Cognitive Development of Preschoolers: Timeline and Activities

During your child’s preschool years, amazing changes are happening in their development. They become able to communicate better, remember more things, and express their emotions as little humans!

When it comes to the cognitive development of preschoolers, many parents want to know if their children are on track. There are certain milestones that many kids reach at around the same time. When looking at these milestones, it’s important to remember that all children develop at their own pace. 

We’re going to take a look at the cognitive development of preschoolers to help guide you through these fun and exciting years.

Preschooler doing an activity to promote cognitive development

What is Cognitive Development?

When you hear people talk about the cognitive development of preschoolers, they’re talking about how children think, explore, and figure things out. It refers to how they develop their knowledge, skills, and problem-solving. Brain development also falls under the cognitive development umbrella.

Cognitive Development of Preschoolers -Age 3

The Centers for Disease Control outlines some milestones and activities that preschoolers should be able to do at age 3.

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts 
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people  
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces 
  • Understands what “two” means  
  • Copies a circle with a pencil or crayon 
  • Turns book pages one at a time 
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks 
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids
  • Turns door handle

Activities for 3-year-olds

There are several things you can do to help build your 3-year-old’s cognitive skills:

  • Give your child an “activity box” with paper, crayons, and coloring books
  • Play matching and counting games
  • Ask your child to find objects in books or around the house that are the same
  • Allow your child to play freely without any structured activities
  • Hold your child’s hand going up and down the stars. When she can go up and down easily, encourage her to use the railing instead of relying on your hand

When Should You Talk to Your Doctor about Developmental Delays for 3-year-olds?

Many parents worry that their children may be slow when it comes to developmental delays. While you should also speak to your pediatrician when you have concerns, according to the CDC, these are some scenarios when a call to the doctor should especially be on your radar:

  • Falls a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has unclear speech
  • Has trouble playing with simple toys like peg boards
  • Can’t understand simple instructions
  • Does not play pretend or make-believe
  • Does not want to play with other children

If you notice any of these happening with your child, speak to your pediatrician about your concerns so you can get a clearer picture of what’s going on.

Cognitive Development of Preschoolers - Age 4

By age 4, children will develop their cognitive skills even more. These are some of the things that most 4-year-olds can do:

  • Name some colors and numbers
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Draws a person with 2-4 body parts
  • Can use scissors
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Can play board games

Activities for 4-year-olds

Just as with the 3-year-olds, there are activities that you can do with your 4-year-old to boost the cognitive development of preschoolers. Try these out:

  • Play make-believe with your child
  • Give your child simple choices whenever possible
  • When playing with other kids, let them try to solve their own problems with friends instead of trying to fix them.
  • Encourage your child to share and use their words
  • Give your child toys to build their imagination
  • Use proper grammar when speaking to them, not baby talk

You can also start using words like first, second, and finally when you talk to them. This will help your child learn about the sequence of events. When reading at home, ask what happened in the story next. Also, teach your child to play outdoor games like follow the leader and duck, duck, goose. All of these things can help them develop their cognitive skills.

When Should You Talk to Your Doctor about Developmental Delays for 4-year-olds?

Some scenarios should warrant a call to the pediatrician. If you begin to notice these behaviors, it’s time to talk to the doctor:

  • Has trouble jumping in place
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Ignores other children and doesn’t respond to non-family members
  • Can’t follow 3-part commands
  • Speaks unclearly

The big thing to remember always is that kids develop differently. This is why it’s always good to talk to your pediatrician so they can determine if there is something to worry about or if your child is just taking a little longer than others.

Help Your Preschooler Develop at Primary Beginnings

At Primary Beginnings, we offer preschool programs that aid in the cognitive development of preschoolers. To learn more about our preschool programs, and infant child care, call us today. Contact our North Hills Drive center or our Spring Forest Center. You can also schedule a tour.