Brain Development (Preschool, 3-5 Years)


Brain development shows a child’s increasing ability to understand his or her environment. As children grow and develop, they will learn many new things and begin to solve problems in their daily life.

For young preschoolers (3–4 years old), the following skills will typically be developing:

  1. Young preschoolers begin to count objects using one number for each item.
  2. Young preschoolers start noticing properties of objects (long, short, red, blue, fuzzy) and begin to sort and describe them.
  3. Young preschoolers begin to use problem-solving skills during activities, such as planning and building a block structure or baking cookies.
  4. Young preschoolers are interested in learning about their bodies and other living things in their environment, including pets and plants.
  5. Young preschoolers begin to understand the order of events in their day.
  6. Young preschoolers enjoy taking items apart and attempting to put them back together again.

What can you do at home to help your young preschooler develop these skills?

  1. Let your young preschooler help set the dinner table, putting one plate out for each family member, then one cup, etc. Count to make sure there is enough for everyone.
  2. Talk to your young preschooler during daily routines and use descriptive words: the tall tree, the shaggy dog, etc.
  3. Let your young preschooler help with simple cooking activities, and ask questions: “What do you think will happen to the cookie when we put it in the oven?”
  4. Let your young preschooler help with chores in the house, such as filling up the water bowl for the dog or watering plants. Explain why: “I have to water the plant and keep it in the sun so that it will keep growing.”
  5. Try to follow a daily routine with young preschoolers, and remind them what is coming next: “After you finish your dinner, it will be time to take a bath.”
  6. Provide puzzles, LEGO blocks and stacking toys that your child can take apart and put back together.

For older preschoolers (4–5 years old), the following skills will typically be developing:

  1. Older preschoolers start to count to higher numbers and can answer “how many” when shown a small group of objects.
  2. Older preschoolers can group objects that go together, such as cups and plates.
  3. Older preschoolers start to measure objects using items such as a piece of string or their feet.
  4. Older preschoolers understand some directional words (up, down, in front, behind) and shape words (circle, triangle).
  5. Older preschoolers begin to understand that we use our senses to learn about the environment, such as observing animals or hearing the sound the wind makes with wind chimes.
  6. Older preschoolers use art materials to create something instead of just playing with the materials.

What can you do at home to help your older preschooler develop these skills?

  1. Ask your older preschooler counting questions, such as “How many carrots are on your plate?” or “How many steps do you have to take to get from the car to the preschool door?”
  2. Let your older preschooler help with the laundry by matching socks that go together and sorting clothes for each family member.
  3. Use questions with your older preschooler to solve problems: “Whose hand is bigger?” or “Who is shorter?”
  4. Have a “treasure hunt” and give your older preschooler directions to find the treasure using directional words: inside, behind, under, etc.
  5. Fill plastic bottles with sand, rice, marbles, feathers and other objects, and compare the sounds you hear when you shake the bottles.
  6. Work with your child to create more detailed art projects over time, such as collages, paintings or clay pottery.

Learn about your child's language development.

Learn about your child's fine and gross motor skills development.

Learn about early intervention for positive mental health.