Same/Different: Ways Preschoolers Perceive People

As your child grows, she becomes more sophisticated in noticing and classifying the people she encounters every day.



Same/Different: Ways Preschoolers Perceive People

At 3 years old, she may:

  • notice and ask about other people's physical characteristics, although she is still more interested in her own
  • notice other children's specific cultural acts: Elena speaks differently from me; Mei eats with chopsticks
  • exhibit fears about skin color differences and physical disabilities

At 4, he may:

  • show more interest in how he is like and different from other children; construct "theories" about what causes physical and cultural differences 
  • begin to classify people into groups by physical characteristics (same gender, same color, same eye shape) 
  • be confused about the meaning of adult categories for what "goes together." For example, how can a light-skinned child have a dark-skinned parent? Why are children called "black" when their skin isn't black? 
  • show influence of societal norms in his interactions with others ("Girls can't do this; boys can") 

At 5, she may:

  • show an awareness of additional characteristics, such as socioeconomic class and age
  • demonstrate heightened awareness of themselves and others as members of a family, as well as curiosity about how families of other children and teachers live: How can Sara have two mommies?
  • continue to construct theories to classify or explain differences among classmates
  • continue to absorb and use stereotypes to define others, and to tease or reject other children
Logic and Reasoning
Stages & Milestones
Attention and Focus
Independent Thinking
Critical Thinking
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Child Development and Behavior
Early Social Skills
Tolerance and Acceptance
Understanding Others