Preschooler Development

“I’m a big kid now!”

This site we link out to focuses on how to support the growing independence of preschoolers. It focuses on some strategies and ideas for setting limits, creating and keeping routines, taking time to talk and listen, assigning responsibility, encouraging independence in bathing and dressing, teaching simple rules about safety with adults, and helping children become good friends. 

Topics Covered:

Children love to learn!

Children from 4 to 6 years old are:

  • Beginning to develop their independence and form real friendships
  • Learning rules to more difficult games
  • Developing important life skills
preschooler resources parents sitting on floor with kids playing in a circle

Setting Limits

Creating and keep routines

  • Morning
  • Bedtime

Take time to talk and listen
Ask your child:

  • What was the best part of today?
  • What was the hardest part of today?

Assigning responsibility

Encourage independence in bathing and dressing

Teaching simple rules about safety with adults

Help your child become a good friend

  • Help your child understand the other child’s point of view.
  • Teach your child to stay calm and do not hit, grab, or shove
  • Use words
  • “Stand close by and watch as the children solve their problem. Being close by puts the children on their best behavior. This is how they begin to develop the confidence and skills to communicate honestly, calmly, and politely with others.”

Nightmares, Night Terrors and Sleepwalking

toddler nightmare and night terrors girl in bed crying with nightlight

Sleepwalking and sleep talking: What you can do

  • Make sure children don’t hurt themselves while sleepwalking. Clear the bedroom of things children could trip or fall on
  • Lock outside doors so children cannot leave the house
  • Block stairways so children cannot go up or down
  • Do not try to wake children when they are sleepwalking or sleep talking. Gently lead them back to bed, and they will probably settle down on their own

This resource breaks down the difference between nightmares, night terrors, and sleep walking/talking. It explains what to look for and provides suggestions for what to do in response. Remember, you can always talk to a doctor!

Nightmares: What you can do

  • Go to your child as quickly as possible
  • Assure them that you are there and will not let anything harm them
  • Encourage them to tell you what happened in the dream. Remind them that dreams are not real.
  • Allow them to keep a light on if it makes them feel better
  • Once child is ready, encourage to go back to sleep
  • See if there is something that is scaring your child, like shadows. If so, make sure they are gone.

Night Terror Examples:

  • Cry uncontrollable
  • Sweat, shake, or breathe fast
  • Have a terrified, confused, or glassy-eyed look
  • Thrash around, scream, kick, or stare
  • Not recognize you or realize you are there
  • Try to push you away, especially if you try to hold them

Night Terrors: What you can do

  • Stay calm. Children are unaware of ever having a night terror because they are asleep, so there is no effect on children, only parents.
  • Make sure your child cannot hurt themself. If they try to get out of bed, gently restrain them. 
  • Remember, after a short time your child will probably relax and sleep quietly again. If your child has night terrors, be sure to tell the babysitters what they are and what to do. If keep happening, talk to doctor 

Sexual Behavior and Body Safety in 2-6 year olds

Normal behavior include:

  • Touching/masturbating genitals in public or private 
  • Looking at or touching a peer’s or new sibling’s genitals
  • Showing genitals to peers
  • Standing or sitting too close to someone 
  • Trying to see peers or adults naked

Red flag behaviors:

  • Occurs frequently and cannot be redirected
  • Causes emotional or physical pain or injury to themselves or others
  • Is associated with physical aggression
  • Involves coercion or force
  • Simulates adult sexual acts
happy preschoolers laying in the grass laughing

Body safety teaching tips for parents:

  • Use appropriate language
  • Evaluate your family’s respect for modesty
  • Don’t force affection
  • Explain what good vs. bad touches are
  • Give your children a solid rule
  • Control media exposure 
  • Review this info regularly with your children
  • Expect questions
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician 

This site outlines what we kinds of sexual behavior we can expect from 2 – 6 year olds and gives suggestions for how to have healthy conversations around sex and sex. It also provides strategies for redirection, looking for red flags, and body safety teaching tips.

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