The preschool years are crucial ones for healthy brain development, and so it’s important to focus on helping preschoolers engage with the world around them during this pivotal phase. But, how do preschoolers learn best? This post will share several ways — some of which may be surprising.

The Element of Play notes that preschoolers learn through play. While that statement, by itself, may not be a big surprise, the degree to which it’s true may be. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.”

Playing with building blocks and drawing, for example, helps preschoolers develop fine motor skills, while outdoor play and dancing assists in building gross motor skills. Block play can set the stage for math skills, while singing and listening to stories lay the foundation for pre-literacy. Group play, meanwhile, helps preschoolers develop socially and emotionally.

These are just some of the many ways in which play drives learning for preschoolers. As children play, they have the opportunity to engage in imagination and, when games are more structured, they can act in ways that guide them toward more targeted learning outcomes.

Hands-On Activities 

Hands-on experiences, especially those that are repeated, also facilitate learning. As your preschooler explores an action multiple times, they’re making sense of what’s going on. As they engage with their environment, they observe, ask questions, and assess their surroundings. Parents and caregivers can reinforce connections made by conversing with preschoolers and answering their questions. 

A British resource notes that, because children can learn best through their senses, you should give them time and space to explore the world in open-ended ways. Curiosity fuels learning, and parents and caregivers can reinforce this natural childhood trait to support learning. It can be as simple as asking them open-ended questions that start with “I wonder if . . .” and “What happens when . . .” Then you can let preschoolers’ imagination and eagerness to discover new things take it from there. 

Carving Out Story Time provides another answer to the question of “How do preschoolers learn best?” Their suggestion: story time! They cite research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that suggests young children must hear language before they can talk — and the quality of what they hear is an important factor in how they learn.

So read to your preschooler daily, even several times a day when possible. Your child will gain knowledge from the experiences while appreciating the closeness they have to you. Plus, this can be the foundation of a lifelong relationship with books.

Horizon Education Centers’ Preschool Program

Horizon’s preschool program helps to prepare preschoolers socially and academically for kindergarten with experienced teachers that understand how preschoolers learn best. Our program includes a focus on literacy skills, verbal skills, and numbers and letters recognition. We also conduct professional developmental screenings and assessments. 

Learn more about our preschool program here.

Horizon Education Centers offers childcare for preschoolers at it's 13 centers in Northeast Ohio.