Information on Children Ages

48 months (4 years)
to 60 months (5 years)



How are children learning about feelings and relationships?


How children think about and manage

  • themselves,
  • their feelings and behavior, and
  • their relationships

is what we call social-emotional development.

The development of these skills is as important in children’s success in school as are other skills, such as language and literacy and mathematics.

During the first five years of age, children are learning how to

  • manage their own behavior,
  • recognize, express and manage their feelings,
  • notice and respond in caring ways to the feelings of others,
  • interact with friends,
  • be a member of a group, and
  • develop close relationships with adults, including parents, other family members, and teachers.

Children learn these social-emotional skills in close relationships with adults through back-and-forth communication, shared experiences and nurturing guidance. Play is also central to helping children learn these skills. Through play, children practice their social skills, explore feelings, try on new behaviors and get feedback from others. Play allows children to learn more about themselves and others and develop their communication and interaction skills.

Social-Emotional Development


What are my children learning about themselves and their feelings?

  • She likes to feel “independent” but still likes to spend time with her parents and family.
  • Your five-year old is enthusiastic about doing things herself.  She may refuse your help, even if she is struggling and frustrated.
  • He has developed a lot of skills and likes to show you what he has recently learned how to do.
  • They have lots of ways to describe themselves and their skills. “I’m five now! That is older than four!” “I know all the names of the planets!” “I know how to ride a skateboard! I couldn’t do that when I was a baby.”
  • They can start cleaning up by themselves, sometimes without being asked.
  • They have developed some ways to help themselves calm down when distressed, but sometimes need the support and comfort of their adults to help remind them of strategies they can use.
  • They can express and describe feelings such as “sad,” “mad,” “frustrated,” “confused,” and “afraid,” can explain what caused them, and can ask for specific comfort.
  • They can sometimes predict what feelings will happen in certain situations: “If she hits me, I’ll feel sad and I won’t want to play with her.”
  • They can also describe the feelings of other children and sometimes identify the reason they feel that way: “Theo is mad because Laurene knocked down his blocks.”
  • They can offer comfort and show empathy for others sometimes, especially if they weren’t directly involved in the conflict.

What are they learning about other people and relationships?

  • Friendships are important to children’s success in school and in life.
  • Their growing ability to communicate and negotiate with their friends allows them to play for longer periods of time and to engage in more complex kinds of play. Together with friends they can imagine that they are on a spaceship that travels to outer space and can work together to construct it out of cardboard boxes.
  • They can compare their friends with themselves: “Daniel is the fastest runner, but I can build the highest.”
  • They may be developing special friendships with certain children and use the words “best friend.”
  • They are still learning what “friendship” means and may think that if they are mad at someone, they aren’t friends anymore.
  • They have a variety of skills to enter play with other children. They might watch for a while, start playing beside others, or ask if they can play—for example, suggesting that they could be the “father” in the pretend family play.
  • They have some negotiation skills and might use them to resolve a conflict with friends. They are more often able to share toys and materials in play with other children, but will still engage in negotiations about “who had it first” and “how long the turn will be.”
  • They can give directions to others in play—for example, “You have to be the zookeeper, and we will be the animals”—and can sometimes take directions from others. But other times they might get upset and threaten to leave the play if people don’t do what they want.
  • They can participate in group activities with several other children, and can often wait for a while for their turn to talk.
  • They like to know what will be happening and if given information about an upcoming transition, may be able to participate cooperatively.
  • Parents and teachers are very important to them as sources of comfort and information, but they may resist adult direction or try to negotiate, saying, “I’ll clean up my toys if I can watch a video.”
  • They seem eager to make decisions and continue to do some “testing” to see if the adult is still in charge of a decision.
  • They are beginning to be able to follow the rules and will remind other children of the rules, even if there isn’t an adult nearby, but sometimes still need to be reminded to follow the rules.

Here are some tips to support your child learning about themselves as a person, learning about other people and learning about their feelings

Learning about self as a person

Learning about own feelings

  • Make time regularly to talk about feelings and ask her about her feelings.
    • “How was your day? What were you happy about? Did you get mad about anything? Was there anything sad that happened? What was your favorite part of the day?”
    • “How do you think your friend was feeling today when Derek wouldn’t play with him?”
    • When she shares her feelings and experiences with you, you can listen to her ideas and talk to her about them.
  • Help her to understand his feelings by offering names for them when she doesn’t have words for them.
    • “It looks like you are feeling sad.”
    • “It can be frustrating when you try to build a tower and it keeps falling down.”
    • “I can see how excited you are to go to your friend’s house.”
  • Help her to find safe ways to express her feelings.
    • “It looks like you are angry with your friend. Can you tell her what you are angry about?”
    • “It’s not safe to hit someone when you are mad. What else could you do when you are mad that will be safe for you and those around you?”
  • When your child is fearful, stay close and offer comfort. Sometimes your child doesn’t want to be taken away from the scary situation, but wants you to be there to help. If she is afraid of monsters, you can ask her about what she is worried about. She might want to draw pictures of the monsters she is afraid of. You could even help her make her pictures into a book (stapling it together and writing her words for the story). You can ask her what might make him feel safer. Discussing the things that she is afraid of can help her gain a sense of mastery and knowledge and can help the fear feel more manageable.
  • Let her know that all her feelings are healthy and that you will listen to or acknowledge her feelings. This allows her to trust you with her feelings and not feel like she has to hide her feelings from you, and sets the stage for her to be able to share her feelings with you for a long time to come.

