Developmental Milestones 3-5 Years

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and National Quality Standards (NQS) are the Australian Government guide outlining the principles, practices and outcomes that support and enhance young children’s learning from birth to five years of age, as well as their transition to school.

With regard to monitoring the developmental milestones of young children, the EYLF reminds us that:

“Children’s learning is ongoing and each child will progress towards the outcomes in different and equally meaningful ways. Learning is not always predictable and linear. Educators plan with each child and the outcomes in mind.” (Early Years Learning Framework, p.19)

At the Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning and Childcare Centres in NSW we closely follow the practices set out by the EYLF and our trained educators use their expected outcomes as a guide to monitor the developmental stages of the babies and children in our care, never losing sight of the fact that it is natural for all children to progress at their own pace.

A summary of the milestone guide for children 3-5 years:

Physical Development

  • Walks, runs, jumps and hops with ease (walks/runs more smoothly)
  • Climbs and steps with alternating feet
  • Leads with one foot to skip etc. (may have hand preference for drawing)
  • Leans forward to throw ball/tries to catch with hands
  • Always improving when climbing and using playground equipment
  • Holds crayons and pencils between thumb and forefingers
  • Draws familiar shapes and forms and can cut with safety scissors
  • Dresses and undresses with just a bit of help
  • Can go to toilet and feed themselves (even if a bit messy)
  • Enjoys simple rhythm and movement routines
  • Night time toilet training improving


  • Increased empathy e.g. comforts someone when hurt
  • Has gender stability (knows they are male or female)
  • May seek same-sex playmates/practices gender-role ‘norms’ in play
  • May show moments of frustration/aggression with others
  • Like to give and receive affection from parents/guardians
  • May like to give self-praise and be boastful


  • Can understand opposites and positions (big/little, middle/end etc.)
  • Can use various objects to build things e.g. play dough shapes
  • Can build towers of 8-10 blocks high
  • Can count up to 10 with objects
  • Has a longer attention span and can answer simple questions
  • May talk to themselves during play – as a self-guide
  • Easily follows simple instructions and rules/enjoys helping
  • Starts to write using numbers and letters
  • Enjoys role-play and pretending to be various characters
  • Can count in order and touches objects to count them
  • Can remember order of events more accurately/retells a story
  • Matches and names some colours and copies/writes numbers


  • Enjoys playing and interacting with other children
  • Sometimes has a particular/favourite friend
  • Smiles, shares and cooperates
  • Can play with objects along with several other children
  • Starts to develop the social skills they will use at their first school


  • Uses lots of vocabulary and speaks in sentences
  • Asks lots of questions/answers simple questions
  • Enjoys talking and telling stories/likes to experiment with new words
  • Starts to use more adult styles and forms of speech
  • Enjoys jokes rhymes, stories and taking part in conversations
  • Will use words and language to assert themselves


Talk to a professional for advice if your 3-5 year old is:

  • Not understood by others when talking
  • Stammers or has speech problems or delays
  • Not playing or interacting with other children
  • Not taking part/showing interest in conversations
  • Not able to dress, wash or toilet themselves

If you or your childcare centre believes that your child may be falling behind with any of these developmental milestones, or if you are noticing any of the signs that you think may be a cause for concern, make an appointment with your family health nurse or GP who will conduct a comprehensive developmental check.

…And remember there really is no normal when it comes to human development.