Preschool-age children’s language skills are nurtured in a “language-rich” environment. Between the ages of 3 and 5, a child’s vocabulary grows from 900 to 2,500 words, and her sentences become longer and more complex. In a conversational manner, and without dominating the discussion, teachers help children stretch their language skills by asking thought-provoking questions and introducing new vocabulary during science, art, snack time, and other activities. Children have many opportunities to sing, talk about favorite read-aloud books, and act out stories.
A young child’s cognitive skills are strengthened by engaging in a wide range of hands-on activities that challenge her to observe closely, ask questions, test her ideas or solve a problem. However, teachers understand that preschool children are not logical in the adult sense of the word; their explanations of what makes a plant grow or why people get old, may not involve cause and effect. For example, “people get old because they have birthdays.” They may rely on their senses and “magical thinking” rather than on reason to explain why wood floats in water and rocks sink – “The rock likes to be on the bottom because it’s cooler.”