Skills Children Develop

Count, sort, explore, group, experiment-there's so much to do with puzzles and games tailored to take skills to the next level. As children investigate with concrete materials, they begin to understand abstract concepts such as numbers, shapes, symbols, and relationships.

Sometimes, young children prefer to work individually, solving problems on their own. Often, two or three will work with puzzles or other materials side by side, at a table or on the floor. Later in their preschool years, they develop an interest in playing games, so taking turns and sharing take center stage.

Setup Ideas

Concentration and quiet play flourish away from the crowd and traffic, so place this area accordingly. Tables and floor space enable children to choose their preferred venue.

Select a wide variety of items to extend children's diverse thinking styles and levels. Rotate items often. Store games and puzzles on low, open shelves so children can find what they need and return it when finished. Picture labels and puzzle racks help them locate the spot. Keep loose pieces in clear, plastic containers.

Teaching Strategies

Encourage exploration of ideas and skills, as well as persistence. Talk with children about their activities and offer suggestions to extend thinking. "You sorted the little bears by their sizes. What other ways could you sort them?"

Observe what children are interested in, know, and can do. Use this information to plan curriculum and select classroom materials. If an older preschool child is struggling to fit little pegs into holes, find a game with somewhat larger pegs and holes to master first. Serve finger foods for snacks. Have a treasure hunt in the sandbox.

Suggested Materials

  • abacus, counting items
  • active indoor games: ring toss, fishing
  • games: simple strategy, spinner, color or dot dice, cards
  • large and small wooden beads and string (4 and older)
  • letters and numbers: magnetic, blocks, games, sandpaper
  • match and sort games: picture and dot dominoes, memory, bingo, shapes pegs and pegboards
  • puzzles with varying numbers of pieces, diverse content
  • table construction toys: parquetry blocks, logs, small blocks

Close adult supervision is required to ensure safety of young children. Projects with small parts and scissors with metal blades are for children ages 4 and older.