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Helping Your Preschool Child - KinderArt Littles, Preschool, Daycare and Early Childhood Education Activities and Lessons

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With activities for children from infancy through age 5
Activities - Preschoolers
Children 3 to 5 Years Old

What to Expect

Between their third and fourth birthdays, children :
  • Start to play with other children, instead of next to them;
  • Are more likely to take turns and share and begin to understand that other people have feelings and rights;
  • Are increasingly self-reliant and probably can dress with little help;
  • May develop fears ("Mommy, there's a monster under my bed.") and have imaginary companions;
  • Have greater large-muscle control than toddlers and love to run, skip, jump with both feet, catch a ball, climb downstairs and dance to music;
  • Have greater small-muscle control than toddlers, which is reflected in their drawings and scribbles;
  • Match and sort things that are alike and unalike;
  • Recognize numerals;
  • Like silly humor, riddles and practical jokes;
  • Understand and follow spoken directions;
  • Use new words and longer sentences;
  • Are aware of rhyming sounds in words;
  • May attempt to read, calling attention to themselves and showing pride in their accomplishment;
  • Recognize print around them on signs or in logos.
  • Know that each alphabet letter has a name and identify at least 10 alphabet letters, especially those in their own names; and
  • "Write," or scribble messages.
Between their fourth and fifth birthdays, children:
  • Are active and have lots of energy and may be aggressive in their play;
  • Enjoy more group activities, because they have longer attention spans;
  • Like making faces and being silly;
  • May form cliques with friends and may change friendships quickly;
  • Have better muscle control in running, jumping and hopping;
  • Recognize and write the numerals 1-10;
  • Recognize shapes such as circles, squares, rectangles and triangles;
  • Love to make rhymes, say nonsense words and tell jokes;
  • Know and use words that are important to school work, such as the names for colors, shapes and numbers; know and use words that are important to daily life, such as street names and addresses;
  • Know how books are held and read and follow print from left to right and from top to bottom of a page when listening to stories read aloud;
  • Recognize the shapes and names of all letters of the alphabet and know the sounds of some letters; and
  • Write some letters, particularly those in his own name.

What Preschoolers Need

3 to 4 year-old children require opportunities to
  • Play with other children so they can learn to listen, take turns and share;
  • Develop more physical coordination-for example, by hopping on both feet;
  • Develop their growing language abilities through books, games, songs, science, math and art activities;
  • Develop more self-reliance skills-for example, learning to dress and undress themselves;
  • Count and measure;
  • Participate actively with adults in reading-aloud activities ;
  • Explore the alphabet and print; and
  • Attempt to write messages.
4 to 5 year-old children need opportunities to :
  • Experiment and discover, within limits;
  • Develop their growing interest in school subjects, such as science, music, art and math;
  • Enjoy activities that involve exploring and investigating;
  • Group items that are similar (for example, by size, color or shape);
  • Use their imaginations and curiosity;
  • Develop their language skills by speaking and listening; and
  • See how reading and writing are both enjoyable and useful (for example, by listening to stories and poems, seeing adults use books to find information and dictating stories to adults).


  • Getting Along
    Learning to get along with others is very important for children's social development.

  • Chores
    Any household task can become a good learning game-and can be fun.

  • Scribble, Draw, Paint and Paste
    Young children are natural artists and art projects can spark young imaginations and help children to express themselves. Scribbling also prepares them to use writing to express their ideas.

  • Letters, Letters, Everywhere
    Sharing the alphabet with children helps them begin to learn the letter names, recognize their shapes and link the letters with the sounds of spoken language.

  • Rhyme It
    Rhyming helps children start to pay attention to the sounds in words, which is an important first step in learning to read.

  • Say the Sound
    Listening for and saying sounds in words helps children learn that spoken words are made up of sounds, which gets them ready to match spoken sounds to written letters. This, in turn, gets them ready to read.

  • Matching Sounds and Letters
    Although children can be taught to match most letters with the sounds that they represent, be prepared to give them lots of help.

  • My Book
    Many preschoolers like to talk and have a lot to say. Although most can't yet write words themselves, they enjoy dictating stories for others to write for them.

  • Hands On Math
    Hands-on activities that involve counting, measuring and using number words are a good way to introduce your preschooler to math.

Activities Categories

Next » What About Kindergarten? |
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U.S. Department of Education
Office of Communications and Outreach
Helping Your Preschool Child
Washington, D.C., 2005

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