Though every child develops at his own pace, there is a certain time frame in which skills develop. Assessment of a preschool child's development is important for parents, teachers and health care providers. Using a checklist to evaluate the development of a preschool child will help identify delays or high achievement in certain areas. A thorough checklist includes major categories of development as well as specific skills that should be mastered during the preschool years.
A checklist for language development should include milestones such as speaking in complete sentences, speaking clearly, using pronouns correctly and asking questions. Other important milestones that should be noted are listening and responding to stories, following directions and recalling information. Older preschool children should be able to recognise letter sounds, identify rhyming words and state their name and address.
To measure social milestones, observe preschoolers to determine whether they want to play with friends, follow rules of play, show independence and take turns. The checklist should also include how a child expresses feelings, uses visual cues to note how others feel, shows empathy and works as a member of a group. Whether a child shows respect for authority, others and himself is also important. Note whether children listen to others who are speaking, take an active role in conversation and try to solve problems.
Cognitive development in preschool involves many academic skills. Most preschoolers should be able to recognise some shapes, colours, numerals and letters. They can count to ten, print some capital letters and copy a circle and triangle. They understand simple units of time, can put pictures in sequential order and match like objects. Cognitive skills also include sorting objects and understanding the concepts of same and different. Preschoolers are curious, so they should be able to ask "why" questions, use pretend play and use imagination to tell stories.
A preschool child's physical skills are developing quite rapidly. At this age, a child should be able to stand on one foot for a few seconds, throw and kick a ball, and catch a softly tossed or bounced ball. He should also be able to dress himself, brush his own teeth, feed himself and take care of other personal needs independently. He may learn to ride a bike and swim at this age, though some children are more hesitant to try than others.