You’ve slogged through the sleeplessness of the Baby Stage and trudged through the Toddler Zone.
Suddenly, you notice something quite stunning. Something that hits your mama-heart like a ton of spilled Lego bricks.
That tiny person you are parenting…he is no longer toddling.
He’s running. Jumping. Climbing. Swinging. He is tearing around like the excited monster you always suspected he would be, giving you regular mom-sized heart-attacks.
You, my friend, have entered…(dum dum DUM!) the Preschool Age! . . . Age! . . Age!
Those first and second birthdays have passed faster than you thought was possible (despite the warnings from every Grandma in the grocery store). Now your three/four year old is asserting independence and testing every single parenting skill you thought you had.
Yes, the preschool age is a sweet time…but that also means it will have its cavities! Yes, there are challenges to overcome (potty training) and lessons to learn (Mom is in charge), but with some foresight and elbow-grease, this preschool age can be your best parenting age yet. (At least you’ll be getting more sleep, right?!)
Growth and Development
in the Preschool Age
Before we jump into our parenting kiddie pool, let’s go over the skills and growth you can expect from your preschool age child. This way you’ll know not only WHAT he’s going to be doing, you’ll know WHY he’s doing them!
Expectations for Your Three-Year-Old
- He is going to test his physical limitations & continue to improve his hand-eye coordination by riding tricycles, catching balls, hopping on one foot, tip-toeing around the living room, and building towers.
- He will usually grow three inches taller this year!
- He will test your boundaries! He needs to have clear and consistent rules, and know the consequences for breaking them.
- He will have extreme emotions…but they will be short-lived. A short-fuse…but quick explosions.
- Now is the time to help him learn how to express his feelings with words, and not actions (like hitting or biting).
- He is going to be capable of learning how to share, by understanding what sharing is. This is a skill that should be practiced regularly, even though it’s difficult. It’s an important first step in developing empathy with others.
- At this age, the best learning activities involve doing things – either with you, or own his own in a Quiet Time.
- Finally, at this age his attention span is a bit longer, which will allow him to participate in group activities like Duck Duck Goose.
Expectations for Your Four-Year-Old
- She can do everything a three-year-old can do…only a lot faster. Running? Nope. We gallop!
- She will start drawing pictures that represent real life, like flowers, trees, or Grandma. Not just scribbling.
- She will master the zipper and you’ll spend half your time chasing her naked around the house, since de-robing is now a hobby.
- She will dress herself in very amusing outfits, which you will allow because you don’t want to fight that battle. (Perhaps consider adding a sign on her back that says, “I dress myself…”)
- She may have imaginary friends or real friends…but she will boss them around like a queen.
- Pretend play is extremely important at this age, as she practices different roles and her imagination really takes flight.
- She’s a tough bird with a sensitive soul…so don’t forget to heap on the praise when she ventures out to do something on her own! It will build her self-confidence.
- Brace yourself…questions are coming.
- She should be able to understand colors, shapes, and perhaps a few letters and numbers. (If you’re not sure about this, this article with a free printable can help!)
These are all really exciting developments…and you get a front row seat! That’s great news…until about 6 months in, when the constant arguments and questions start to weigh on you.
Until you’re worn out with Baby #2 (or #3?) and you’re just too exhausted. Listen, at this age, your preschooler is wanting to be more independent. Why not let him? With a little guidance, he can be a huge blessing for you during this age!
Here’s how to let him become more self-determined, and remove a little weight from your own shoulders at the same time
in the Preschool Age
Kids grow up. It’s what they do. (Why do I feel I’m starting a Geico commercial?) Your preschooler is on a path that leads towards adulthood, right? It would be unkind to hold him back forever, never teaching him the skills he needs to survive out there on his own.
Granted, we are a long way way from “out there on his own,” but all cubs have to start somewhere. Mama bear has to let them into the river to fish at some point.
Now’s the time, friend, to let your “baby” put a toe into the river. Let him explore his own independence and capabilities while under your watchful eye.
Not sure how to do that? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Start giving your child chores to do around the house! This free printable demonstrates the types of chores developmentally appropriate for this age.
- Let her pick out her own clothes and dress herself every morning. (Or, if you’re leaving the house, set out three outfits and let her select a favorite.)
- Teach your child good hygiene with a customizable reward chart. Good grooming habits start early!
- Naps may be long gone, but teaching your child how to have a quiet time will be give him the opportunity to learn how to create his own fun!
- Organize your child’s bedroom using photos (I pulled mine off the internet), so that pre-readers can easily identify which bin My Little Ponies and the Thomas Trains go during clean up time.
It is very good for kids at this age to start to learn they can start to do things on their own. However, there’s a ditch on the other side of “Independence Lane” that most preschoolers will fall into.
Since they’re being such a “big girl” they start feeling like THEY should be the boss (not you) and the testing begins. As soon as you set a limit (don’t touch that!) they are going to be right there…squiggling that tiny toe across the line.
This means, in order to truly enjoy this age, you need to have a firm grasp on how to handle the inevitable temper tantrum.
Overcoming Temper Tantrums
in the Preschool Age
Did you know there’s a difference between a Toddler Tantrum and a Preschool Tantrum? It’s all about intent.
- Toddlers will often throw a fit because they don’t know how to communicate about something.