Learning about other people

  • Provide opportunities for him to play with other children (at the park, with neighbors or family, in childcare or in community activities).
  • Check in periodically when he is playing with other children. He may need some help in negotiating, listening to her friends’ ideas, voicing his own ideas and feelings and coming up with solutions when there are conflicts. He may also need some help with safety, as he and his friends might be excited about trying new things and don’t always know how to make safe decisions.



How are children learning language?


Children are born ready to communicate and to learn language. Listening to the language of their families, children soon start to distinguish familiar sounds and to build a vocabulary of words they understand, even before they can speak. Children’s ability to understand language is called “receptive language.”

At first, young babies communicate through making sounds, e.g., crying, and through making gestures. As they approach toddlerhood, they begin to use a few familiar words and, by 4 and 5 years old, they have large vocabularies and follow the rules of grammar when they communicate using language. Children’s ability to use language to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and feelings is called “expressive language.”

As children are learning about spoken language, they are also learning about written language–through books, signs, and notes. Before learning to read words, children learn that print represents words and before writing, they learn to make marks and draw pictures. By the time they turn 5 they understand that letters make words and that words can make stories that they will learn to read. Many 5 year olds can also read and write their own name.

Language Development & Literacy


How do children learn language and begin to understand reading and writing?

  • Around 5 years old, children are able to communicate their ideas and feelings, ask and answer questions, and understand what is said to them. They are able to talk in some detail about things that happened in the past and that will happen in the future.
  • They can participate in extended conversations with others, responding appropriately and staying on topic most of the time.
  • They can tell stories and relate sequences of events. They are usually able to distinguish between imaginary and real events in their stories.
  • At around 5 years old, children like to play with the sounds of words, making up silly rhymes. They also like to make up “nonsense” words and sometimes experiment with “potty” language.
  • At around 5 years old, many children can recognize letters and are beginning to copy or write them. Many learn to write their names and begin to recognize some favorite words. They are interested in drawing and writing, and many can copy words if you write them first.
  • Around 5 years old, children also pretend to read books, may recognize specific words and may memorize the story as well as familiar songs.

Bilingual Language Development

How do children in bilingual or non-English-speaking families learn language?

  • Young children are very skilled at learning language and have the ability to learn two or more languages even before they begin school.
  • Families who speak a language other than English at home can use their home language as their primary language with children. Learning their home language helps children feel connected to their family and culture. They can learn English at the same time if the family is bilingual or they can learn English when they begin childcare or school.
  • Families support language learning by talking, reading and singing to their children in their home language. In this way children learn many words and language skills that will help them when they begin learning English.
  • Check with your local library for books in your home language.
  • Children who have this opportunity to become bilingual at an early age will benefit from the use of both languages throughout their lives.

Listening and Speaking

How do speaking and listening help a child learn language?

Using language and engaging in conversation are very important first steps to learning to read and to school success. The more words children hear and the bigger their vocabularies, the better they do in school. Children are eager learners of language and are fascinated with the power of language

  • to communicate their needs, feelings and ideas,
  • to share their personal experience with others,
  • to make things happen,
  • to get and give information,
  • to solve problems and explore ideas,
  • to help them make connections with people,
  • to create and tell their stories,
  • to make plans for things they want to do, and
  • to persuade others or argue their point.

Children learn language by listening, talking, practicing new words, and being listened to and responded to. Children learn more words when you use new words with them. Families have many, many everyday opportunities to help children learn language.

Tips for what families can do to support children learning language:

