Children Age 3 Through 5: The Preschool Years
The years from 3 through 5 are often referred to as the preschool years. Many young children are entering a school-like setting for the first time. Although growth has slowed somewhat from the frantic pace of the earlier years, development is still rapid during this period. A 3-year-old is very different developmentally from his 5-year-old friend, and each year brings new milestones.
Mario is very much a child and no longer a baby. He has lost most of the baby fat that gave him that chubby look of younger children. Mario’s physical skills have grown, and he is able to balance on one foot, unbutton and button clothing, and ride a tricycle. He has achieved bowel and bladder control and can use the toilet with limited supervision.
Mario’s language continues to develop, with increased vocabulary and sentence structure. He is better able to engage in a real conversation with others, talking with rather than just to others. Mario is full of questions about his world and constantly asks for information about the people and things around him.
During this year, Mario is developing conceptual understanding through playing with people and things. His pretend play has become more complex, and Mario can now include two or three other children in the scenarios he creates. Although his attention span is still relatively short, Mario can use his lively imagination to play out complex themes, especially those in which he imitates adult roles. In the block corner, Mario often constructs and then names what he has made.
Socially and emotionally, Mario continues to make significant progress. He can now establish and maintain short-term friendships with others and begins to enjoy playing with rather than near his buddies. Mario is learning to use social skills such as taking turns, but he finds it difficult to use these emerging skills consistently. His imaginary friend, Buffy, is often included in play themes around home and in school. Mario is often frightened by large dogs and horses and needs comforting when he encounters these animals. Like Mario, many young children are only beginning to use this important social skill.
Mary is an active and confident 4-year-old. Having mastered the basics of movement, she is constantly testing her physical limits to improve upon her skills. Mary climbs higher, runs faster, and pumps vigorously on the swing to challenge her motor skills.
Mary’s language has now matured to the point that she can communicate with others using fairly sophisticated words and sentences. Language becomes a plaything for Mary, and she loves rhyming and nonsense words. Bathroom talk, tall tales, and swearing are also parts of her experimentation with language.
Highly interested in how things work, Mary is constantly asking questions that challenge the adults who work with her. Her interest in the concepts of life and death lead her to explore the world of insects and small animals. Mary will often name her artwork and begins to draw and paint objects that represent things and people in the world. Number concepts are beginning to develop, and Mary enjoys games and songs that incorporate them. Mary understands time as a sequence of events and appreciates a consistent routine to her day.
Mary’s friendships are becoming stronger, and she has clear preferences for playmates. These special friends change regularly, however. Play has now become a truly social activity during most times with others. Occasionally, however, Mary still likes to go off by herself for some quiet time. Turn taking and sharing are becoming easier for Mary because she is beginning to recognize the value of cooperation. However, her growing skills and confidence often lead Mary into confrontations with others. She wants to be the leader and is bossy and assertive in her relationships with peers.
Abdul has calmed down a bit from a few short months ago. He is now much more interested in fine motor activities and spends considerable time building with Legos, cutting paper, making artwork, and engaging in beginning writing activities. Abdul’s interest in swinging, climbing, and running is still strong, and he engages in these activities in a fluid, coordinated, confident manner. He also has fun throwing and catching from short distances.
Abdul’s language use is now fully developed, with a vocabulary of several thousand words. He can construct complex sentences and accurately use grammatical forms in communicating. Abdul eagerly learns new words that give him labels for the increasingly widening world he is exploring. Socially, Abdul has solidified his friendships at school and in the neighborhood. Although he will play with others, his strong preference is to be with his special friends. Cooperative play themes, in which children take on roles, is a common component of Abdul’s activity. He is aware of rules and begins to enjoy simple games.
Abdul’s conceptual knowledge is expanding rapidly. His understanding of numbers has improved, and he can now accurately count 10 objects and count by rote to 20. Abdul can sort objects by either color or shape. He knows the purpose for a calendar and can tell time by the hour. Abdul also understands the concepts of tomorrow and yesterday.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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