Parent's Resource Center


The preschooler
  • Children aged three to five years are all different in what they can do and what interests them but they all develop along a common path.
  • This age is a time of growing independence and learning - to use their bodies, talk, understand and make things. They are busy, active people.
  • At this age children's minds are like sponges. By the time they go to school they will have formed their own personality and ideas about life and learning.
  • Most children of this age:


    • learn through their senses, like to smell, touch, taste, see and feel things
    • can hold a conversation with you
    • form ideas about how the world works
    • are curious about everything
    • need to move
    • want the company of other children
    • are interested in others
    • like to make things
    • play games with friends
    • want to know how to look after themselves
    • like to join in and do what you do
    • revert back to toddler like behavior (thumb sucking, crying, hitting, baby talk) when they are shy or upset, especially in new situations.


  • Many children of this age like to go to child care, play group, kindergym or kindergarten/preschool.
Growing and moving
  • Between the ages of three and five children gain greater control over their movements as their bodies change.
  • They don't like sitting or standing still for long and learn from playing and copying others.
  • Children need some outdoor physical activity every day. Make play safe and fun. You can provide water, sand and mud. Go for walks, climb trees, dig, bike ride and garden. Kicking, bouncing and throwing a ball is fun.
  • Some children may seem a bit clumsy or uncoordinated. Sometimes there is an obvious reason. If you are concerned about your child's physical development see your doctor or child health nurse as soon as possible.
Expressing feelings
  • As children grow older they learn more ways to express their feelings. Instead of just crying when they are afraid, preschoolers may tell you they are afraid, be very quiet or cling to you.
  • Little children learn new ways of handling different situations by watching people. Sometimes they don't cope or get stressed. and They can behave like a toddler, particularly if they are tired or becoming ill.
  • You can help them learn more positive ways of expressing feelings by:


    • accepting your child's feelings and letting them know you understand what they are feeling when you can
    • talking about how bodies feel when we experience emotions, eg 'When I'm scared sometimes my tummy hurts'
    • talking about feelings, being honest about them and using everyday words to describe them.
Being with others
  • Sharing, playing, talking, playing games, saying their names and saying goodbye are all things preschool children learn to do and like to do with others.
  • At this age they need the company of other children. They care what their friends think and often have one or two special friends at different times.
  • Preschoolers accept differences in others. They make all sorts of friends, of all different ages, backgrounds and abilities.
  • Playing with others can help a child work out roles for themselves, solve problems and work together.
  • You can help your child's friendships and play develop by:


    • providing opportunities for them to be with others
    • encouraging them to share
    • listening to and then answering your children, encouraging them to do the same with others
    • giving them choices - 'You have three friends and only two spades to play with so you could share', 'You could find something else to use', 'You could change the game', 'What do you think?'
    • encouraging your child to say 'hello'.


  • Remember, how you behave with others will affect how your child relates to others.
Talking and thinking
  • Preschoolers are good at talking and thinking. These skills will rapidly increase but each child will develop at their own pace.
  • Children want to learn. Providing stimulating experiences which are real and mean something in their lives will help them learn. For example, a ride on a bus can provide experiences about transport, wheels, people, cities, roads, advertising, bus drivers and money.
  • The kind of experiences your children have affects what they think and talk about.
  • The talking and thinking skills you can expect of a preschooler include them being able to:


    • re-tell a short story
    • listen while others talk
    • follow instructions which have two to four key words, 'Please put the doll with the sunhat in the stroller'
    • make connections between things, see similarities and differences between objects
    • put a group of objects in order by size
    • make simple patterns - 'blue bead, red bead, blue bead, red bead'
    • explain what things are used for 'Chop sticks are for eating'
    • show an understanding of big, little, under, over, inside, outside, in front, behind, heavy, light
    • remember things over a period of time
    • explain simple cause and effect relationships 'The stove gets hot because it is turned on'
    • concentrate alone on a task they like, sometimes for up to half an hour
    • recognize their own written names.

Things to watch for

  • If your child has not developed some behaviors by a certain age don't worry on your own, check with a health care professional.
  • You should check if, by the fourth birthday, your child does not:


    • speak so you can understand them most of the time
    • understand and follow simple directions
    • tell their name and age
    • stay with an activity for five to 10 minutes
    • jump up and down on the spot without falling.


  • You should also check with a health care professional if by the fifth birthday your child does not:


    • speak so other people can understand
    • appear interested in things happening around them
    • help to dress themselves
    • have good bladder and bowel control in the day time with few accidents


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