  • You can support children’s language development during your routine daily activities. Language isn’t something that has to be taught in “special lessons.” When families talk with children they are naturally teaching language. Using language with children is all that families have to do. The more language families use with children, the more children will learn.
  • In the car, at the store, on a walk, at home doing chores, while child is playing, during meals, or at bedtimeWhen you talk about things that are immediate and familiar, children can understand the language better because they have visual clues and experiences to match your words.
  • Talk about
    • what you are seeing,
    • what they are doing,
    • what you are doing,
    • what you did together earlier, or
    • what you are going to do later.
  • Add a few new descriptive words when you are talking to children. One of the ways we naturally build vocabulary with children is by introducing new words along with the familiar ones they already know and with visual clues so they can more easily understand the new words.
    • “There is a dog.”
    • “There is a big, bouncy dog.”
    • “There is a big, bouncy, curly-haired dog who is sniffing the rock and wagging its tail.”
  • Share stories with them.
    • Stories give you a chance to share what is important to you, what you value and how you think about things. Stories can help children feel connected to you and invested in learning language.
    • Children love to hear stories from your childhood. These stories can teach them about history, family and culture.
    • Stories can be about your day, or about things you are interested in. You can use stories to remember and reflect on your child’s day.
    • Stories don’t have to be long. They can include what happened, how you or your child felt about it, how people solved problems, or what it was like for you to be a child.
    • You can use stories to demonstrate ideas that you value, for example, persistence, creativity, compassion, generosity, caring, bravery, teamwork.
  • Ask children questions. Asking children questions gives them a chance to reflect on and think about what they know and also offers them an opportunity to practice choosing and articulating words. It also lets them know that you value their ideas.
  • Ask them about
    • what they see,
    • what they are doing,
    • what they are thinking about,
    • how they feel,
    • what they like,
    • what happened earlier, or
    • what they think is going to happen.
  • Ask them follow-up questions. When they tell you something, you can ask for more details.
    • Asking more questions challenges them to think more deeply about what they know and to find words to describe it. Responding to your questions is one way for them to stretch their language muscle.
    • “Wow, you and Rigo played dragons. What did the dragons do? Tell me more about the dragons. How do you think dragons make that fire that comes out of their mouths?”
    • “You drew a spaceship? What does your spaceship have inside? What makes your spaceship fly? Where is your spaceship going? Tell me more about your spaceship.”
  • Ask questions that allow children to create their own answer (avoid questions that have yes or no answers). When we ask children questions that don’t have a “right answer,” they can be more creative and thoughtful in their answer, rather than just trying to figure out what you want them to say.
  • Here are some examples of questions that might lead to less conversation or more conversation:
    • “What was the funnest thing you did today?” (open-ended—more conversation)
    • “Did you have fun at school today?” (yes/no or closed-ended question—less conversation)
    • “What can you tell me about your friend Theo?” (open-ended—more conversation)
    • “Do you like Theo?” (yes/no or closed-ended question—less conversation)
  • Ask questions that you don’t have the answer for already. Asking questions that you don’t have the answer for already communicates to children that you are genuinely interested in their thinking and therefore that their thinking is important.
    • “What do you notice on this page?” (unknown answer—a good way to support children’s thinking)
    • “What do you think the dog is going to do?” (unknown answer—a good way to support children’s thinking)
    • “What color is the dog?” (known answer—less supportive of children’s thinking)
  • You can invite your child to answer the question they asked you. Children usually have a guess already when they ask you a question. Asking children what they think encourages them to put their thoughts into words and gives them more opportunity to participate in conversation with you.
    • “That’s an interesting question. How do you think stars get up in the sky?”
  • Listen to children.Children will talk more when they know that you are listening. More talking gives them more practice with language.
  • You can let them know you are listening by
    • making eye contact,
    • allowing quiet space for them to talk or finish what they are saying,
    • turning the TV off,
    • creating “talking time” regularly (for example, sitting on the couch together, taking a walk together, snuggling at bedtime),
    • repeating or restating what they said to let them know you heard them,
    • asking questions, or
    • thanking them for sharing their ideas or stories with you.
  • You can use technology to support children’s language development
    • Use your phone to record children’s words and stories. When you play it back you can talk about what they said.
    • Use your phone to take photos of things you have seen and done during the day. When you look at the photos with your child you can talk about your observations and activities.


How do children learn to read?

  • When you read with children you begin to open up whole new worlds for them. Reading allows them to learn about a powerful form of communication and gives them access to all kinds of information.
  • Most children love to share a book with a family member. Reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to help them learn to read and to be successful in school.
  • Reading doesn’t just happen with books. Children are fascinated with signs, labels, instructions, notes, letters, and emails. Learning the many uses there are for reading helps children be even more excited about learning to read.
    • Early reading experiences for children start with children learning to recognize photos and pictures. They learn that photos and pictures can be named and talked about. They also learn that stories can be told about pictures in books. And eventually they learn that the letters on the page tell the story about the pictures or describe them. For example, they start to understand that there is a connection between the picture of an apple and the letters “a-p-p-l-e” on a page—that the letters represent the idea of an apple.
  • When children are becoming familiar with books, they are learning many things:
    • that books are important (because they are important to you!) and because they have so much interesting information in them;
    • how you use a book—hold it, turn the pages, talk about every page;
    • how you can use it with someone or by yourself;
    • where the story is (is it in the pictures or in the letters at the bottom of the page or in the memory of the person reading it?); and
    • how books are organized (the title and authors’ names are on the front and the story is inside).

Tips for what families can do to support children in pre-reading activities:

