What Your Child Learns from Play

What Do Preschoolers Learn from Play?

playing with a ball

Michael Brian

Before age 2, your child might only be interested in pulling toys out of the hands of her peers. But a change is coming, Leiderman says. At age 2, "they are flirting with the idea of interacting with other children. They'll giggle over the same kinds of things. One child will be clapping, and another child will start to clap." This modeling then evolves, around age 3, into more sophisticated play. Kids become much better talkers in their third year, which opens up their social life. Instead of playing side by side, they may play together. Their fantasy play becomes richer, and they take on and assign roles, such as: "It's my turn to pour the tea. You serve the cookies." Agreeing on a game, taking turns, and working out conflicts becomes possible in the preschool years -- though kids will still need help from adults when communication breaks down. And don't worry if there are a lot of arguments or the kids are unable to share. Learning to play cooperatively takes time and practice!

So the next time you see your toddler squishing Play-Doh and then throwing it across the room, don't think, What a mess! Instead, be proud of the fact that he is hard at work, experimenting with cause and effect, and making sense of the diverse world around him.

Age-Appropriate Play Activities: 2 to 3 Years

  • Children this age love to jump, climb, throw, run, dance, and do somersaults.
  • Building block towers -- the taller the better -- is a favorite pursuit.
  • Pretend play becomes a very important and common activity.

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