Preschoolers – Who Are They? Part 2

Featured Picture Book


(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

MY VERY BIG LITTLE WORLD is all about SugarLoaf figuring out about her world and the people in it. First, who is she and why is she? When SugarLoaf was born, her mom said that she “… looked as sweet as sugar.” Her dad said she “ … felt as warm as a freshly baked loaf of bread.” Voila! SugarLoaf puts two and two together – this is why she is SugarLoaf. Her world is all about her. She measures all things against herself, even Dad’s truck. “It’s very BIG. I’m smaller. The truck won’t grow. But I will.“ She figures out that what she likes is what others like too. She and Dad are “morning people.” She and Mom like tea. And, She and Gramma both have the same favorite color. SugarLoaf’s views are simple, fun, honest, interesting, amusing, and remind us that at this preschool age, children see themselves at the center of their world.

Parenting Thoughts 

Jobs and Career Awareness

32.2 Sidebar 1

Dr. Mom:  What do people do all day – what are their jobs? Children at this age are fascinated by jobs. Mother Goose’s “Three Men In A Tub” wasn’t so popular just because of the rhyme. Remember that the three men weren’t just any three men. They were men with occupations and skills – a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker. Young children are interested in what people do.

Darling Daughter:  Love those!! What was the one about “bake me a cake for baby & me … roll it, pat it, mark it with a B …?” 

It’s a good idea to let your child see as many examples of what people do as possible. And, make sure they get to see behind the scenes of those jobs anytime you can, so they know what a police officer really does all day. So they know that a pilot has to do a lot of paperwork and checking of the plane’s safety before he can actually fly the plane.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood used to do that alllll the time.  I loved that part of the show.  Did you know that Amazon streaming video has Mr. Rogers shows on it, and if you are a prime member they are free. (They have classic Sesame Street, classic Electric Company, Backyardigans, and others.)

Lots of dress-up clothes connected to occupations are a good idea for this age. That helps them explore what jobs are all about. It also helps them create new combinations of jobs, like the archeological ballerina we wrote about a couple of months ago (Making Children Feel Safe and Important, Part 2). And, by the way, do anything you can to encourage both girls and boys to pretend being all the different jobs – boy dancers, girl racecar drivers, etc. At this age, they need to think all things are possible.

I was going to be Speed Racer!  (not his girly girl friend but SPEED RACER). Ezzy spent years planning to be a mermaid and it was next to impossible to get her out of any body of water she found herself in –bathtub, pool, pond, puddle.  It’s still hard to get her out of the water (@ 10) but she has moved on from the mermaid plan. <g>  For now, at least.

I can remember my grandmother making nurse outfits (or anything else we dreamed up) out of brown paper bags from the grocery store.  She just cut a hole in the bottom for our heads and two armholes then she drew the front of the outfit on the bag with marker.  We never thought twice about it. But looking back, it is hilarious to think of us walking around playing with big, bulky, stiff bags on – we had to move like robots so we didn’t tear the paper! LOL 

One caution:  I remember “Lovely Little Sis” and a cousin her age disappearing into a grown-up’s (I think it was my aunt’s.) bathroom to complete their look.  They came out covered in lotion and powder from head to toe – leaving a trail behind them.  I think we have pictures of that!

Dr. Mom:  There are also pictures of you dressed in your “bag outfits.” I’ll have to dig them out for you. Ezzy likes being a clothes designer – this could be a new project for her. 

Pictures of this sort of play make great scrapbook pages and memories for later in their lives. When they are playing, ask them what they like about the jobs they are pretending about. You’ll have great fun with both their really smart answers and their really funny answers. Sometimes their answers can lead you to tell them about other types of jobs they might want to “try on” for size.

32.2 Sidebar 2Being moms or dads or husbands or wives are also important “jobs” in the eyes of preschoolers. This is why “playing house” is so popular at this age. My favorite “playing house” story occurred in our basement playroom one day. Lovely Little Sis and a friend were “getting married.” They acted out a fancy wedding – down the aisle and back again in full attire. After awhile, they were bored with how “house” was going, so they decided to spice it up with a divorce. (I think I know a lot of adult couples that have been caught up in the same type of thinking.)