  • Look at photos and pictures with children, ask them what they see, and talk about what you see. This helps children develop their observation skills and gives them the opportunity to practice and increase their vocabulary. Talking about pictures can help children experience the feeling of reading.
  • Ask them what they think is happening in the picture. This gives children a chance to practice “telling their own story” and may help them to think of themselves as storytellers and writers.
  • Notice words in the environment and point them out to children. When we point out the places that words are used in the world, children begin to see the importance of the written word and feel even more motivated to learn how to read those words.
    • When you are in the car, you can talk to children about the road signs.
    • In the grocery store, children can help you “read” the labels on the cans and packages.
  • Read them what you are writing.When children see writing in process and hear what it means, they can more clearly see the connection between writing letters and communicating a message.
    • “I’m making a list for the grocery store. Here it says ‘cheese,’ and here it says ‘rice.’ What kind of fruit should we put on our shopping list?”
    • “I’m writing a note to your teacher that says we are going out of town next week.”
  • Read notes and letters out loud to them.
    • “Here is a note your teacher wrote. It says, ‘Dear Families. . .’“
  • Point to the words you are reading. Pointing to words helps children understand how the spoken word is connected to the written word.
    • “This is a note from Grandma. Here she says, ‘“I love you.’” Here she says, ‘“I’m going to come to visit you.’”“
  • Read them emails and text messages also. Sometimes words on a screen aren’t as obvious to children. Showing them these words helps them see how technology can also carry written words and communication.
    • Many of the words in their environment are electronic and this can also provide opportunities for learning to read.
  • Look for opportunities to write down their words. Writing down children’s words is one of the most important things you can do to demonstrate to them the power of writing and reading. If their own words can be “saved” and shared with more people and at a different time, they can feel the power of writing and reading.
    • If they are feeling sad to say good-bye to their friend, you can suggest that they might want to write a note. They can draw the picture and tell you what to write. Once you have written their words down, read them back to your child.
    • If their friend is having a birthday, they can help make a card—by drawing and telling you the words to write.
    • If they build something and want to save it, you can help them make a sign (using their words) to tape on their structure.
  • Make drawing materials available to them (pencils, pens, markers, chalk). When they draw, you can ask if they want to tell you about it. You can write down their “story” on a post-it note and then ask if they want you to read it back to them. Drawing materials give them a chance to practice how to make lines and shapes—the skills they will eventually need for writing. Even drawing pictures gives them the sense of being able to communicate their ideas in different ways and they can begin to have the experience of being an “author” themselves.
  • Read books to children.Reading books to children not only gives them practice with all the skills necessary for reading, but it also communicates to them how important reading is to you.
    • Provide a variety of children’s books on a shelf or in a basket that children can reach.
    • You can make regular trips to the library or bookstore to get books for your child.
    • Include reading as a regular activity with your child (find a time every day when you can read books with your child).
    • Turn off the TV to make time for reading.
    • Read books more than once to your child. Children generally love to read the same book many times.
    • Talk about the book with your child.
    • Before turning the page, ask your child what they think is going to happen next.
    • As well as reading the words, you can discuss the story and pictures with your child: “What do you see on this page?”; “Why do you think the boy climbed to the top of that tree?”; “What would you do if you were riding that horse?”
    • Before reading one of your child’s favorite books to him, ask if they want to tell you the story first.
    • Sometimes, when reading to your child, you can point to the words as you read them.
    • Explain to your child what the words on the cover of the book are. “This is the title of the book. It gives you an idea of what the book is about.” “This is the author’s name. The author is the person who wrote the book. This is the illustrator’s name. He is the person who made the pictures for the book.”
    • Talk to your child about letters and sounds.
    • Point out the letters in special words, like your child’s name. “Your name starts with an ‘“S,’” Sergio. Can you think of any other words that have that ‘“ssss’” sound? We can also look around for words that start with ‘“S.’” We could make a list of all the words we hear the ‘“ssss’” sound in.”
    • Play with sounds and rhyming. Using songs, poems or other rhyming words, you can help children hear and compare the sounds of the words.
    • You can play rhyming games in the car. “The bear has black hair. Can you think of a word that sounds like ‘bear’ and ‘hair’?”


How do children learn to write?

  • By 5 years old, children may be writing some letters. They might be big and take up the whole page, they might be backward and upside down, but these are the beginning stages of actually writing words.
  • Many children are interested in learning how to write their names and sometimes want to write the names of their friends as well. Children are most motivated to write about things that are important to them and may be more interested in having you write the word “triceratops” for them to copy than a simpler word.
  • Children become interested in writing at different ages—some as early as 3, and others at 6. You don’t have to “force” your child to write. If you keep opportunities open and pens, pencils and paper available, most children will initiate writing when they are ready.
  • When children begin to write, they don’t have to spell things correctly at first. Many children begin to put letters together based on their sounds as they begin to “write.” It is more important that children have the opportunity to practice using the letters than it is that they have all the words spelled correctly.

Tips for what families can do to support children learning to write:

  • Have a variety of writing tools and paper (pencils, pens, fine-tip markers, paper of different sizes) where children can see them and reach them themselves. Children often have the need to draw pictures or make signs in their play. Having materials readily available will encourage them to use these in their play more often.
  • You can also include tape and paper strips, so children can make signs or envelopes and can write letters or notes. Some children may like to have paper with wide lines for writing.
  • Create a favorite “word pouch” for your child that can hold words your child has asked you to write for them. When children can revisit those words, they start to become familiar with what they look like and can begin to start “reading” them.
  • You can print or buy an alphabet chart so that you and your child can refer to it when she is wanting to know how something is spelled. Posting an alphabet allows your child to reference the letters on their own and may help them to feel like they can begin to write independently.
  • You can offer sets of letters to your child. Having letters around helps your child become familiar with their shapes and allows her to start arranging them, even before he is fully able to write them.
    • There are different kinds of letters you can buy, including magnetic letters that children can use on the refrigerator, or you can simply write letters on little pieces of thick paper and offer them to children to use in making words.
  • Invite your child to write with you when you are writing notes or making lists. Children love to be helpful and to participate in adult work. This can spark their interest in learning more about writing.
    • “I’m going to make a shopping list. Do you want to help me?” If you know your child can write certain letters, you can invite him to write them on your list. “I’m writing ‘apples’ on the list and that starts with an ‘A’ like your name. Do you want to write the ‘A’ for me?”
  • Offer to write children’s stories or words for them.
    • If there is a friend or someone they would like to communicate with, you can offer to help them write a note.
    • If they draw a picture, you can ask them if they want to tell you about it and have you write down their ideas.



How are children learning about numbers?


