Parents and caregivers can plan preoperational stage activities that work with a child’s development to make learning fun and interesting to the child. The stages in cognitive development are part of a theory introduced by Jean Piaget that theorizes human development occurs in stages. During this stage of development, children experience egocentrism, magical thinking, but are not quite logical thinkers yet.
- Smell Games. Present a collection of strong smelling items such as oranges, roses, mint or vanilla for preoperational stage activities involving the senses. Have the kids try to guess the item by just using the sense of smell. For ambitious moms and dads who make their own play dough, infuse the dough with extracts and scented oils to play the game. Be careful with younger children who might try to eat the yummy smelling dough.
- Imitation Games. Children in the preoperational stage can mimic things they see. Preoperational stage activities that focus on the imitation ability can help teach children about the world around them. Use your imagination and have the kids mimic inanimate objects such a lamp or things in nature such as animals or trees. Encourage them to explore all the aspects of the object. For example, trees sway in the breeze or lose their leaves in the fall. These preoperational stage activities help children become aware of how animals and nature behaves.
- Planting Seeds. Planting a seed and helping it grow is a fun way to incorporate preoperational stage activities into learning about nature. Have the kids dress in old clothes on gardening days. Playing in the dirt can get messy. Planting seeds is an activity that can go on day after day as the child waters and cares for his plant.
- Cooking and Baking. While you certainly wouldn’t want a child in this age group to prepare a full course meal, there are some simple kitchen exercises that are preoperational stage activities children can participate in. Decorating cupcakes, mixing dough and shaping cookies are all fun cooking and baking activities. The kitchen presents dangers so make sure you do some child proofing before the fun.
- Sense of Touch. Similar to the sense of smell games, gather together items such as fabric, leaves, mud, sandpaper and cotton balls. Have children describe how the item feels. You can have the child sort items according to touch as well. For instance, have the kids group the rough, soft or squishy feeling items into piles. Ask the children to find all the soft feeling items in the group and pull them out. These preoperational stage activities use the senses and the child's ability to sort and make distinctions among objects.