Ezzy did this at daycare when she was 4.  Her best friend Diego and she arranged the furniture, invited guests, and planned the whole thing.  When I arrived, all the other parents there to pick up their kids were loving it and cheering them on.  I wasn’t sure what to make of the whole situation.  E had never been to a wedding before, but she seemed to know the basics. LOL.  BTW – she & Diego are still pals 7 years later despite our move halfway across the country three years ago.


Well, when Lovely Little Sis and friend needed to act out the divorce, what did they do?  Put all the attire on again and repeated everything except, when they were done at the front of the aisle, they walked down the aisle – BACKWARDS. I guess they figured, it was like unwinding a clock or rubber band.

To them this was what was the opposite of getting married. Opposites are also of great interest to preschoolers. Try this as a quick, easy, in-the-car, anywhere game to play with your preschoolers – to find the opposites of things. What’s the opposite of red? Sweet? Mean? These are questions that have no one right answer – questions that are very good for helping preschoolers develop their thinking.

We had Opposite Day at our house – E loved it.  We always made sure everyone knew when we were done playing and opposite day was over otherwise we had some very frustrated adults. J

How fun! Let’s try that again someday at a family gathering.

How People Think, Feel, and Act

Personalities and characteristics are also of great interest to preschoolers. They love to put things – and people – into categories. This is why sorting toys and activities are of such great interest in these years. It can be fun to think about and watch all the different ways they look at things (besides the obvious ones like size, shape, color, etc.)

I remember my granddaughter spending hours sorting my spices in my spice drawer. I loved having her do it. Although, there are still spices I can’t find. Needless to say she wasn’t organizing them alphabetically. More like size of bottle, color of label, etc. Spices are one of those things that should be judged by its cover.

This categorizing and sorting that preschoolers naturally do, can easily result in labeling people as I talked about earlier – something to be very careful about. It is important that children learn that people change over time. Someone very tall now may be more like everyone else one day. People who are very shy can learn to be very outgoing. We hear all the time about famous people who were shy at one time. People who yell a lot can learn to use an inside voice.

As I mentioned earlier, labels can be hurtful. For example, if we were told we were sloppy a lot when we were little, we may find ourselves, even as adults, either living up to that label and being too messy for our own good. Or, we may try so hard to fight that label that we can’t allow ourselves to be messy enough to have real fun exploring things. You can read more about this effect of labels at Correct; Don’t Criticize – Part 1.

How people act is interesting to preschoolers. This is the first time they start to think about how they want to act – who they want to be. A leader or a follower? Mean or kind? Will they share or not share? Will they push for what they want or ask for what they want? The answer to all of these questions at this age is that they will do whatever works – whatever will make friends, influence people, and get them what they want.

This is why adult reactions to kids’ behaviors are so important at this age. It is true that these are ages when kids can often be safely alone playing for short times, But, these are also good years to pay attention to how kids play together because adults can help kids understand what behaviors work well and which ones don’t.

Adults also can teach kids new ways to try to win friends and get what they need. I’ve written many times about how adults can be helpful in shaping who their children become. Check these out:

Making amends is another important idea for preschoolers. As they test out different personalities and ways of acting, they will no doubt “mess up” some of the time. It is important that they know they can make up for these mess ups – that they can make things right and still be loved. For more information about making amends, see Your Child Is a Star!

Lastly, be sure your child knows you love who he is. Even on days when it is hard to love how he might be acting, be sure he knows you love who he is and who he can become. Find as many ways to tell him that you enjoy him and want to be around him. Remember to do that with both your words and actions.

Read All About It

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft


PICK UP YOUR SOCKS, Elizabeth Crary

TIME-IN: WHEN TIME-OUT DOESN’T WORK, Jean Illsley Clarke and Cary Pillo

 Surf the Internet:
  • self-esteem
  • make-believe
  • pretend play
  • feeling faces
  • children’s feelings
  • Erik Erikson
  • overindulgence
  • developmental tasks
  • logical consequences
  • natural consequences
  • discipline
  • sharing
  • bullying
  • kids making amends
  • career awareness in young children
  • preschoolers
  • name-calling


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