Young children explore and begin to practice the skills needed for mathematics long before they enter elementary school. During the first years of life, children learn to count, recognize shapes and patterns, compare sizes and amounts, and recognize similarities and differences. Children develop these skills through their self-initiated exploration and play with materials and through simple interactions with adults. Everyday interactions such as adults counting fingers and toes, offering two pieces of banana, and arranging blue and white socks in different piles contribute to children’s growing math skills. Children begin to communicate about amounts of things by using words such as “more” and “bigger.”

As they grow older they learn to count a few numbers. They also build their understanding of quantity through activities such as putting plates and cups on a table. They become aware of how adults use counting in everyday life and learn about how to use numbers by imitating adults. Throughout the early years, most children are naturally interested in numbers. Fun activities that involve numbers strengthen children’s natural interest and encourage them to learn more about math concepts.

Number Sense


What are preschool children learning about numbers?

Young children begin to practice the skills needed for arithmetic and math far before they enter elementary school. Most of these skills are developed through their self-initiated play with materials and through simple interactions with adults.

  • Young children learn counting skills through everyday interactions such as putting plates on the table, counting their fingers to tell you how old they are, and counting the number of apples needed so each child can have one.
  • Children usually learn how to say “1-2-3-4-5” (sometimes putting the numbers in different order) before they know that each number represents something. For example, they might have three strawberries and count them “1-2-3-4-5,” because they don’t know that each strawberry gets only one number. As a child begins to get this concept, you might see her lining up all the animals and giving each one a leaf to eat. Eventually, they learn that if you are counting something each object gets one number.
  • Young children are also beginning to understand the ideas of “more” and “less” and will notice if someone has more cookies than they do, but they don’t clearly understand quantity. If they have one cookie and their friend has one cookie cut into two pieces, they might think that their friend has more cookies. Their ideas about “more” and “less” help them learn to compare more than two things. As they get more experience, they will be able to sort three sticks from shortest to longest or three balls from smallest to biggest.
  • Children around the age of 5 can count to twenty, but may miss some numbers (for example, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-13-14-16-17-19-20). They may count while they are hopping, or waiting for a turn, or just showing you, “I can count to 20!”
  • They recognize some written numbers: “See the numbers are in the corner of the page. That is a 6. That is a 7.”
  • Five-year-olds can look at a group of things—up to 4—and tell you the number without counting. In reading a book, they can look at the page and tell you, “Now there are 4 ducks.” During snack, a child can look at her plate and announce, “I have 4 crackers on my plate.”
  • At five years of age, children can usually count up to 10 objects, pointing at each when they say the number. Putting 10 potatoes in the bag at the grocery store, she can count each one as they go in the bag.
  • When counting, children at this age can tell you how many things they have, because they understand that the last number they used in counting is the total number they have. “One, two, three, four, five, six. I have six pinecones!” They can also count the number of people in the family and count the number of napkins they need so everyone can have one.
  • They can also tell you that if more dolls are added to the doll bed, there will be more. Similarly, if they count the number of sticks they have as 8 and the number their friend has as 6, they will tell you that they have more than their friend has or that their friend has fewer than they do. If they have five blocks and their friend has five, they will tell you that they both have the same.
  • Five-year-old children can do simple addition and subtraction. If they have 6 strawberries, they can ask for one more and tell you they have 7. If they have 5 crackers and they eat two, they might announce, “Now I have three. If I eat two more, I’ll only have one left!” Sometimes they may need to re-count the new group to confirm how many are there.
  • They can think about two small groups making a larger group when put together. “I have 3 boats and you have 3 boats. If we put them all in the water, there will be 6 boats.” They can also imagine that a bigger group will be smaller if separated into two groups. “There are 4 cookies. That means 2 for you and 2 for me.”

Tips for families to help children in understanding numbers:

Many of the things that families do naturally with children help them to develop their math and number skills. There are many opportunities in our everyday lives where adults are counting things and children are practicing numbers in their play. Here are some suggestions of things families can do:

  • Count out loud, so your children can hear the sequence of numbers and notice how often you use counting in your day.
    • Count the kisses you give your child, count the trees outside your home, or count the number of times the dog barks.
  • Point to things as you count them so that children can see how each number you say represents one object.
  • Shopping, cooking and eating provide many opportunities for counting:
    • “Shall we get 4 apples or 5? Can you count them for me as I put them in the bag?”
    • “If we get 3 yellow apples and 3 red ones, how many will we have? Let’s count them.”
    • “I think I’ll get the bigger bag of tortillas, because we have all our cousins coming for dinner. Can you reach the bigger one for me?”
    • “We have 3 bags of groceries. Do you think they will all fit in our car?”
    • “How many bags would you like to carry in and how many shall I carry?”
    • “After we wash our hands, can you get 5 tortillas out of the bag for me?”
    • “I need to have 4 potatoes washed. Can you get them out of the refrigerator and scrub them in the sink?”
    • “Can you get the plates to put on the table? How many people do we have in our family? How many plates will you need? Can you make sure there are enough chairs for everyone, too?”
  • Ask your child to guess or predict how many things there are and then count them together. Making predictions, even if children’s guesses are wrong, gives them a chance to think about numbers and increases their interest in counting.
    • “How many buses will come by before our bus gets here?”
    • “How many strawberries do you think are in this basket?”
  • You can ask your child simple adding or subtracting questions.
    • “If you have five cookies and you eat two, how many will you have left?”
    • “If you have four pennies and I give you one more, how many will you have?”
    • These little games can be done with actual objects so that your child can see the things. Once they are confident with these problems using objects, you can try asking the questions without the objects.
  • You can also invite your child to ask you number questions.
  • Children will make lots of mistakes when they are learning about numbers. Without saying that they are “wrong,” you can gently suggest that we count again together. Or you can say, “You counted five ducks and I only see four.”
  • These conversations about numbers should be fun. If your child seems stressed or doesn’t want to do these games, you can wait and try again later or try a different game.Most young children are naturally interested in numbers. Keeping number activities fun strengthens their natural interest and encourages them to learn more about numbers.



