Play for all ages

Preschool children differ from their younger counterparts physically, socially and cognitively. The main difference in play patterns is the ability of pre-schoolers to play "pretend" games built on verbal interaction. The role-play these children engage in can go on for hours or even days, given the right set of stimuli and circumstances.

More advanced physical skills
Preschool children still need gross motor and sensory skill practice. The difficulty of the physical activities they engage in and the challenges they overcome increases steadily. They gradually learn to jump off the ground with two feet at the same time, and to stand on one leg. They learn to swing independently, use roller skates and ride bicycles. Through a variety of physical activities, they build up cross-body coordination, hand-eye coordination and a general understanding of their physical capabilities. Jumping and running are also important means of building the bone mass they will need for the rest of their lives.

Spoken language and role-play
Pre-schoolers increasingly express themselves through spoken language. This leads to hours of role-play, which is driven largely by the urge to control the uncontrollable. With limited control over their world, young children use imagination and fantasy to create situations they can control. This enables them to play out social situations they don't yet fully understand, building up explanations for the social phenomena they encounter.

Boundless imagination
Pre-schooler role-play is closely linked to the boundless imagination these children have. Theirs is an age of highly imaginative games that can go on and on, sustained by the children's developing language abilities and creative powers. Along with fairy tales and other imaginative stimuli, play areas offering easily recognisable themes can help promote this development.

Understanding cause and effect
Pre-schoolers grow to understand the cause and effects of phenomena in their surroundings, learning through play and first-hand interaction. Since children need to experience things to understand them clearly, play areas should provide opportunities for cause-and-effect play such as manipulating various items. Other elements, such as flowers growing in pots, can also help support these children's growing understanding of the world.

Key words in development and play design for pre-schoolers:

  • Play that supports gross motor skills
  • Practice of fine motor skills
  • Role-play starters
  • Cause-and-effect play

Recommended play activities
Gross motor, spatial and balance practice: climbing, crawling, ascending and descending, rocking, sliding, balancing, swinging, slow spinning, fine motor stimulation - nets, hills, stairs, rocking elements, slowly spinning elements, slides.

Elements that support fine motor skills, improved understanding of cause and effect and language skills: parts of different materials that children can manipulate, construction play with elements in sand, imaginative themes to sustain role play.

When landscaping consider providing:
Hills and varied activities, shade (e.g., from fruit trees), perhaps flowers growing in pots and flower beds. There should be a range of soft-surfaced materials such as sand, grass, rubber and wood chips, as well as hard-surfaced paths for bicycles and walkers.