Early Learning Concepts Your Preschoolers Should Know

Little girl reading board book

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Toddlers and preschool-aged children should be familiar with early learning concepts such as letters, colors, and numbers. This stage of learning is not about formal schooling. Rather, it focuses on introducing basic skills and facts that help young children gain independence and understand the world around them.

Parents and teachers can best introduce early learning concepts naturally through reading, everyday activities, songs, and playful games that stimulate children's curiosity without putting pressure or stress on them.

Keep in mind that every child develops at their own pace. Try not to compare your little one to other toddlers. Also, there's no correct order in which children learn these concepts. Some children learn letters way before numbers and some learn to identify shapes much earlier than others.



How soon your child can say the ABCs depends mostly on how often you sing along with them. Your child may master the alphabet song by age 2 if they hear it repeatedly, but they won't understand that each of those sounds is a separate and individual letter. It will likely be another couple of years before your child understands that letters make up words.


Singing tunes such as the "Rainbow Song" help children learn colors. Your child might even express having a favorite color. By repeatedly pointing out different colors to children, you will teach them to find the right name for each shade.


Like letters, toddlers begin to learn numbers by just repeating the sounds that you say. While your little one may be able to count to 10 or even 20, most children don't understand the actual concept of quantity until the preschool years. They may not connect the word "three" with its numeric symbol until then as well.

Animal Names and Sounds

Books about animals, such as DK Publishing's "My First Animal Board Book," offer a great way to teach children to identify specific animals. A real-life trip to the zoo is also well worth the time and money. Remember, though, that animals look different from book to book and even in the wild. Your toddler may take time to recognize that the sheepdog down the block and the picture of a bulldog in their storybook are all "dogs."

Names of Foods

Not surprisingly, your child will probably try to say the names of their favorite treats first. "Cookie!" is a common early word. Your child might begin to use food names without discretion, for example, calling all food "chicken." They might also ask for "breakfast" no matter what time of day it is.

Helping your toddler identify specific foods early on by pointing them out on the plate can help them learn the right words for foods, which could alleviate some of the frustration that comes when your child is a bit fussy about meals and feels strongly that they want yogurt but not peas.

1 Source
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  1. Sarnecka BW, Wright CE. The Idea of an exact number: Children's understanding of cardinality and equinumerosityCogn Sci. 2013;37(8):1493-1506. doi:10.1111/cogs.12043

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By Maureen Ryan
Maureen Ryan is a freelance writer, editor, and teaching consultant specializing in health, parenting, and education.