In the first two blog posts in this series, I discussed how children learn and reviewed Piaget’s four basic units of knowledge that serve as the building blocks for understanding. Starting today, I will break down the stages in more detail, starting with an overview of the preschool years, which we call The Smart Explorer stage.


Age: 3 to 5 years (preschool)
Initiative and Independence vs. Guilt and Lack of Self-assurance

What is important about the intellectual skills in this post is that they are coordinated with the advice to encourage emotional maturity as well. What is distinctive about the advice in this blog is that we integrate two learning tracks – the emotional and the intellectual. Unless your child strives to mature in both emotional and intellectual spheres at once, she will not be able to achieve her optimal potential. On the other hand, if she is pursuing and integrating both areas of knowledge at the same time, she will be able to tap reserves of her brain that may surprise and delight both of you.

Overview of the Smart Explorer Stage

This stage is a very exciting and important one. By around age five, your child will have reached half of her capacity for learning, according to educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom. She will embark upon her first experiences with attending school, following directions, and getting along in larger group settings.

As a parent, you will begin to see your little baby become an increasingly competent member of the community – physically and linguistically. Your child is taking charge of her daily routines. She is busy, busy, busy!

Primarily, your child is busy playing. Play is the very important work your child does during this stage. Through all kinds of play she comes to understand the world and her place in it. Children take to it naturally. This is a joyful stage for parent and child. You can help enhance your child’s progress most effectively simply by encouraging her to explore new materials and ideas, to use her senses, and to employ her body in a relaxed and expressive way.

For parents, there is great delight in watching your child unfold. For children, there is enormous pleasure basking in the parents’ delight. And for both of you, there is a great deal of fun to be derived from the games themselves, as you both play and learn.

Major Developmental Task Checklist

Here is a checklist of the major developmental tasks your child will be working on during this period. Remember, here, as in every stage, each child learns at her own pace. Any timetable for mastery of various skills is a guideline, not a train schedule.

At this stage, your child should be able to:

  • Gain greater mastery over physical and motor skills
  • Become more skilled at symbolic thinking and the use of language
  • Master the concepts of counting, sorting and classifying objects
  • Begin to develop a sense of morality and a sense of self-evaluation
  • Continue to develop a mature sense of autonomy
  • Develop initiative
  • Expand relationships with their peers

Continuing in the series, the next blog post will review some of the important environmental factors that play a role in the intellectual development at ages

Footballfish From The Deep Washes Up On Shore, And It’s Really Freaky

Samira Wiley And Lauren Morelli Welcome A Baby Girl, George Elizabeth

Cyberattack On U.S. Fuel Pipeline Linked To ‘DarkSide’ Criminal Gang

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Repealing Old Citizen’s Arrest Law After Ahmaud Arbery Killing

3 Leopards Escaped A Chinese Zoo. The Zoo Didn’t Tell Anyone For Weeks.

‘WTF Is Wrong With You?’: NRA Trashed For Tasteless Meme After Mass Shooting


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.