Preschool is a wonderful time for your little one. They are like sponges and absorb everything.
From the time children are born till they turn 3 years old, they will learn more than at any other point in their lives. Think about that! Their minds are incredible learning machines. We decided to put our daughter in preschool at 2 years old. This was the time a lot of our friends made the choice. We were not totally ready but we could see how she could benefit from it.
The social interaction alone was enough for us to make the move. I was teaching her a lot at home and while she was well above a lot of her peers academically, she was very shy and very hesitant to make friends. We put her in school 3 days a week for 4 hours. This was more than enough for us and she thrived.
Because I am a bit of a helicopter mom, I like to know how she is doing all the time. I like to know what she is learning and make sure she is getting as much out of preschool as possible. If she is away from me, she should be learning a lot. I decided to make a checklist for each age and test her myself. This way I could know for sure it was worth the time away.
If your child is 3-4 they should be able to:
Cognitive Skills: Level 1
- Know their full name, age, and gender
- Identify and name basic colors
- Count to ten; understand the concept of counting
- Say the alphabet
- Identify basic shapes
- Follow two-step or three-part commands
- Build a tower with four or more blocks
- Understand time better (for example, morning, afternoon, night)
- Recognize and identify common objects and pictures
Cognitive Skills: Level 2
- Know their address and telephone number of a parent
- Write some capital letters
- Laugh at silly ideas or jokes
- Remember parts of a story
- Sort objects by shape and color
- Play make-believe with dolls, toys or other people
- Pretend and fantasize more creatively
- Understand “before,” “after,” “now,” “soon” and “later”
- Remember what happened yesterday
- Know where playthings belong; Help clean up
- Understand some important safety rules (don’t touch the hot stove; stay away from the window)
- Pay attention for about 3 minutes
Fine Motor Skills:
- Dress and undress without your help
- Screw and unscrew jar lids
- Turn rotating handles
- More easily handle small objects and turn a page in a book
- Complete age appropriate puzzles
- Use age-appropriate scissors
- Copy circles and squares
- Draw a person with two to four body parts
- Spell their own name
- Be able to write their own name (while tracing or not)
Sources: parents.com, cdc.gov, scholastic.com, verywell.com, webmd.com
(The level system, 1 and 2 are my own. I found that a young 3-year-old and an almost 4-year-old are SO different. If your child just turned 3, cognitive skills level 1 is where they should be. If they are almost 4, cognitive skills level 2 is where they should be. Again this is my personal opinion. If your child can do everything and they are a young 3, awesome! My daughter could do a lot of this when she turned 3 it is simply that every child is different.)
This is a touchstone. Here is a printable so you can have it handy and check off the skills as you see them! It is by no means an exhaustive list. It is the list I have used to make sure my daughter is growing and learning while in preschool. 4K is coming up quickly and I want her to be as prepared as possible. If I have found if she is lagging in something, making a game out of it seems to help her learn. I will be featuring some of those coming up soon.
The biggest thing is that your child is healthy and happy. They are going to be learning for the rest of their lives in school. If you as their parent can teach through living that is the best answer. They are only this little once. Enjoy every second and let them show you the wonder and craziness that early childhood has to offer.
What are your favorite learning tools for 3-4-year-olds?
Kristin – The Perfectionist Mom
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