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Play & Learning

What could sound less kid-like than “executive functions?”

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And yet, that’s just what children are developing at this stage. This clunky phrase simply means learning how to follow a new idea, stick with it and even change course if something’s not working out.

Your Pre-Kindergartener

How does your child develop all these new skills? By doing what comes most naturally: playing. Watch the concentration in her eyes as she builds a new structure out of blocks, tries out a new balancing trick or designs her own superhero suit out of cardboard, and you’ll see how hard her mind is working. It just doesn’t feel like work to her.

Give her time and encouragement to dive into what’s inspiring her now. Researchers who use fancy words like “executive function” have proven that it will help her conquer new skills in the future. But she herself could tell you: In addition to being really important, play is just plain fun.

  • I Want to Find Out More

    Do you know that look on your kid’s face? The one she gets when she just discovered a new idea and can’t wait to explore it? That’s a very important expression – and it’s happening a lot during this age. She may even be drawing up plans for her next experiment!

    Look for Signs of Learning at Your Child's Care

    Children should have lots of chances to play and explore – from different spaces to many kinds of learning materials. Those rich opportunities should lead them to be curious - playing in interesting ways with toys.

  • Just Imagine It!

    He has a point: A pet alligator really *would* make a great can opener. Creativity and imagination are a kid’s specialty, and these skills are growing fast right now. As this happens, he’s also getting better at “bouncing back” if other kids don’t agree with his ideas.

    Look for Signs of Learning at Your Child's Care

    Teachers should engage children in play activities that are flexible and creative. You should see teachers communicating by listening, responding and encouraging the children. Are activities open-ended, giving children chances to play with them in new ways or get creative? Teachers can nurture their playful learning by listening to children's thoughts, asking questions and encouraging them to explore their own ideas.

  • I *Will* Get This

    She pays attention to the whole book – not just the beginning. She works on something and stays focused – even if there are distractions around. And if she gets frustrated, even by failing at her task, she doesn’t (always) give up. These are all great signs!

    Look for Signs of Learning at Your Child's Care

    Look for chances for children to work and play all on their own and in groups. As pre-K students explore their ideas and solutions to challenges, teachers support them by helping them think more deeply about their ideas with good questions and helpful observations.

  • Wanna Play?

    “In this game, I’m a puppy! And you’re a cat. But we’re friends. Okay?” Your kid is learning more about getting other kids involved in his pretend play. As a result, his games are getting more and more fun! He’s seeing that “working” together helps, even when that work is play.

    Look for Signs of Learning at Your Child's Care

    Do teachers plan the day so that children have many times to work and play together? Both daily activities and the learning space should make it possible for each little learner to interact and build social skills throughout the day.

Ideas to Learn and Play Together!

From bedtime to playtime your child is always learning. Check out these family-time ideas for building their skills -- and your family connections. All children learn and grow at their own pace and in their own way. For more information about the skills and milestones for your child's age check out our developmental milestones resource page. If you continue to have concerns or questions please give us a call at 1-800-299-1627.

  • All Questions All the Time

    Curiosity is the name of the game with this age! Provide space and support for your child as he asks questions, finds answers and plans projects. Try to use your child’s questions as a starting point for shared play and discovery. Is he asking all about how the sun makes things hot? Place ice in a shady and sunny spot outside. Then, see what happens. Is he curious about building? Then, invite creative exploration: “We have some cardboard in the basement. Let’s see if we can make a fort.”

  • Plan to Play

    For preschoolers, play is a great way to explore making plans. First thing in the morning or as you travel to the park, ask her to make a play plan for the day. Try asking, “What do you want to imagine today?” or “Who will you play with?” or “What will you explore?” as starting points. Then, debrief during your bedtime routine. Get her thinking about the day: “This morning you planned on digging for dinosaur fossils. How did that go? Did you find any?” Even if she played a completely different way, this conversation builds planning and reflecting skills!

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