • pays attention for longer periods of time

  • learns by watching and listening

  • shows awareness of past and present

  • follows a series of two to four directions

  • uses words out of context

  • points to and names colors

  • understands order and process

  • counts to five

  • knows the name of their street and town


Four year olds need at least 12 hours of sleep per day. Some children will still take a short nap in the afternoon, while others may have given up napping altogether. It is common for children this age to resist sleep, and to get out of bed at night with various excuses not to go to sleep.


Proper nutrition includes three meals a day, with two nutritious snacks. Limit high sugar and high fat foods, and encourage healthy choices of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low fat dairy products.


Your Child at Three Years Old

This is a brief summary of what to expect for a three-year-old's development. If you have any specific concerns or questions, you should address those with your child's pediatrician.

Physical Development

  • throws and kicks balls

  • begins to copy capital letters

  • draws circles and squares

  • dresses and undresses self

Social Development

  • engages in pretend play

  • cooperates with other children

  • looks for ways to solve problems

Cognitive Development

  • identifies "same" and "different"

  • speaks in short sentences

  • tells and remembers parts of stories


At some point between the ages of 3 and 4, children commonly give up their afternoon nap. This means they will need to go to bed earlier to compensate for the lost sleep. Children this age need anywhere from 9-13 hours of sleep each day.


At this age, your child's eating habits should be similar to your own, eating the same foods at the same times. Choking is still considered a hazard because your child has not yet mastered chewing and swallowing.


Managing Allergies

Reducing contact with airborne allergens such as dust and pollen can help prevent the onset of allergy symptoms in your preschooler. Here are some tips for helping your child breathe a little easier:

  • Vacuum the floors and carpets on a regular basis (at least once a week).

  • Wash your child's bedding weekly in hot water to eliminate dust mites.

  • Remove any extra pillows and stuffed animals from the bed, since they are prone to collect dust mites.

  • Cover pillows with an allergy-free pillow case protector.

  • Keep windows closed in the car and house, especially when the pollen count is high.

  • Don't hang laundry outside to dry, where it can collect allergens. Use a clothes dryer or hang inside.

  • Bathe your child before bed every night to remove allergens that may have collected on his clothes and body throughout the day.

  • Consider purchasing a portable room air cleaner for your child's bedroom to filter airborne particles and help him breathe easier.

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Guru Spotlight
Susan Sayour