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How Children Develop During the Preschool Years

Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

The preschool years (ages 2-1/2 to 5) are an exciting time for young children. When they were infants, they developed a trust of their caregivers. As toddlers, (My favorite class to teach) they began to establish some independence. Now, as preschoolers, they use this trust and independence to actively explore new forms of play (e.g., pretend play) and new environments (e.g., school).

Preschoolers need to learn how to make choices for themselves and how to feel good about the choices they make. It is their job to "learn to take initiative in socially acceptable ways."

I believe that preschool-aged children's style of thinking and learning can best be described as "what you see is what you get," or reasoning based on the way things look. Preschoolers rely heavily on the literal appearance of things as a means of understanding the world around them. For example, if a child breaks her graham cracker into four pieces while her brother breaks his in half, she thinks that she has more graham cracker than her brother because she has four pieces and he only has two pieces. Similarly, a child may begin a friendship with another child because of something appealing that the other child has, such as a pretty dress or a new toy.

 I feel that adults play an important role in helping children take initiative and explore their environments. Adults' behaviors, attitudes and styles of thinking contribute to preschoolers' development. Talking with children and including them in conversations helps to develop their language skills. It is important to give children opportunities for make-believe play. This helps them to understand themselves and others, and encourages their imaginations.

This guide presents the developmental milestones of the preschool years — accompanied by suggestions for how you can foster children's positive development. There is special emphasis on issues relevant to preschoolers, including pretend play, the transition to school, and early literacy.

Written by 

 Patricia Brumdage

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