By Raising Children Network
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Even when it looks like preschoolers are simply playing, their brains are hard at work acquiring vital knowledge about the world.

Preschooler reading with mum

What to expect

Your preschooler will probably:

  • be able to correctly name about four colours by age five. Your child will also be able to match around 12 colours to other colours that look similar
  • start to develop a sense of humour at age four and delight in jokes and riddles by age five
  • start to organise games and make friends from age four
  • still not understand what’s real and what’s pretend until after birthday number five
  • understand some concept of time at four years old, and by five understand that the day is divided into hours and minutes
  • understand concepts such as ‘bigger’ and ‘taller’ from age four, and be able to sort objects from biggest to smallest, or tallest to shortest, by age six
  • be able to be reasoned with from age five
  • learn to follow rules and play fairly in games from the age of five.

At four, a child still has a fairly short concentration span, so expect fidgeting and games that finish abruptly midway through.

Your four-year-old child is also likely to start asking tricky questions about subjects such as where babies come from or death. Read more about talking to your preschooler.

By five and six, your child will probably sit through a full game or finish a whole puzzle – and that brings the new challenge of learning to lose gracefully!

Starting preschool or starting school gives your child lots to think about. There are new rules and routines that are different to those at home. And there are new mental challenges in getting used to formal learning. This can be tiring and confusing at first. Your child might need time and lots of love and support to adjust.

Play ideas to encourage thinking

Your child will learn faster at this age if you step back and provide encouragement and support from the sidelines. Your child will let you know if help is needed.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Offer challenging puzzles.
  • Play board games together.
  • Read books and tell jokes and riddles.
  • Learn some magic tricks for children – try the Kids’ Mysteries website.
  • Play memory card games.
  • Encourage building and construction games.
  • Do simple jigsaw puzzles together.
  • Play card games such as ‘fish’ and ‘snap’.
If your child appears to be having trouble learning at school or continues to be very upset about parting with you for preschool or school after several weeks, it could mean there is a problem. It’s a good idea to consult your health professional to discuss any concerns you have about your child.
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  • Last Updated 17-03-2010
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009