Play and learning for children aged 3-5 years old
As your child grows, the way he or she plays will change – they will get more creative and experiment more with toys, games and ideas. They become more interested in playing and making up games with other children. He or she might be better at sharing and taking turns, but they will still need your support and encouragement
Learning through play
Your preschooler probably loves dressing up, running around with her friends and getting messy. It might seem like they were born to have fun! But play is more than just fun
for children. It’s vital for overall development and wellbeing. It’s how children learn best, and how they work out who they are, how the world works and where they fit into it.
Your child learns through playing by herself or with you at home, and also through playing with teachers and other children at preschool or kindergarten.
Here are some ideas to get your preschooler’s mind and body going:
- Dramatic and pretend play: preschoolers use games like dress-ups to act out confusing or scary scenarios, try out different roles and explore emotions.
- Physical play: climbing over playground equipment teaches preschoolers about coordination and balance, and how far they can push their physical abilities.
- Messy play: play with paints, water or sand is a great outlet for children’s emotions.
- Songs, books, riddles and silly rhymes: it’s great fun to share these with your preschooler, and they also improve her language and vocabulary.
- Sorting games: activities like sorting blocks, buttons or beads can improve language and lay the groundwork for maths and numeracy skills – just make sure to pack away small objects after play to avoid choking hazards.
- Simple board games: these kinds of games give preschoolers a chance to learn about taking turns, following the rules, counting and being a good sport.
Toys and activities for preschoolers
You don’t have to spend lots of money on toys for children. This is because your child learns best by actively engaging with her environment, and by playing with significant people like parents and early childhood educators.
Homemade toys and free activities
are often the most creative ways for you and your child to have fun together.
Your child’s imagination can turn a cardboard box into a cubbyhouse, a boat or a car. A small table turned on its side and covered with a sheet can be just as good. Another idea with endendless potential is a dress-up box with old clothes, shoes, handbags and other odds and ends. Both boys and girls have a lot of fun playing
At this age, your child is developing fast, so keep introducing new challenges. By four and five years, your child might want to try bike-riding, for example. As much as possible, give them plenty of play options and let them choose.
At this age, reading with your child is all about spending special time together, and having fun enjoying the language and pictures in books. At the same time, you’re getting your child familiar with sounds, words, language and, eventually, the value and joy of books. Reading stories also stimulates your child’s imagination and helps them learn about the world around them.
Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day. A favourite comfortable reading place can be part of the routine. In the preschool years, your child might especially enjoy:
- books that tell simple stories, especially ones with rhythm and repetition
- books that use humour and have a sense of fun
- books about families, friends and going to school
- books relating to particular interests - for examples, books about planets or football
Early literacy and numeracy skills
Early numeracy and literacy skills develop through everyday activities and play with you and others.
Here are some simple literacy activities
- Use rhyme whenever you can. Use phrases like ‘snug as a bug in a rug’ or make up nonsense rhymes.
- Sing nursery rhymes with your child when you’re at home, in the car or out and about
- Play ‘I Spy’ with your child using colours.
- Talk about the sounds animals make and ask your child to copy.
- Tell your child stories about when you were younger, or about her family’s past.
- Let your child ‘read’ you her favourite book. Ask your child some questions about the story – for example, ‘What do you think happens next?’
- You can create a home environment that helps your child develop literacy skills by letting your child see you reading and writing. This can be as simple as reading magazines or writing shopping lists.
Simple things you do while you’re together can make a big difference for early numeracy
. Try pointing out the numbers on speed limit signs when you’re driving, or comparing the sizes of rocks in the garden, for example.
Cooking is a great example of how your child learns early numeracy skills. Your child can help stir, pour, fill and mix. It’s a bit messy, so it’s fun – but it also helps them start learning to count, measure, add and estimate.
Screen time for preschoolers is about choosing quality programs and apps and developing healthy screen habits.
Child development experts also recommend limiting children’s daily screen time. The most recent guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day
of screen time, with an adult watching or playing with them.
Good-quality apps or games for preschoolers:
- encourage creativity – for example, by getting children to draw pictures or create stories
- encourage problem-solving – for example, by getting children to work out appropriate clothes for online characters
- develop communication skills – for example, by encouraging children to learn other languages
- develop social skills – for example, by encouraging children to take turns in games
- build on interests – for example, by getting children to build with virtual blocks.
- Good-quality TV programs, movies and videos for preschoolers should have positive messages about relationships, family and life – avoid those that make violence or bad attitudes look good. Check whether a program your child wants to watch is age appropriate, and try to avoid programs that are just about selling promotional toys, apps and gear.
This article was used with permission from the Raising Children Network.