As with the 0-24 month crowd, this age group has a lot of developmental milestones, but they are spaced further apart as a child masters the use of their own body and begin to manipulate the world around them. This increases the sense of independence a child has as they are no longer subject to the world happening to them. But there is also a bit of stress that occurs at this time for a child. There is the sense of freedom coupled with constraints and anxiety. Children want to explore the world they are able to change while needing reassurance that it will remain the same. The terrible twos is a direct reflection of this as children simultaneously need security and push the boundaries of what they can do, hence in part the use of “no” for everything. Emotions are still overwhelming and often get expressed in violent behavior (throwing objects, kicking, etc.).
By the time children reach three, they can communicate some of their ideas, needs, and wants. They also begin to understand causality, which leads to the “why” phase. The brain is still trying to process how the world works, but now it perceives that there is some sort of order hidden and adults somehow know the answers since they easily move through the world. This is also the age where games of random chance start to fascinate kids, which is why such games dominate the toy aisle for this age. Three-year-olds also start sharing more and find joy in group play, start drawing pictures, and balancing on one leg.
Four-year-olds are well on the way to mastering basic grammar and often do so before Kindergarten begins. They often are starting to transition from single-piece games to those with multiple pieces per player. The base mechanics of such games are often the same, but the added strategy of choice enters their play options. Thus, by the time a child reaches five years of age, most of the experiences are in place for kids to play any number of games relying on sensory input, communication, and body coordination. At this age, the child is likely to play a game like hide-and-seek as easily as a sit-down game without losing interest.