Content Map Terms

Preschoolers at Play


preschool children playing, wearing hats and glasses


Preschoolers love to play. They love to play with parents, other children and on their own, and with toys or other objects. Play helps preschoolers learn about social relations and teaches them about sharing and taking turns.

Types of play

Preschoolers love:

  • dramatic play – preschoolers use games like dress-up to act out scenarios that are funny, exciting, confusing or even scary
  • messy play - (with paints, water or in the sand pit) is a great outlet for expressing emotions and an opportunity to feel different textures
  • physical play – climbing over playground equipment teaches a lot about coordination, balance and how far physical abilities can be pushed
  • simple board games – give preschoolers the chance to learn about taking turns, following the rules, counting and being a gracious loser and winner
  • songs, books, riddles and silly rhymes – are great fun to share as your preschooler’s sense of humour comes to life. They’ll also build your child’s vocabulary and understanding of words.

Play with others

By four, your child will be much more interested in playing with other children and making up games together. Even though you’ll notice improvements in sharing and taking turns, your child will still need your support and encouragement.

At five, children are much more aware of their place in the world and are keen to fit in. Your child will be eager to follow the rules at home and at preschool or play group.

Most preschoolers understand that other people have feelings too, and will show sympathy towards them. As much as your child might seem clever and accomplished, home is still the centre of your child’s world. Your young child relies on the love and support of parents and care givers to develop emotionally, physically and academically.

Ideas for playing with your preschooler

  • Give your child a cardboard box. Children can create just about anything from a box and their imagination – a play house, a boat, a car. A small table turned on its side with a blanket or sheet draped over can be a house, a pirate’s cave or the local shop. Check your local store for spare boxes if you don’t have any?
  • Put together a box of old clothes, cast-off shoes, old sports jerseys, boots and handbags, high-heeled shoes and other odds and ends. This is great fun for your preschooler to rummage through. A homemade eye patch transforms your child into a pirate. A towel makes a caped crusader. Dress-up will help your child express emotions and act out imaginary things.
  • Introduce new challenges. By four and five, your child might want to try new activities like bike-riding and board games.
  • Talk with your child while you’re cooking dinner or grocery shopping. Let your child help by measuring, stirring or helping think up a list for the store.
  • Other ideas for things to play with:
    • play dough – suggest your child roll it into little balls and put it on toothpicks (great for developing fine motor skills)
    • a homemade sand pit
    • plastic containers or household boxes with lids, and plastic eating utensils
    • kitchen pots and pans (with smooth edges)
    • Duplo (large Lego)
    • simple puzzles and jigsaws
    • coloured blocks.
© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

Your Child and Play from Birth to 3 years  

Last Updated: November 30, 2014