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Cognitive Milestones of a Preschooler: A List for Parents

Cognitive Milestones of a Preschooler: A List for Parents

Preschool is not just a period of physical development; it’s also a stage where children begin to understand certain concepts and solve problems on their own. What cognitive milestones of a preschooler should parents check from time to time? Find out here.

What Are Cognitive Milestones?

Cognitive milestones pertain to tasks and skills related to how we think, focus, understand ideas, imagine things, recall knowledge, and solve problems.

Just as preschoolers take some time to grow and develop physically, they also hit cognitive milestones in a step-by-step approach. For instance, most 3-year-olds can only solve puzzles with 3 to 4 pieces but wait until they are 5 years old and they will be able to sit through a simple board game.

Understanding what they can and cannot do during their preschool years help parents identify the best games and activities for them. Moreover, parents can intervene right away if they suspect a developmental delay or problem by observing these milestones.

cognitive milestones of a preschooler

The Cognitive Milestones of a Preschooler

Starting at 3 years old, your little one probably:

• Has a Great Imagination

The cognitive milestones of a preschooler include great imagination. According to experts, children 3 to 5 years old use “magical thinking” to solve problems and explain things.

For instance, if you ask them why the sun rises in the morning, they might tell you that it’s because the sun wakes up in the morning just like everyone else.

As entertaining as their imagination is, be sure to correct concerning beliefs. One example is the idea that people may become ill when someone is angry with them.

Plays with a Lot of Toys

When choosing toys for your preschoolers, remember they now enjoy toys with different parts such as levers and buttons. Additionally, they can now build a tower of blocks. At 4 and 5 years, they’ll be able to play board and card games but still enjoy pretend play.

Doesn’t Use Logic Yet

Preschoolers believe what their eyes can see; they don’t use logic yet. To showcase this, consider filling two transparent containers with the same amount of water. However, one container should be taller, while the other is shorter.

If you ask them which container has more water, they’ll probably choose the taller one. And even after you explain that the amount of water is the same, they will not likely understand the idea.

Identifies Colors and Numbers

Preschoolers will start to count, starting with up to 3, then counting 5 objects, and eventually more than 10. At 4 years old, they’ll begin to identify colors and then, finally, some numbers.

Understands Simple Concepts

Preschoolers begin to understand simple concepts and ideas such as the “same and different” and the consecutives (big, bigger, and biggest).

Eventually, they will also begin to understand time and think things in terms of hours and days (yesterday, today, tomorrow).

Answers Simple Questions and Has Questions of Their Own

More than being able to answer simple questions, your preschooler will also ask you many interesting and challenging questions. Be prepared to answer questions like, “Where do babies come from?” and “What does die mean?”

Remember: to develop the cognitive milestones of a preschooler, be sure to answer their questions truthfully but using simple words.

Enjoys a Book or Story

And finally, don’t forget about books!

Preschoolers can now turn one page at a time and enjoy images! If you tell them a story, they might even surprise you by predicting what will happen next. Additionally, at 4 years old, children begin remembering parts of the stories you tell them.


Children grow up so fast, both physically and mentally. But please note that while these cognitive milestones of a preschooler can be seen in most kids, a child may need more time and practice. So, no need to immediately think that there’s a problem if they can’t do some things yet.

If you feel that there’s a problem, or that your child needs extra help, don’t hesitate to contact a doctor.

Learn more about Preschooler Milestones here

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 3 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Cesar Beltran