Preschool (3 – 5 years old)

Preschool child playing with construction toy. This is an engaging STEM activity that will promote intellectual growth.

Physical Growth Slows

“Your child’s shape changes more than their height or weight in the years between their 3rd and 6th birthdays. You can expect your child to add about 4-1/2 pounds and grow about three inches each year,” according to Riley Children’s Organization, Indiana University Health.

Intellectual Growth Expands Dramatically

Although your child’s physical growth slows down from previous stages, their capabilities, and intellectual growth soar.

Consider the language development of your child. He or she knew

2 to 4 words at 1-year-old

10 words at 18 months

1,000 words at 3 years old

10,000 words at 5 years old

as reported by Riley Children’s Organization.

In this one area alone, there is a tremendous spurt of development. This is the appropriate age to begin early reading skills. Most children are cognitively ready to start practicing reading strategies – from listening to stories, recognizing letters and words, and predicting what will happen next.

While scientists believe that the critical time for learning language skills is much broader than previously thought, it is a fact that most children begin their schooling at 4 or 5 years old. They will encounter many opportunities to expand their understanding of oral and written language. With a sound foundation, the child can benefit from these more formal educational approaches.

Since your child will reach many milestones in these preschool years, there is a multitude of toys that can enhance their development. 


Growth may have slowed, but finesse is still developing in both large and small muscles.

Large Muscles

You can expect that by 5 years old most children have no difficulty in climbing the jungle gym, swinging at the park, hopping on 1 or 2 feet, and performing somersaults. Their balance has improved so much that they can stand on 1 foot for 10 seconds or more.

Challenging Physical Activities

With their improved control over their ability to move and manipulate objects, you can introduce many different toys that are precursors to adult spots.

This T-ball set up is adjustable so you can start off at an early age and increase its height.

This is just the right-sized net. You get two of them so you can start a game.

Add a ball of the right size and have fun for hours. The physical activity component is excellent.

Look for other sports equipment that has been modified for this age group.

Small Muscles

At this stage, children can draw a stick figure person and include 4 body parts. They are capable of closing a circle and will start to draw other shapes such as a square and triangle. With some practice, they can master scissors. 

Art Materials

This is a perfect time to introduce some arts and craft materials that are just the right size for their hands and capabilities. 

If you have nothing so far, a kit such as “my busy box” is a great start. Don’t forget to add kid sized scissors and crayons as well as some blank paper to the box to allow your child to create his or her own crafts.

Holiday time is an ideal opportunity to begin craft type projects. Make cards for friends and relatives, decorations for around the house or decorate specially shaped cookies.



Preschoolers can learn their letters and numbers as part of a puzzle. The sounds of the letters co-ordinate with the pictures on the front and back of the cards.

This set of locks and letter keys is perfect for the child who loves all things mechanical.

Start learning the letters of the alphabet in small groups. You could start with d for daddy, m for mommy and ___ for the first letter of the child’s name. Once your child has mastered these letters, expand the number you give them by using significant connections from your child’s life.

This electronic wall poster will challenge your preschooler to locate the letters and will grow with him or her into spelling.


Learning the numbers is a key concept at this age level. With number recognition conquered your child is ready to explore more complicated mathematical concepts.

Using a scale to learn the value of numbers is an intriguing way of working with numbers. The accompanying guide has games for children to play who are older as well.

These puzzle matching numbers are self correcting. It is helpful to encourage your child to count the pictures as a check for the number match.

Any games with dice review the numbers to 6. Cars fanatics in your family will love playing this game. With the bubble in the middle, the dice will always be ready.

Expanded Areas of Interest

Your child can distinguish what is real and what is fantasy play. They will enjoy role-playing activities as an expansion of their world from the family setting to the environment around them.

As parents, you may become frustrated with the number of why questions that have as their quest for knowledge seems insatiable.

But do not expect an understanding of adult logic. Children at this age depend on what they can see to be true. If you set 16 pennies into two identical rows of 8, your child will say that each line of pennies is the same. If you spread out one of the rows by adding more space in between the pennies, your child will say that the longer row has more pennies. And if you comment that you didn’t add any pennies to the row. They will still say there is more. Try this famous experiment by Piaget with your child. You will be amazed by their answer. Childhood has many magical moments. Only too soon will they be grown up and past this stage.


Preschoolers are aware of some strong feelings, but they are not always able to control their emotional responses. Their mood swings can happen at lightning-fast speeds – from wailing in agony to uncontrollable laughter or giggling. While they enjoy fantasy play at times, their imaginations slip into reality. You may encounter imaginary friends or scary monsters at different times of the day.

You can help your child start to control their emotions first by identifying the type. I see you are angry, sad, frightened, etc. Then you can help your child diffuse the emotional effect by having them take a deep breath, separating them from the upsetting situation, or just merely through distraction, such as counting to 10.

Feelings in A Flash: You can reinforce the recognition of feelings through flashcards. You may even want to keep these cards out so that you can use them often to help your child begin to understand his or her emotional state.

You can expect that they will be able to feel and express empathy with others, but they may not be willing to assist in making that other feel better.

Your child will enjoy their independence. You can help build this skill by limiting the number of choices you give them. Try presenting 2 safe choices and having them select the one they prefer. For example, “Do you want to play in the backyard or on the front porch?” The child exerts his or her independence, and you have framed the choice with 2 safe options. Often you can also give them opportunities that are immaterial, for example, “Do you want to wear the red rubber boots or the yellow ones today?” 

Start a discussion about empathy while playing this game. The game format is a suitable way to approach emotional topics.


Our child will begin to notice some social structures. Family dynamics may be a focus of intense investigation. This may result in questions about why their friend has so many brothers and sisters, but they have none, or why one grandmother has a grandfather, and the other does not.

Diverse Family Figures: Use these figures in many circumstances such as with a playhouse, constructions toys or with other sets.

Your child will move from playing close to a friend but not interacting (parallel play) to interacting with others. They will need many opportunities to learn how to deal with the inevitable conflict.

Game Playing: Learning to Take Turns and Following Rules

One great way to promote positive social interaction is through game playing. The rules need to be clear and the level of involvement needs to be simplified but a game let’s your child learn how to take turns and how to follow rules.

The method of play for Hungry Four needs to be taught but once your preschooler has learned how to play, they can have hours of fun with friends.

There are 4 other games in this series that will tickle your child’s funny bone.

Remember play is your child’s way of learning.

Related Articles

How to Select a Phonics Program: 5 Criteria    Start prereading skills early.

Help your young child understand emotional distress of all sorts by using this technique for storybooks.  5 Tips and Tricks for using Storybooks to Alleviate Emotional Distress 

5 Powerful Strategies for Using Storybooks to Combat Racism: Young Children  

Playing Games Together:  Do you have kids of different ages? Help them learn to play cooperatively together through games. Parent Testimonial:  McKenna Jerman –  I clue lol it’s screaming and fighting with each other all day. But the moments they share together are so special.

The Best 20+ Outdoor Toys for a Preschooler.  Take a look at this blog to save you hours of research time.   

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