How are children becoming skillful at moving their bodies?


  • Physical development and physical activity play an important role in health throughout a child’s life span. In particular, being physically active protects against heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It also contributes to mental health, happiness and psychological well-being.
  • Physical movement skills are a basis for other types of learning and allow opportunities for children to engage with others, to explore, to learn, and to play.
  • Physical activity prepares children for activities in later life, including fitness activities, organized sports, and recreation.
  • Infants, toddlers and preschool children are developmentally ready and very motivated to learn new movement skills. The preschool period is an opportune time for young children to learn fundamental movement skills. If children do not learn those skills during the preschool period, they may have difficulty learning them later, and their ability to participate in physical activities may be affected for the long term.
  • During the preschool years, children develop important movement skills. Those skills build on the physical development that happened for children in infancy and toddlerhood.
  • We now know how much children learn through physical activity outdoors in the natural world. It is important for adults to help children have opportunities for this kind of play, as many children spend a majority of their time in front of a television or computer screen instead of engaged in physical activity.
  • The more experience children have with physical activities, the more confidence they develop and the more willing they are to try new things and develop new skills. Children who spend a lot of time in front of the television or the computer may be less willing to try new physical challenges and may miss the chance to develop important physical skills.
  • Research highlights the benefits of experiencing nature for children and shows that children prefer spending time in natural settings. Further, we also know that access to green, outdoor spaces improves children’s thinking skills and their well-being and relationships.

Physical Development


Some of the things you might see with five-year-old children:

  • Showing a developed sense of balance.
  • Maintaining balance while standing on one foot for several seconds.
  • Maintaining balance when they come to a stop after running.
  • Balancing a bean bag on top of their head.
  • Walking forward and backward, “balancing” on a wide line pattern on the rug.
  • Walking along a zigzag pattern on the rug.
  • Walking down steps using alternating feet without holding railing.
  • Balancing while walking on the edge of the sandbox.
  • Playing a game of “freeze”—moving in different ways and stopping, holding the last position for a few seconds.
  • Balancing a bean bag on the head or different parts of the body while walking along a straight line.
  • Running and stopping with control at a desired spot.
  • Running lightly on toes.
  • Running, sometimes moving around obstacles without falling.
  • Jumping over a block using both feet.
  • Jumping forward 3 feet, using both feet together.
  • Galloping (running, leading with one foot) in a rhythmic way.
  • Hopping on one foot for several feet and changing direction to land on different targets.

Tips for families to support preschooler physical development:

  • Preschoolers need lots of opportunities to move, to run, to climb, to jump, to build and to throw. They enjoy carrying heavy things and building with blocks and other natural materials.
  • Preschoolers love to transport things. They like to carry things and to push things in carts, boxes or trucks. They also enjoy carrying things, such as baskets or purses with handles that they can use to fill and carry— recycled water bottles, or other things they find.
  • Preschoolers love to build, stacking things as high as they can and creating houses, roads, buildings, zoos, stores, bridges and other structures they can use for pretend play. They will do this with almost anything they can find—cans and boxes from the cupboard, sticks and leaves from outside, small scraps of wood from the lumber store, several large cardboard boxes, or sets of building blocks or snap together blocks.
  • Preschoolers also love to climb and some will climb on anything they can find (chairs, tables, shelves, couches, benches).
    • Decide what is safe for your child to climb on and remind them to climb there when they start climbing on other things.
    • You can also use mattresses, cushions and low platforms for children to climb on and use in building forts.
    • Outdoor playgrounds provide opportunities for climbing for children, as do natural areas with logs, boulders and hills. You and your child can explore your neighborhood for appropriate climbing places.
    • Children will sometimes fall when they are climbing, and most of the time they catch themselves and only get small scratches. These simple falls are also how they learn. They often want to go back to the same spot to try climbing again and will do it successfully because of what they learned the previous time.
    • When your child begins to climb, it is important that you look around the area to see if it is a safe environment.
  • Preschoolers enjoy being outside. Even short walks outside give children a chance to try out different surfaces for walking, running, galloping, hopping and jumping, and to watch the seasons and experience what the community has to offer.Children often put a lot of physical energy into their play. Most are naturally motivated to try new physical challenges and practice new skills.
  • Preschoolers enjoy challenges. If you are walking on the sidewalk, you might want to set different goals for them. “Can you run to the big tree? Can you hop all the way to the corner? Can you hop for 3 steps and walk for 3 steps and hop for 3 again? Shall we try walking backward for a few steps, walking forward a few steps and then walking backward again? Can you walk on the line down the center of the sidewalk? Can you walk on this squiggly crack in the sidewalk?”
  • Children at this age also enjoy throwing. You can provide a variety of soft balls that they can throw. They may also be interested in beginning to hit balls with things like bats, sticks, or cardboard tubes.
  • Preschoolers also like to stretch their muscles by carrying or moving heavy things. A sealed bottle or box of laundry detergent would be fun for them to carry inside for you. They enjoy carrying small stools around so they can reach a book off the shelf. They can help bring in the groceries or push the laundry basket to the table for folding.Helping you with “grown-up” work gives children opportunities to develop their physical skills and also to develop their emotional and social skills.
  • Children around the age of 5 love wheel toys, small tricycles and bikes, wagons, carts and trucks, all of which provide ways for them to use their physical skills and also can be part of their pretend play.



