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Development in Pre-Schoolers

From the age of two your child will be more and more interested in other people and experiences. They are learning about the world around them and their place in it.

They are busy active little people who love to see what their body can do.

This is often a time when children are joining in more with people outside of immediate family starting with nursery and toddler groups.  Their development is happening fast and they are facing a lot of new experiences.

They love to have you there to support them and give them the encouragement to try new things.

  • From around two years old, your child will start to become more and more interested in other people and experiences. 

    *Click here* to take a look at our 'Talk and Play' pages.

  • Gross motor skills are the movements that use big muscle groups and your pre-schooler will now be very active and enjoy physical play. 

    You probably see how much your child enjoys getting out and they have a lot of energy. Your child will enjoy playing on the equipment at the park.

    Most children will run, hop on one foot and be able to kick, throw and sometimes catch a ball by the time they start school. They should be able to safely manage going up and downstairs. The best way to help your child build on these skills is to give them plenty of opportunity to practice them.

    The advice is that pre-school children should have three hours of physical activity over 24 hours. This will give them the chance to build confidence and skills as well as helping them keep healthy and get into good habits.

    • Get out and about in big spaces when you can. Where your child can run, jump and climb safely.
    • Join in with them; take a ball along to play with. When you join in you set a good example and your child will enjoy it much more.
    • Walk whenever you can. Let your child balance on low walls (holding a hand to begin with) Jump in puddles, Hop along on one leg. It will give them confidence and makes a walk to the shops more fun!
    • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep too so that they have the energy to be active.
  • Fine Motor Skills use the small muscles in the hand and wrist. By this age most children will be very skilled at using their hands for more and more ‘fiddly’ activities. They will love activities like art and trying to write their name.

    Most pre-schoolers will be mainly left or right handed (it does not matter which!). They will be able to hold a pen or pencil using their thumb and fingers (not their fist). They will probably be drawing great pictures of you complete with a head and maybe some other body parts! They will be feeding and dressing themselves and maybe just needing some help with tricky bits.

    You can help them build on these skills by giving them lots of chances to practice;

    • Let them draw using colouring pens (you can get washable ones!) get them copying circles and shapes. Draw with them they will like taking it in turns. Encourage them to try and keep in the lines in colouring books.
    • Play at chopping and shaping play dough, cutting out with play scissors and dressing teddies and dolls.
    • Let your child try to do their own buttons and zips. It may take longer but these are important skills and they will get quicker with practise.
  • Pre-school children are learning to make more sense of the world around them and how relationships and things work. This is an important move towards independence. This builds confidence, self-esteem and the inner strength your child will rely on through life.

    Helping your child solve challenges that come up will help them grow their problem solving skills.

    • Talk things through with your little one – how did they manage to do something new? Break it down step by step. They can use these skills again to learn new things.
    • Try not to step in too quickly when your child is finding something hard. Encourage them to take some deep breaths, think it though and try again. Try making suggestions rather than giving the answers.
    • Talk through problems and arguments they might have with brothers and sisters or friends – why did it happen? What could they try next time?
    • Help your child see how decisions they take make a difference – for example if they spend all their pocket money on sweets there won’t be any left for a magazine.

    As adults we all sometimes struggle with the challenges we face. Your little one will find it hard at times and not always get it right. Give lots of praise for trying and then work with them to come up with a plan to get there in the end.

  • Personal and social development means learning about who we are as a person. Pre-schoolers are still learning about their feelings, and the feelings of others. They will be developing their likes and dislikes.

    Encourage them to try new things and help them find out more about the things they show an interest in.
    Give your child chances to be around other children; either with family, friends or at the local park. Don’t worry if they just like to watch.

    • Practice turn taking in games, take turns in choosing what to do next.
    • Help them understand how they make other people feel good and how they might make people feel sad. This is an important part of being a good friend and making strong relationships.

    Set aside time to chat together without distractions. This develops social skills and keeps you in touch with what is happening in your child’s life as they begin to do more things away from you.


  • Firstly remember that each child will develop at their own pace.

    If your child attends nursery or a registered childminder, talk to them about your worries – they will be able to work with you to build your child’s skills and advise on any next steps needed.

    If you are worried you can contact our Just One Number team on the details below to talk through your concerns. 

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480 635060

The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) Health Questionnaire will help you to think about your knowledge, skills and confidence in understanding and supporting your baby or child’s health. The results of this can help us, to support you, in setting goals and priorities in a way that is right for you and your family. On completion of the questions you will be signposted to some self care resources which are tailored to your responses. This will help you to take steps to improve your family's health and wellbeing. *Click Here* to find out more. 


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