Ages and Stages

Ages & Stages – Preschool Children


Three and four-year-old children are often called preschoolers.

Preschool children want to touch, taste, smell, hear, and test things for themselves. They are eager to learn. They learn by experiencing and by doing. Preschoolers learn from their play. They are busy developing skills, using language, and struggling to gain inner control.

Preschoolers want to establish themselves as separate from their parents. They are more independent than toddlers. They can express their needs since they have greater command of language.

Fears often develop during the preschool years. Common fears include new places and experiences and separation from parents and other important people. You can expect the preschool child to test you over and over again.

He or she might use forbidden words and might act very silly. Preschoolers may still have trouble getting along with other children and sharing may still be difficult. Because of their developing imaginations and rich fantasy lives, they may have trouble telling fantasy from reality. They may also talk about imaginary friends. Preschoolers need clear and simple rules so that they know the boundaries of acceptable behavior.


Physical Development - They ride a tricycle. They catch a ball. They stand on one foot. They build towers of 6-9 blocks. They walk on tip toes. They jump horizontally. They handle small objects such as puzzles, and pegboards. They smear or daub paint. They draw or paint in circular and horizontal motions. They grow about 3 inches taller in a year.

Social and Emotional Development - They need to know clear and consistent rules and what the consequences for breaking them are. They enjoy dramatic play with other children. Their emotions are usually extreme and short-lived. They need to be encouraged to express their feelings with words. They begin to learn to share.

Intellectual Development - Preschool children learn best by doing. They need a variety of activities. They need indoor and outdoor space. They need a balance between active and quiet play. They can communicate their needs, ideas, and questions. Their attention span is a little longer so they can participate in group activities.


Physical Development - They run on tip toes. They gallop. They pump themselves on a swing. They hop on one foot. They begin to skip. They throw a ball overhand. They have more small muscle control. They can make representational pictures (for example, pictures of flowers, people, etc.) They like unzipping, unsnapping, and unbuttoning clothes. They dress themselves. They like lacing their own shoes. They can cut on a line with scissors. They can make designs and write crude letters. They are very active and aggressive in their play.

Social and Emotional Development - They sometimes have imaginary friends. They tend to brag and be bossy. They have very active imaginations. They need to feel important and worthwhile. They can be aggressive but want friends and enjoy being with other children. They enjoy pretending to be important adults such as mom, dad, nurse, doctor, mail carrier, police officer. They appreciate praise for their achievements. They need opportunities to feel more freedom and independence. They are learning to take turns and to share. Games and other activities can help preschoolers learn about taking turns.

Intellectual Development - They ask lots of questions, including "how" and "why" questions. They are very talkative. Their language includes silly words and profanity. They enjoy serious discussions. They should understand some basic concepts such as number, size, weight, color, texture, distance, time and position. Their classification skills and reasoning ability are developing.

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