What skills help children learn?


Young children develop many skills that help them learn and solve problems. These skills include the ability to pay attention, even when there are distractions, to observe, to ask questions, to gather information and to explore different ways to solve problems. These skills are called approaches to learning.

Young children learn to use math concepts such as number, shape, and size when solving problems. They use all of their senses to gather information, notice differences and similarities, and often make comparisons. They carefully observe people and things and form hypotheses and make predictions based on their observations. They also do simple experiments and evaluate the outcomes of their experiments.

Young children are naturally curious. Adults can encourage children’s curiosity and initiative by asking children open-ended questions, being responsive to their questions, and providing a wide variety of materials for them to explore. Such support strengthens children’s growing confidence as learners and willingness to keep trying to solve challenging problems.

Approaches to Learning


What skills do preschool-aged children use to solve problems?

  • One skill that preschool children use to solve everyday problems is math reasoning.
  • Math concepts like number, counting, shape and size all help children with solving problems. Children use these skills to choose what size plate they will need for their quesadilla, to figure out how many cars they need so each of their friends can have one and to search for a blanket big enough to cover two babies.
  • A young preschool child may begin by trying an idea that doesn’t work. An older preschool child may try several strategies, finally finding one that works. Whether their ideas work at first doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they are practicing using these ideas, testing them out and changing their course of action when necessary. These strategies are useful in everyday problem-solving, as well as in developing other math skills.
  • Children also use observation and investigation skills to solve problems.
  • Children use all their senses to gather information, and to construct meaning and knowledge.
  • They are naturally curious observers and notice small things that many adults miss, like the ants coming out of the crack in the sidewalk.
  • Children may also use tools provided to them for measuring or observing, with the guidance of adults. For example, when observing a leaf, they may use a magnifying glass to see the “lines” more clearly or use a ruler (or unit blocks) to measure its length. Through observation, children begin to recognize and describe similarities and differences between one object and another.
  • Children use their developing skill at careful observation to compare and contrast objects and events and classify them based on different attributes. For example, a child might separate all the “pointy” leaves from all the round leaves or separate the big leaves from the small ones.
  • Children may also investigate objects and events by trying things to see what happens. For instance, they may investigate what happens to the toy car when it rolls down ramps with bumpy or smooth surfaces, test what happens to plants placed in locations with or without light, or test out their ideas of how to use pipes to make water go up and down in the water table.
  • They learn to make predictions about changes in materials and objects based on their knowledge and experience, and to test their predictions through observations or simple experiments.
  • Children use their skills of observation and investigation to ask questions, observe and describe observations, use scientific tools, compare and contrast, predict, and make inferences.

Children use expanded mathematical thinking to solve problems every day.

For example:

  • A child, after setting the table for dinner, might notice that there aren’t enough chairs for everyone and bring an extra stool over.
  • A child might use one object to measure another. For example, she might lay books end-to-end to measure how long her bed is.
  • A child might predict how many grapes are in a bunch and then suggest that he and you count them to find out.
  • A child might be building a road with long blocks and, when she can’t find any more long blocks, might use two smaller blocks to “fill in” for the longer block.
  • A child, when cutting paper money for his friends to use at his “grocery store,” might announce, “I need to cut two more dollars for Ziya and Dylan.”
  • A child might sort her animals into two groups, big animals and small animals, and then get big leaves for the big ones to eat and small leaves for the smaller ones to eat.

Children demonstrate curiosity and an increased ability to ask questions about objects and events in their environment.

  • A child, when playing with cars, might use a board to create a sloped ramp and roll different toy cars down the ramp. She might check which car goes the farthest when rolling down the ramp.
  • A child, while digging in the mud, might see a worm and wonder, “Does it live in the ground? I see another one. Is it their home?”
  • A child, while outside, might look up and ask a parent, “How come I can see the moon in the daytime?”
  • A child, while sorting different rocks, might pick up one of the rocks and wash it with soap and water. Then he might get the magnifying glass to observe it more closely.

Children observe objects and events in the environment and describe them in greater detail.

  • A child might observe a sweet potato growing in a jar and identify the buds and roots, and might also communicate, “There are white roots going down and small leaves.” The child might take a photograph of the sweet potato, with the teacher’s assistance, to document the potato’s growth.
  • A child, after a walk on a rainy day, might describe what the raindrops look like and how they feel, sound, smell, and taste.
  • A child with visual impairments might manipulate seashells on the sand table and describe what she touches: “It’s bumpy and round,” or “It’s smooth and flat.”
  • A child, observing a snail closely, might describe it: “It is hard like a rock. Its body looks very soft. It moves very, very slowly. It has two long pointy things [antennas] sticking out.”
  • A child might observe a caterpillar (or a picture of a caterpillar) closely and draw a picture of the caterpillar in his journal. He might then communicate, “It has stripes—yellow, white, and black—like a pattern.”