- Preschoolers will throw a fit because they don’t LIKE something.
Most preschools can communicate very clearly what it is they want. They just don’t like what you said about what they want.
Don’t Be Deceived About Preschool Limitations
We don’t tell our children not to touch the hot stove because we’re big meanies who like to ruin all the joy and fun in life. We tell them to stay back from the stove because we know more about what a serious burn can do to a body.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that it is wrong for you to put limitations on your children. That somehow you are being mean and they won’t know you love them. Those limitations are how your children know you love them.
So when your child starts testing those limitations, it is a kindness to your child (and your future self) to reinforce those safety boundaries and remind him, lovingly, that he is not in charge.
Not sure about setting boundaries for your kids? This article demonstrates how importance they are in raising healthy and successful children!
Want a Peaceful Home? Be Pleasantly Consistent
I can remember feeling like all I was doing every day was providing consequences and putting my kids in time-out. It was discouraging. Now I know that all these fits and fusses were very normal for this age! It was a season, and because we were consistent with those boundaries, it was a relatively short one, with huge benefits for later parenting struggles.
The more consistent you are with your kids, the faster they learn the boundary lines...the fewer fits and tantrums you have to deal with later on.
If you tell your child not to touch something, and he does, don’t just shake your finger at him and talk. (Remember, preschoolers learn best with actions, not talk!)
Put him in time out. Provide a momentary discipline of some kind to communicate that a line has been crossed. It will provide a mental-marker to help him remember where the limit is. Would you prefer that mental marker be an extremely painful burn at the ER? Or a 5-minute time out on the steps?
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11
Molly has written some beautifully practical helps for parents in handling tantrums. She was talking specifically about toddlers, but even though the cause of the tantrum may be different, you can effectively use her tips for preschoolers too!
- How to Coach Your Little One Through Public Temper Tantrum
- How to Weather the Worst Toddler (or Preschool) Tantrum Storms
in the Preschool Age
Besides the limit-testing that goes on in the preschool age, the second most noticeable adjustment is the learning. There is an explosion of educating going on here! Everything is new, exciting, and magical at this age. Encourage them to use their imagination as much as you can!
The Art of Pretend Play in the Preschool Age
For me, that meant encouraging my children (all girls) to tell stories. While we were out and about, whether that was taking a walk, or sitting at the doctor’s office, I would lean over and start a story… “If I were a fairy,” I would say, “I would climb around the inside of that tall potted plant and make a home under that big leaf.” Then it was their turn to say, “If I were a fairy…”
This is such an exciting time to wonder about the Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Lenny the Leprechaun, or the Tooth Fairy (who, in our family, writes tiny thank-you notes and is called Nutmeg).
This is where parental discretion comes in. As Christians, the Hubster and I don’t feel that pretending Santa or the Easter Bunny exists while they are in the Preschool Age threatens our children’s faith in the long term. As they grow older, we’ve found they come to understand the difference between “real” and “not real” pretty easily. That said, every child and family is different! Don’t feel pushed to be fantastical if it’s not how your family functions.
If it’s nice outside, use these games and toys to encourage pretend play in your backyard. Or, if it’s not-so-nice outside, try playing this picture-only storytelling game around the living room as a family!
Preparing for School in the Preschool Age
Putting your child into preschool can be a really overwhelming process. How do you know which one to choose? If you’re choosing not to homeschool, it can feel like this is a HUGE decision. Fortunately, you don’t have to make it alone.
In this article, Molly lays out the common mistakes parents make when picking out a preschool, and how you can move to the front of the class and avoid them. It also includes a free printable “test” to use as you are evaluating your local preschools and picking out your winner!
Of course, getting ready for Preschool and getting ready for Kindergarten are different things. Here are a few ways you can get your little one prepared:
- Help your child fall in love with reading with these fun reading activities.
- Let Dr. Seuss help you slide in a little education, with just a few minutes every week and this handy (and free) printable.
- I signed Bella up for ABC Mouse and it was one of the best things I did at that age. She thought she was having “game time” on the tablet, while I knew she was connecting brain synapses. #ParentingHack
Cherishing the Preschool Age
Think back to when you first brought this preschooler home from the hospital. Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news…but time only moves faster and faster.
These preschool days are going to ZOOM by and all the sudden she’s lined up with her backpack and lunch for the first day of Kindergarten.
You’ve got to slow these memories down, Mama! As busy as you are, take the time to play with your preschooler. Whether that comes in 15-minute Tickle Games in the morning, an easy craft in the afternoon, these moments mean a LOT to that little face across the table.
Then, when he’s enjoying a Quiet Time on his own, take a few minutes to journal a letter or jot down a memory in a notebook that’s just for him or use one of these simple ways to capture the day’s memories.
These days are so precious, sister!
There is so much to laugh over…to mull through…to cherish.
Pull these memories close and jot them down somewhere. The Preschool Age is so short (just two years). Blink and he’ll be an elementary school student!
What’s your favorite thing about the Preschool Age? What do you find most challenging?
Have You Read These Yet?
- How to Create Body-Confidence in Your “Three-Nager”
- 3 Delightful Reasons You Need to Peek at Honeybug Kids Clothing
- 8 Fascinating Tickle Games to Play with Your Preschooler
- How to Throw the Most Amazing Daniel Tiger Birthday Party Ever
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