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Preschooler Development & Parenting Tips (3-6)

mom-boy-backpack Preschoolers are emerging from toddlerhood to a new world of exploration and formal learning. Most have started or will start preschool or prekindergarten and complete this development period by entering a traditional school at either kindergarten or first grade. Because kindergarten has become more academic and often mirrors what used to be first grade, children usually start kindergarten around the age of six.

Preschoolers are open to learning numbers and letters and beginning reading and simple math; this is also a critical period for music. They’re improving their gross motor and fine motor skills, which gets them interested in art, crafts, and ride-on toys (wagons, scooters, bikes, etc.). They often participate in organized sports activities by the end of this developmental period.

The most important mode of learning during this stage is playing. Make-believe play of all kinds is attractive and fosters the development of language, socialization, and creativity. Interest in exploring their environment promotes early interest in science. Preschoolers also like to build things out of items around the house and building sets like Legos, Kinex, and blocks.

Moving Onward (Encouraging Development):

Play Activities

3-6 years

This is the fastest growth period for the frontal lobe networks, and the speed of processing, memory, and problem solving is increasing. The brain is at 90% of its adult weight by age six.

Imagination and interaction play starring roles during the preschool years, and certain toys help set the stage for developing these skills. Things that connect with the experiences kids have are the best for dramatic play.

Opt for a generic unstructured item rather than the single-function brand name version such as play telephones, kitchen appliances, utensils, toolsets, and medical kits. Dress-up clothes, baby dolls, and toy people and animals spark the scenarios kids like to construct. Finger or hand puppets offer another way of acting out and mastering day-to-day experiences.

The language and social skills practiced through make-believe games come into play as preschoolers interact more and more. Early board games introduce the concept of taking turns and sharing with others, while letter, word, and number-recognition toys and games reinforce math and language learning. So, of course, do books, especially if they match the child’s interests.

Art materials (clay, crayons, markers, paints, collage materials) are another creative favorite with most children in this age group. Don’t forget jump ropes, larger tricycles, and the always-memorable first bike with training wheels.

Toys and materials for play and learning for preschoolers, including dolls, action figures, playsets, building sets, arts and crafts, music, ride-ons, books, electronics, and more can be found on Amazon.com.

Amazon Stem Club
STEM toys are handpicked by Amazon’s toy experts to excite young learners with hands-on experiments and explorations of electricity, earth science, and simple math. Kids gain exposure to STEM topics through creating their own dinosaur fossils and other cool projects.
Recommended Books for Parents

Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth To Age 5 Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth To Age 5  The most up-to-date expert advice for mothers, fathers and care providers from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This essential resource is the one guide pediatricians routinely recommend and parents can safely trust, covering everything from preparing for childbirth to toilet training to nurturing your child’s self-esteem.  amazon-button

Brain Rules for Baby Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five  What’s the single most important thing you can do during pregnancy? What does watching TV do to a child’s brain? What’s the best way to handle temper tantrums? Scientists know.  Bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practice. Through fascinating and funny stories, the author, a developmental molecular biologist and dad, unravels how a child’s brain develops – and what you can do to optimize it.   amazon-button

Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers, 2nd Ed Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers, 2nd Ed  This 2nd edition is packed with helpful hints, sound strategies and difference-making methods that show parents how to give their young children all the love, nurturing and guidance they need to thrive. Parents learn how to set appropriate expectations, teach social skills, correct misbehaviors, use time-out correctly, improve family life and maintain their composure when little ones are in meltdown. The toddler years are full of chaos and challenges. But they’re also a time of joy and wonder. This go-to guide lightens the stress of parenting and sets children and parents up for a lifetime of success!  amazon-button

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers  Getting babies to sleep through the night is one thing; getting willful toddlers and energetic preschoolers to sleep is another problem altogether. Written to help sleep-deprived parents of children ages one to five, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers offers loving solutions to help this active age-group get the rest they–and their parents–so desperately need.  amazon-button

