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Learn the 9 Things Your Preschooler's Thinking


Get into her head! Find out how you can help your child's thinking develop.

Click on an item in the set below to see more info.

1. Encourage Symbolic Thought

3 to 4 year olds develop the ability to think about actions, events, and objects. Signs of symbolic thought include using language and make-believe play.

2. Help Your Child Think Concretely

3 and 4 year olds are generally pre-operational thinkers. Significant events like birthday parties and field trips are more easily remembered. 4 year olds have difficult remembering lists or isolated information, and they remember best when the information is presented in a meaningful context.

3. Create Routines

3 and 4 year olds readily remember events that have recently occurred, but they have not yet developed strategies for long-term thinking. They therefore benefit from structure and routines, which guide them about what they will be doing and how they should act.

4. Make Learning a Hands-On Experience

These tots have one thing on their minds: themselves. 4 year olds are developmentally egocentric, meaning they do not really consider how others think, feel, and act. They have a hard time understanding why others don't feel happy when they are happy. Therefore, these young ones best respond to information and activities that are hands-on and relevant.

5. Encourage Your Kid to Categorize by Characteristic

Developing thinking and reasoning skills, 4 year olds are still working to understand how a part relates to the whole. When categorizing an object, they often classify it by one feature rather than considering other characteristics. For example, a child may classify an apple as a snack, but not as fruit. A child may call a goat a dog, because it is small and fury.

6. Help Your Tyke Tell Time

4 year olds have not yet mastered the concept of time. They think of time as either something that happens right away or takes a long while. If you tell a 4 year old you are going to an amusement park in a week, he may ask every day if he is going to ride a merry-go-round that day. Calendars help 4 and 5 year olds understand how long away it is until the that special trip or birthday.

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7. Talk About Fantasy Versus Reality

4 year olds begin to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. 5 year olds better understand that the preschool teacher dressed like a witch on Halloween is really a teacher. They also tend to believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, but also ask important questions about how these magical people find and get to their homes.

8. Teach Your Kid Number Conservation

Longer means more for a 3 or 4 year old. If a 3 year old sees a row of 5 cups spaced 3 inches apart and a second row of 5 cups spaced 1 inch apart, he will think the first row has more cups than the second row. He looks at how the line appears, not the exact number of cups in each line. Conservation of number usually develops around age 5.

9. Talk to Your Child About Quantity Conservation

Taller means more for a 3 or 4 year old. If a 3 year old sees a tall cup and a shorter, wider cup with the same amount of juice in each, he will think the taller cup has more juice. These concrete thinkers look at how the glass appears. They develop an understanding for conservation of quantity around age 5.