Suggested activities for your Preschoolers

As we have seen in the previous page, Preschoolers, children around age 3 to 4 go through tremendous amount of change physically, emotionally or socially and intellectually.

When asked, most parents know quite a bit about the kinds of things that infants and toddlers go through. But then as we get closer to preschool age, a lot of parents start giving awkward shrugs with embarrassed smiles.

This isn't the fault of the parents. Our society is filled with information on infants and toddlers (possibly because of the 'terrible 2'?), but when it comes to preschoolers, the amount of information available drops off fairly drastically.

So let's take a look at what kinds of activities and toys you should be looking out for when it comes to your preschoolers.

For our purposes, we'll group the 3 year olds with the 4 year olds together and collectively call them Preschoolers.

Overall, Preschoolers need a lot of indoor play as well as outdoor. Trying to steer them to just one of these is like trying to drive while only doing left turn or only right turns. It just doesn't work.

As well, Preschoolers, like most kids, learn best by doing, so expect them to touch things and spill things. Oh yes, it will happen. I just hope you didn't put in new carpets. By the way, getting some artist smock would be a good idea if you want to keep their clothes clean. Of course, I am not recommending that you keep the smock on them 24/7... although the idea had crossed my mind.

Anyways, taking some of their developmental characteristics into consideration, you should be directing your focus mainly on pretend kind of play and games where they need to take turns. Remember that they are becoming more independent, so let be sure to give them more room to explore on their own, even if it's sometimes frustrating to watch them struggle.

I have found it very frustrating at first to watch my daughter try to unbutton her jacket. Then after a few moments, I'd rush in and help her, but not because I wanted to help her. Only because I was too frustrated and didn't have the patience. Okay, I'm not proud of it, so let's drop it.

The point is that when I learned to let her do it on her own, she of course struggled, but eventually figured it out and it seemed to bring her a great amount of joy. It was the joy that I took from her when I rushed in to 'help' her. I learned my lesson (acutally it's still on going). And I thought I was the teacher.

Their gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills should be coming along by now in a big way, so let them play with puzzles and blocks, but in a more challenging way. Encourage them or challenge them to try and build a taller structure (usually up to 9 or 10 blocks).

For gross motor skills, challenge them on the way to the playground and ask if they can jump on to the curb (they are jumping off of them by now, right?). Ah, a new concept- jumping on to things. Hmm...on second thought, maybe you'd like to let this one slip by? Well, I leave that up to you.

When playing indoors with their assortment of toys, ask them to organize their toys and notice how they do it. Encourage them to look at the toys and see if they can organize it by a certain characteristics of the toys (e.g., color, size, shape, etc...).

You might be surprised at how they organize it in the first place. Children see the most strange weird things that most adults miss. It's called lateral thinking. And it's usually what makes geniuses different from us ordinary folks. They can see a connection between things that most people miss.

For example, your preschooler might put her (I often use 'her' because I'm thinking of my own daugher as I write this) toys away that seemingly is chaotic to you. But if you ask them properly, you might find out that the toys were sorted by their appearance of age (they start to be able to tell age, remember?) or maybe by the position or shape of their ears.

There are literally unlimited ways for a child to organize her toys so ask first before jumping in there and 'helping' her. You might end up learning to be a better listener and a better person, all thanks to your preschooler (thank you).

A large chunk of their play time will be taken up by pretend play. They will imitate and pretend to be anyone from T.V show characters, to family members (usually adults) to other important adults that they encounter. They will tend to mimic the actions and language as well.

It is important to let them explore in their own way and at their own pace. Certainly, join them, but let them lead. Remember not to rush in and 'help' them too much "No, a doctor does it like this and say this and ...." This kind of help isn't really helpful and isn't needed. If you want to be invited again into their imaginative world, I suggest you follow the leader.

Another great activity is dancing and singing. My daughter is really into the Backyardigans and loves to sing and dance while watching the episodes.

Since a while ago, my wife and I have started to dance and sing along with our daughter when she watches her favorite episodes. Singing and dancing with the characters is not only fun, we find it good exercise as well (just try following their dance moves).

Embarrassed? Don't be. Your preschooler is not judging you. Your spouse...well, they might. But so what? It's fun. And most importantly your preschooler will love to have you join her and it's good for you. Don't be so self-conscious. Let it loose and become a child again.

As for the neighbors, do what I do. In one word, blinds (or shutters, or curtains). You know what I mean. Actually, lately I've been 'forgetting' to use the blinds during our dance sessions. I figure if they see us, they'll have a good laugh and maybe even start to dance themselves with their kids. Life is too short to worry about things like that.

Stories is another great activity. Not just reading stories, but letting them make up their own or at least an ending to a well known story. You might notice that they are already having some difficulty in coming up with creative endings or stories. This might be a sign that they are losing their imaginative abilities too early.

Encourage them to use their imagination at every possible opportunity. Children at this age should have active imagination. They are much too young, in my humble opinion, to start behaving and thinking like an adult.

Lastly, one great way to foster their imagination is to play with puppets. Don't stress yourself out by thinking of putting on a puppet show. This is certainly a possibility and preschoolers will usually love to have one, but just playing with the puppets is enough.

And you might be surprised at how they open up (your child, not the puppets) through the use of puppets. Chidren often express their feelings better through use of toys such as puppets that they normally have a hard time expressing on their own. In this respect, I guess adults and children are similar.

"education at play"

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