What do Kids Learn in Preschool?

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As your child outgrows toddlerhood and enters into the next phase, you may begin to wonder exactly what do kids learn in preschool? After all, you’re going to have to decide whether to enroll your child in a preschool facility to prepare them for kindergarten or figure out how to prepare them at home.

It may sound overwhelming, but really, your child will get most of what they need from their daily interactions with you and the other children at daycare. Exploring the world around them is enough to get them started.

And just the few hours you spend with them in the evenings preparing dinner, reading books, and getting ready for bed should set them up nicely.

However, if you’re still worried about what your child needs to learn, here’s a list of the things most preschools focus on teaching kids so they’re ready for pre-k and kindergarten when the time comes.

Development in Preschool

As your child continues to develop, it’s important to prepare for the future. Preschool teachers support your child in many different ways, much like any other teacher would. Preschool offers a variety of early learning subjects.

Physical education

Your child is still developing fine and gross motor skills involving moving fingers and toes, arms and legs. Teachers can help hone these skills by challenging them in physical activities using a variety of equipment.

In preschool, children will run, climb, jump, and play catch. They’ll also explore sensory materials like puzzles, paints, and sand. They should be using their bodies very actively in almost everything they do to build strong muscles and bones.

Social skills

Your child won’t always be the best at getting along with others, but when they’re young, it’s even harder. Preschool teachers will work with children on how to respect others as they work and play.

This involves how to use kind words, exercise self-control, and give each other space. Teachers will also help them resolve conflicts and find creative solutions to problems.

Emotional growth is a large part of your child’s developing social skills, and understanding their feelings as well as the feelings of others can help your child understand why people behave the way they do.

It will also help them empathize with one other, build self esteem, and have the confidence to try new things, and succeed even when they may fail the first few times.

Language and literacy

Being involved in a preschool environment can help your child develop a better understanding of the English language and be better at communicating through talking, listening, reading, and writing.

As they develop these skills, their cognitive skills also develop as they learn to think in more complex ways. They’ll learn to problem solve and make decisions. They’ll ask questions, explore, and create.

Subject Areas and Early Learning Standards

Every state has different standards when it comes to early learning. What your child needs to know at a certain age will vary from state to state. However, the standards in your state are what preschool teachers will use to help preschool children learn what they need to know now.

A high-quality preschool will focus on every area of learning and use a child’s interests to engage them. As children make a connection, they’ll engage more deeply and learn more easily.

Preschools should be using a variety of projects that use a child’s body to draw them into the lesson, just as making a birdfeeder might teach them math (measuring ingredients), science (to combine different materials), language (describing ideas to work out problems in the design), and reading (figuring out what kind of seeds the birds like).

girl reading a book


Preschoolers may not know how to read yet, but they can recognize sounds, especially rhyming words. They can listen to stories and talk about them. They may also be able to spell, read and write their own names as well as simple words.

This builds the foundation for more advanced reading later, and preschool teachers can help encourage students by:

  • Offering play materials that encourage writing
  • Talking more about elements of the story
  • Relating the story to what goes on at home or school
  • Pointing out differences in sounds and letters
  • Identifying letters and words in the book and other places in the classroom
  • Singing, playing rhyming games, and reading fun books
  • Teaching children the alphabet


It may look like scribbles to you, but your child is beginning to form letters. These shapes will evolve soon enough. Preschool teachers support this writing development in several ways, much like you would at home by:

  • Providing crayons, pencils, markers, and other writing tools for practice
  • Encouraging practice based on what they hear or letters they already know
  • Writing children’s words on the board so they can see them
  • Allotting time for writing as an everyday activity


Through listening and speaking with others, your preschooler will develop more language skills every day. Teachers will talk throughout the day and children will play and work with one another, sharing ideas, information, and feelings.

Here are some things teachers do to encourage the development of language skills:

  • Encouraging children to use more detailed descriptions
  • Introducing new words and concepts to a child’s interests
  • Using rich vocabulary
  • Asking questions to encourage unique thinking
  • Labeling items in more than one language


Even preschoolers can explore math concepts. Your child may begin to sort items into categories or see how many markers can fit in the box. Even simple counting builds the foundation for math later on.

If they build, decorate, explore shapes and textures, or clap to the beat, it all adds up eventually. Preschool teachers encourage math learning with:

  • Materials like buttons, blocks, or acorns to sort, count, make patterns, or compare
  • Measuring objects
  • Tools to record data
  • Questions about math activities
  • Exploration activities outside


If there’s anything preschoolers are good at, it’s asking questions. They have a lot of questions about how the world works. They’re curious, which makes them natural learners, and one of the most fascinating subjects for them is science.

Preschool teachers can help children quench this thirst by thinking scientifically and making unique discoveries. Children can ask questions through observation and predict the outcome. Then they can perform experiments to find out if they were right.

Preschool science involves:

  • Materials for experimentation
  • Asking children to think about what happens and why
  • Encouraging children to record what they learned and share it
  • Researching topics, looking up information, taking trips, and listening to expert visitors
  • Learning new science words
kids drawing in preschool classroom

Creative arts

Art is a well-loved subject by most children. It includes dancing, painting, and playing pretend. It’s a creative way for children to get their feelings out without feeling particularly vulnerable. They’ll feel included while feeling like they relate to someone else in the room. They may also feel empowered to be a superhero.

Creativity also has a way of supporting other areas of learning, like problem solving how to keep the snow from melting onto the floor as quickly.

Teachers try to offer plenty of ways your child can get creative, through chalk, playdough, and other mediums.

Social studies

Believe it or not, as children learn and develop socially, they’re learning social studies. Learning about themselves, their class, their school, their home, and the community around them is beginner social studies.

They learn how they fit into each of these places and it also includes learning about languages and cultures of other children in the class. Sometimes, preschool teachers may ask for children to share music, recipes, or traditions that different families enjoy.


While some don’t agree with teaching technology at such an early age, technology is a huge part of our culture now, and whether you like it or not, your child will be using it soon enough when they head off to kindergarten.

Some preschools will incorporate technology into their day by allowing children to draw pictures on tablets or read books on an e-reader. They may watch educational videos as well.

In some cases, if a child is bilingual, the teacher may find apps, music, books, or games in his home language that can help them pick up on other concepts they’re learning in the classroom. The teacher can then record what’s going on in the classroom and share it with the parent who may not speak English as fluently.

Preschool teachers think very thoroughly about what goes on in their classroom when it comes to the use of technology, because the unfortunate reality is that most children already know how to use technology better than parents do.

Final Thoughts

Preschool teachers are good at what they do, but your child doesn’t have to attend a preschool to learn all of these things. Your child’s brain is like a sponge right now. They are picking up on every single thing in the world around them. With just a bit of love and encouragement from you, they’re going to have everything they need.

However, if you do decide to send your child to preschool, find a high-quality preschool that focuses on engaging your child’s interests as a part of the curriculum. Your child will have a much better experience.

It will help your child have fun and learn much more than a strict curriculum full of things they find boring. A good preschool with an excellent teacher will help your child develop in all of these areas and more.

Sarah is a full-time freelance writer and mother of 4. She loves Jesus, cars, and coffee.