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 A well-written book that provides the basics of creating a positive parent-child relationship with the tools to motivate children to master the basic communication, problem-solving and behavioral skills necessary for success at home, school and in the community.  You’ll find tools to use in virtually every situation, including advice for common problems such as: • Whining • Sibling rivalry • Reluctance to do chores • Refusing to go to bed or getting up in the middle of the night • Talking back • Stubbornness.   amazon-button

The Whole Brained Child The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind  By Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson This book is based on the latest brain research and provides easy to use strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children. The authors explain—and make accessible—the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures.  amazon-button

Preschooler's Busy Book: 365 fun, creative, screen-free activities to stimulate your preschooler every day of the year! Preschooler’s Busy Book: 365 fun, creative, screen-free activities to stimulate your preschooler every day of the year!  This book should be required reading for anyone raising or teaching preschool-age children, it is written with warmth and sprinkled with humor and insight.  The book contains 365 screen-free activities (one for each day of the year) for three- to six-year-olds using things found around the home..  amazon-button

Videos on Preschool Development

Preschooler Developmental Milestones

PhysicalLanguageIntellectual - CognitiveSocial - Emotional

Three to Four Years

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Hops, skips, jumps and runs
  • Makes sudden stops and starts
  • Walks on tiptoes
  • Hops on one foot
  • Marches to a rhythm
  • Alternates steps when climbing stairs; comes down one step at a time
  • Throws ball by thrusting with arm and shoulder; catches with arms held out straight
  • Swings on a swing
  • Walks a low balance beam
  • Rides tricycle

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Builds block towers of about 9 or 10 blocks
  • Holds pencils and crayons with control
  • Draws straight lines and copies circles
  • Draws three-part person
  • Cuts with scissors
  • Unbuttons clothes
  • Pulls up large zippers
  • Uses spoon and fork

Four to Five Years

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Whirls around, turns, somersaults and hangs on bars
  • Hops several times in a row
  • Climbs large play equipment
  • Jumps forward using a forward arm action
  • Jumps up and down
  • Throws ball overhead with less body movement
  • Bounces a ball and catches the ball with elbows in front of their body
  • Can hop on one foot, skip and jump
  • Can catch a ball with both hands
  • Can catch a beanbag

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Builds straight block towers
  • Draws a house and person
  • Prints name
  • Forms crude shapes with clay
  • Cuts on lines with scissors
  • Brushes teeth, combs hair and washes hands
  • Dresses self except for tying shoes
  • Develops hand preference
  • Dresses and undresses him/herself
  • Can copy a simple design
  • Uses scissors to cut a straight line

Five to Six Years

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Whirls around, turns, somersaults and hangs on bars
  • Hops several times in a row
  • Climbs large play equipment
  • Jumps forward using a forward arm action
  • Jumps up and down
  • Throws ball overhead with less body movement
  • Bounces a ball and catches the ball with elbows in front of their body

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Builds straight block towers
  • Draws a house and person
  • Prints name
  • Forms crude shapes with clay
  • Cuts on lines with scissors
  • Brushes teeth, combs hair and washes hands
  • Dresses self except for tying shoes
  • Develops hand preference

Three to Four Years

  • Knows names of familiar animals
  • Can use at least four prepositions or can demonstrate his understanding of their meaning when given commands
  • Names common objects in picture books or magazines
  • Knows one or more colors
  • Can repeat 4 digits when they are given slowly
  • Can usually repeat words of four syllables
  • Demonstrates understanding of over and under
  • Has most vowels and diphthongs and the consonants p, b, m, w, n well established
  • Often indulges in make-believe
  • Extensive verbalization as he carries out activities
  • Understands such concepts as longer, larger, when a contrast is presented
  • Readily follows simple commands even thought the stimulus objects are not in sight
  • Much repetition of words, phrases, syllables, and even sounds

Four to Five Years

  • Uses possessives
  • Uses double negatives
  • Joins sentences
  • Can answer how, who, when questions
  • Follows up to 4 step directions
  • Uses the third person
  • Tells simple jokes
  • Says their full name
  • Knows an average of 900 words
  • Shows rapid language development
  • Uses sentences that are three to four words long
  • Mispronounces 40 percent of speech sounds
  • Enjoys listening to stories
  • Understands more words than able to use
  • Asks simple who and what questions
  • Tells simple events in sequence
  • Demonstrates beginning phonological awareness (hearing and recognizing the sounds of language)
  • Uses words to express ideas and feelings
  • Usually follows requests and can be reasoned with

