Play for your preschooler is all about being creative, using their imagination and learning to problem solve.

Through play your child will be practicing many skills that will be important when they start school.  

How your preschooler plays

Your preschooler still loves playing with you but they will begin to play for longer periods on their own. Their curiosity with the world around them is growing and they will have lots of questions for you to answer. They will start to be more interested in fine motor activities like threading, cutting and drawing but initially might need you to help them achieve success.  

Throughout the preschool years, your child will begin to learn how to take turns and share with others. Their language ability will become more complex, giving them the ability to negotiate with others.

The best way for your child to learn is to have lots of practice playing with other children their own age. This might be through a playgroup or kindergarten program. Your child will also learn these crucial social skills through talking, playing, sharing, and taking turns with you. 

Play time is critical for your child’s learning and that’s why it’s important to keep screen time to a minimum. Learn more about recommended screen time guidelines for your preschooler.  

What your child learns through play

  • Social skills, such as turn taking and sharing 
  • Increasing their independence 
  • New words and concepts 
  • Pre-literacy skills, like how to hold a book and turn the pages 
  • Refining their fine-motor skills – how to hold a pencil and draw 
  • Practicing more complex gross motor skills – kicking, hopping, throwing, and catching 
  • Learning to sit for longer periods 
  • Practicing their listening skills 
  • Following more complex instructions  

All these skills can be practiced through simple and fun play activities – your child won’t even know that they’re learning!

Find out more about helping your preschooler get ready for school.  

Top play ideas for preschoolers

Books

Your preschooler learns so much through sharing books with you. Sharing books is vital for them to learn new words and concepts and also to begin to develop their early literacy skills. This includes knowing how to hold a book and turn the pages, and also to begin to develop the concept of words, letters and sounds. Try to make sharing books part of your everyday routine.  

Check out the best ways to share books with your preschooler.  

Dress-ups

Playing dress-ups is a great way to engage your child’s imagination. Your preschooler will love pretending to be a fireman, ladybug, monkey, or parent. Through role-play your child will be practicing familiar routines and learning new words and concepts.  

Puppets 

Puppets are a great toy for exploring the thoughts and feelings of others. Take a puppet each and make up some great stories with your little one. You could even put on a show for all of the family to see!  

Gardening 

Your preschooler will love getting out in the dirt. There is so much to learn through connecting with nature, including what plants need to grow, how a seed turns in to a tree and why bugs are important for the garden. They will be discovering beautiful treasures and using them creatively in their play.  

Puzzles

Puzzles are a fantastic way to help your child learn visual-spatial skills, fine motor skills and to concentrate for longer periods. Start with simple inset puzzles and as your child masters these, move on to more complex puzzles. Remember initially they will need your help to achieve success.  

Construction box

Put together a box full of items your child can use to make their very own creative constructions. Milk bottles, cardboard tubes, tissue boxes and yoghurt containers can all be turned into marvelous creations by your little one. Through construction activities your child is learning how to problem solve, use their imagination and be creative. They are also practicing a range of fine motor skills like cutting, gluing and drawing, all while learning to concentrate for longer periods.  

Drawing and writing

A simple play activity for your preschooler is drawing with crayons, textas or even chalk. This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills and also learning about colours and shapes. As your preschooler gets older they will begin to be interested in letters and how to write their own name.  

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Preschoolers play and learning 

Playgroup WA – Play ideas 

Talkable – Play ideas for your pre-schooler