Children can identify and use a greater variety of observation and measuring tools, such as measuring tapes and scales.

  • A child might ask for a magnifying glass to observe a worm more closely and communicate, “I need the magnifying glass to look very close.”
  • A child, fascinated with the growth of her green beans, might get a ruler and say to her parent, “I want to see how big it is.”
  • A child, while preparing dough, might use a measuring cup to pour one cup of flour.
  • A child, while building, might stack blocks to his height and count the blocks to measure his height.

Children compare objects and events and describe similarities and differences in greater detail.

  • A child might observe that the plants she has been watering are “bigger, and the leaves are green, but the one that didn’t get watered has yellow leaves and looks dead.”
  • A child might explore different kinds of squash by using sight and touch and describe their similarities and differences: “These are more round, but this is long. This squash is yellow and green and is very smooth, but that one feels bumpy.”
  • A child might compare objects that can roll down a ramp (such as balls, marbles, wheeled toys, or cans) with objects that cannot roll down (such as a shovel, block, or book). For example, he might refer to objects that can roll down and communicate, “These are round and have wheels.”
  • A child might compare a butterfly with a caterpillar (while observing pictures or actual objects); for example, she might communicate that the butterfly can fly and the caterpillar cannot and that the butterfly has a different shape and different colors.
  • A child might observe and describe what the sky looks like on a foggy day and how it is different on a sunny day.
  • A child, when working in the garden, might use a real shovel and describe how it is similar to or different from the toy shovel in the sandbox area.

Children might demonstrate an increased ability to make predictions and check them.

  • A child, after planting sunflower seeds, might communicate, “The seeds will grow, and there will be sunflowers.” Then, he might observe the plant daily for changes.
  • A child, in response to the question, “What do you think will happen if water is added to the flour?” might predict, “The flour will feel sticky and will not look like flour anymore. The water and the flour will mix together.”
  • A child might cut open a tomato, observe what it looks like inside, and comment, “I thought there would be no seeds inside the tomato, but now I see tiny seeds inside.”
  • A child might bring an object to the bathtub and predict whether it will sink or float. Then she might put the object in water and observe what happens. Then she might comment to her parent, “Yes, I knew it! It is floating.”

Children have increased ability to use observations to draw conclusions.

  • A child might observe many different fruits and vegetables and communicate that fruits have seeds and vegetables do not.
  • A child, after observing the toy cars going down the ramp, might conclude that they go down fastest when the ramp is steep.
  • A child might observe a picture of an unfamiliar animal. Then she might notice the wings and communicate, “It is a bird. I know it, because it has wings.”
  • A child might observe a picture of a child dressed in a jacket, a scarf, mittens, and a hat and communicate that it must have been very cold outside.

Tips for families in helping children to practice mathematical thinking, to be observant, and to engage in investigation:

  • Offer open-ended materials for children to play with, including blocks, cars, shells, stones, toy animals, and small and large cardboard boxes.Open-ended materials offer children a chance to create their own play, to use their imaginations and to become self-motivated learners.
  • Involve children in household tasks like cooking, setting the table, sorting laundry, and gardening. Ask children to solve problems.Children love to solve “real” problems. It challenges their thinking skills and offers them the opportunity to feel like a contributing member of the family.
    • “We are having company tonight: Grandma, Poppy, and Uncle Stu. How many plates, forks, glasses and napkins do we need on the table so that there is a place for each of us?”
    • “Would you help me put all the light-colored clothes in this basket and the dark ones in this basket?”
    • “We need two apples, four kiwis and one orange for our fruit salad. How many pieces of fruit altogether do we have?”
    • “We have eight tomato plants, and we will put them in two rows. How can we set them out on the ground so there is the same number of plants in each row?”
  • Suggest simple measuring tasks for your child, for example: “If we line up these little rocks, how many do you think it will take to get to the sidewalk?”
  • Offer measuring tools such as rulers, small scales and measuring cups to children and work with them to learn how to use them.
    • “We need two cups of flour. Here is the cup measurer. Would you help me by filling it up 2 times and putting the flour in this bowl?”
    • “Uncle Stu is very tall. Shall we use this measuring tape to see how tall he is?”
    • “Which one do you think is heavier, this one rock or these 5 leaves? Let’s put them on the balance scale to see.”
  • When you are grocery shopping, ask for your child’s help.
    • “Would you get 6 bananas?”
    • “How many potatoes do you think will fit in this bag? Shall we count them?”
    • “We are going to have peaches for dessert tonight, and you can have one to eat on the way home. How many peaches will we need so everyone in the family can have one tonight, and you can also have another one now?”
  • When you are outside or at the park, stop to look carefully at what is around you. Observe what your child is interested in and ask questions to encourage observation and reasoning.
    • “Oh, you found a leaf. Where is another one that is the same as this one? Are there any leaves that are different?”
    • “See all the earthworms? We didn’t see them yesterday. Why do you think they came out today?”
    • “Where do you think that snail came from?”
    • “You are taking the petals off the flower. How many petals are there?”