What's the Difference Between a Toddler and Preschooler?
I often get asked what is the difference between a toddler and a preschooler. I’m not sure if you are the same as me, but I never really knew the answer to that question before I had children or my own toddler and preschooler. So, I thought I would help clarify some of the differences between a toddler and preschooler.
Some people say the age range of a toddler is between 1-4 years old while others say it is 1-3 years old. During this stage of life, toddlers are busy becoming more mobile as they learn to walk. They are developing other gross motor skills, such as kicking a ball, running away from you, climbing every piece of furniture in sight, and balancing on things they shouldn’t be on. They are very interested in exploring the world around them. Toddlers want to be independent, but are still very dependent on mommy and daddy.
Toddlers are learning to talk at this stage of life. They often speak in phrases, like “more water,” that develop into short sentences, like, “I want a snack.” Toddlers are learning how to express their emotions; they are trying to figure out the appropriate reactions for when they are mad, sad, tired, angry, etc. (So when they burst out in tears that you gave them green grapes instead of purple remember that they are still learning how to react to this feeling.) Toddlers often imitate the people around them, so be careful what you say and do.
Toddlers are able to follow simple instructions at this age, such as “Hand me the toy, please,” “Put your shirt in the hamper,” or “Let’s put your shoes on.” Toddlers enjoy simple games, songs, and activities. They can begin to learn their colors, shapes, and letters at this age. Toddlers often times play alongside other children, but do not interact with them—this is called parallel play.
I thought a preschooler was a child that actually attended preschool, I didn’t know it was an age range of young children. A preschool aged child ranges from age 3-5 years old. A preschooler is very curious about the world around them, and will often ask a TON of why questions to help them learn about their world. So when you have been asked your 89th question in the past hour, take a deep breath, and remember that with each question they ask they are learning.
A preschooler has more developed fine motor skills than a toddler. Therefore, they are able to dress themselves, use a fork properly, begin to cut paper with scissors, and draw more detailed pictures. During this age a preschooler is beginning to learn more life skills, like expressing their needs, dressing themselves, brushing their teeth, blowing their nose, putting on their shoes, etc. Developing these life skills helps them to become more independent, which is what they want at this age.
Preschoolers speak well enough to be understood. This helps them to have more interactive play with other children and adults. You might often find your preschooler pretending during their play time whether they have created an imaginary friend, playing house, fighting off the dragons from the castle, calming a crying baby doll, or crossing the finish line in their racecar it is all helping develop their creative thinking.
Preschoolers also begin to develop a sense of time. They become aware of day from night, their daily routine. They may even begin to learn the days of the week and months of the year.
I hope this helps you understand the developmental difference between a toddler and preschooler. If you need some great activity books for a toddler or a preschooler, please check out my books below.