Between the ages of four and five, children begin to move out into the world and seek engagement from others. Activities such as interactive, physical and creative play engage preschoolers as they learn from the environment around them. "Preschoolers learn from their play," says Cathy Malley, a child development educator with the University of Connecticut's Cooperative Extension. "They are busy developing skills, using language, and struggling to gain inner control," she says.
Parents are still the stable force for the preschoolers as they start to branch out to the outer world. "The main thing children need from play with parents is to have fun with them," according to RaisingChildren.net. "It is important not to turn play into ‘lessons.' The best way to play with children is to provide an interesting environment, have time to play and follow your child’s lead."
Interactive play includes reading books with your child. Reading to your child encourages language and speech development. Read age-appropriate books and talk about what's happening in the pictures; let your child act out the story.
Four- to five-year-olds are learning to sort things into groups. Play games in which you sort objects: Sort spare buttons into groups by shape and color or make piles of building blocks according to color or size.
The National Association of Sports and Physical Education recommends that preschoolers participate in at least 60 minutes of structured, adult-led physical activity every day and another 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity called free play. "Take advantage of your child's natural tendency to be active. Staying fit can help improve kids' self-esteem and decrease the risk of serious illnesses later in life," according to KidsHealth.org.
Appropriate physical activities for this age group include riding tricycles or bicycles with training wheels; playing games such as "Tag" and "Duck Duck Goose"; closely supervised swimming; throwing and catching balls; and nature hikes. Taking four- and five-year-olds to play at a playground offers the additional benefit of social experience.
Creative play allows preschoolers to express their emotions and stimulates creativity. Creative play allows four- to five-year-olds to develop their imaginations through arts and crafts. "Creativity shows one's uniqueness. It is the individual saying, 'I can be; I can do,'" says family life education specialist Marilyn Lopes. Make creative materials available to the four- to five-year olds for their own use. Some of the basic equipment includes books, records, drawing materials, objects to make sounds with, clay and blocks.
Lopes offers an example of a game that involves creative dramatic play. In the "Animal Cracker Game" the preschooler chooses one animal cracker, looks at it and then eats it. The child then acts like that animal for 1 to 2 minutes.
Paper bag puppets allow preschoolers to make the puppets and then put on a puppet show, which encourages fine motor skill development and the expressing of feelings, respectively.