Five to Six Years

  • In addition to the above consonants these should be mastered: f, v, sh, zh, th,1
  • Should have concepts of 7
  • Speech should be completely intelligible and socially useful
  • Should be able to tell one rather connected story about a picture, seeing relationships between objects and happenings

Three to Four Years

  • Is curious about how things work
  • Begins to understand the reasoning of caregivers
  • Interested in size and shape
  • Identifies colors
  • Counts from one to ten
  • Counts two or more objects
  • Asks why questions
  • Responds to how questions
  • Learns their name, address, phone number, sex, age and parents names
  • Holds up fingers to indicate age
  • Uses bathroom words and laughs
  • Enjoys doing things for self
  • Develops a better understanding of cause and effect
  • Distinguishes between fact and fiction

Four to Five Years

  • Comprehends special concepts (e.g. around, in front, high, next to)
  • Rote counts up to 2
  • Can complete a 6-8 piece puzzle
  • Begins to understand time concepts
  • Understands simple math concepts
  • Recalls main details of a store
  • Improves their ability to reason
  • Knows birthday
  • Identifies coins such as a penny, nickel and dime.
  • Understands seasons
  • Begins to understand the need for rules
  • Understands the concept of texture, size, distance and temperature
  • Forms logical conclusions
  • Enjoys games that test abilities
  • Improves their ability to remember past events
  • Has difficulty understanding time

Five to Six Years

  • Learns right from wrong
  • Accepts rules; but doesn’t always understand reason
  • Enjoys routines
  • Exhibits increased attention span and concentration
  • Follows instructions concerning numbers
  • Understands terms like more than and less than
  • Uses many words without understanding definitions
  • Understands simple classifications such as groups of trees and animals
  • Places blocks and nesting toys in order (small to large)
  • Asks a lot of questions, especially, “Why?”

Three to Four Years

  • Becomes less self-centered
  • Is sunny and agreeable most of the time
  • Displays feelings in a more acceptable manner
  • Learns to take turns and share
  • Shows new fears (animals, storms, dark and monsters)
  • Makes friends easily and may prefer one over another
  • Engages in cooperative play
  • Tries to please caregivers; desires praise and approval
  • Usually follows requests and can be reasoned with
  • Has strong likes and dislikes
  • Is pleased with self
  • Expresses anger physically (hitting, biting and pushing)
  • Seeks comfort from parents and caregivers
  • Engages in imaginative play
  • Has an imaginary friend
  • Enjoys assisting in simple housekeeping and mealtime tasks

Four to Five Years

Struggles for independence

  • Is moody
  • Doesn’t want to be told what to do
  • Accuses adults of being bossy and unfair
  • Feels strong attachment to family and home
  • Desires approval from parents and caregivers
  • Brags on parents and home
  • Enjoys cooperative play and simple competitive games
  • Is often bossy and inconsiderate
  • Increases interest in friends
  • Shares personal belongings
  • Has difficulty in taking turns
  • Resents being treated like a baby
  • Accepts changes in routine
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Expresses regret
  • Enjoys being with other children
  • Has an increased drive for independence
  • Expresses anger more dramatically
  • Is aware of social approval or disapproval
  • Performs for others
  • Has pride in personal accomplishments
  • Develops sex role identification
  • Begins taking turns and negotiating

Five to Six Years

  • Is more cooperative and conscientious
  • Desires support and approval
  • Asks permission and follows instructions
  • Likes to work and play with others
  • Prefers friends own age; usually own sex
  • Has a strong desire to please
  • Is proud of and likes to assist parents
  • May voluntarily help with younger siblings
  • Forms sex-role identity (what it means to be male or female)
  • Respects other’s property
  • Expresses anger more verbally than physically
  • Boys quarrel more and use more physical force than girls
  • Engages in elaborate and imaginative role play situations