Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Can my preschooler distinguish appearance from reality?

little boy and mom playing that he is a pilot

Key points:
1. Preschoolers as young as 3 can distinguish between appearances and reality.
2. They can describe both real and fantastical aspects accurately.
3. Understanding reality vs. appearance is influenced by question clarity, not cognitive ability.
4. Young children possess a natural and flexible ability to differentiate between appearances and true reality.

As adults, our understanding of the world relies on our ability to differentiate appearances from reality. We know from experience that not everything is what it seems. For young children, this is not always as clear, as they sometimes seem to confuse reality with appearances. Can my 3-year-old child already tell the difference between them? Let’s take a look at what developmental science says about it.


In 2006, psychologist Gedeon Deák from the University of California at San Diego investigated the extent to which preschool children understand the difference between appearances and reality, as well as between reality and fantasy. He discovered that as early as 3 years of age, children are capable of discriminating reality from misleading appearances in multiple tasks.

What was interesting was that he observed that preschoolers could easily and accurately describe real and fantastical or fake aspects of an object or situation, but their failing to do so depended not on their cognitive capacities, but on how understandable and clear were the questions about the objects. This led him to suggest that, even if 3 or 4-year-olds can seem challenged to represent reality in their minds, they are, in fact, naturally and flexibly describing appearances and an independent and different reality.

Your young child’s mind is already capable of more than what’s easily assessed! Impressive, right?

Related Articles

spring activities for preschoolers
Kinedu Educators

4 Spring Activities for Preschoolers

Spring activities for preschoolers can play a significant role in the overall development of children. Through playful exploration of nature,…

newborn care immediately after birth
Health Guide

Essential Newborn Care

The birth of a baby is a moment of great emotion and joy for parents and, at the same time,…

signs of colic in babies
Health Guide

Signs of Colic in Babies

Colic is a common disorder in babies, characterized by intense, prolonged crying for no apparent reason. This can be very…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.