Having a preschooler has opened my eyes to how quickly children can learn new concepts. It also taught me how fast a bad example can develop into bad behavior. This crash course in child development: preschool will help us navigate parenting preschool aged children.

This stage is the time to be sure you have a strong sense of what your parenting philosophy is, and have a disciplinary strategy in place for teaching your child the ever-elusive lesson of self-control.

(The most important and most difficult lesson of this age group in my opinion).

I have often said about my children that they will hopefully use their powers for good and not evil because they are eager to socialize and always ready to explore!  If it looks fun, they are ready and willing to try it.

My challenge is to teach my preschooler the self-control (goes hand-in-hand with self-awareness) necessary to encourage that they take into account how their actions will affect them and others while not diminishing their self-esteem and eagerness to explore.

Three preschoolers playing blocks together. Text reads new blog post crash course in preschool child development.

Crash Course in Child Development: Preschool

Preschoolers naturally want to explore and engage in the world around them-with helpful guidance from you, the parent.  This is a critical and delicate age where teaching independence and self-esteem is important, but too much freedom can result in a lack of trust in adults.

Preschool kids are still concrete thinkers, so what they experience is what they will know. (If they are left on their own too much, they will learn that they have to rely on themselves without assistance when it may be needed.)

Children in the preschool age are in the “pre-operational” stage of development as coined by developmental theorist, Jean PiagetThey can use language to explain their thoughts, they are still very ego-centric (think the world revolves around them) and they can begin to classify items into categories-important for learning all kinds of life lessons both academic and emotional.

This is the age where you get to teach in the traditional sense of the word. You will have such an eager student.
I am not denying that toddlers and infants learn, but depth of learning can really take off in the preschool stage. A preschooler’s desire to investigate and their ability to comprehend is intense!

According to another developmental theorist, Erik Erikson, children from 3-5 years old are in the stage of working out “Initiative vs. Guilt.” Initiative vs. guilt really means: developing a sense of competence.

If a child feels that they have the capability to take on a challenge, then they will attack it.  If they feel insecure or unskilled, they will shy away from it.  We need to encourage the ‘initiative” and guide so that failure does not result in ‘guilt.’

This means we as parents need to be present to witness when behavior or understanding fails.  We need to talk through tantrums (check out the post on Crabbie Masters as a resource), encourage ‘try again’ when an attempt to do something has failed, and be on the lookout for opportunities when our child can try to do something on his/her own.

Child Development Milestones for Preschool

I believe that the main lessons this age group needs to learn are self-help, developing friendships, and self-control.

-Self-help skills such as removing and putting on clothes-buttons, snaps, zippers, shoes-are all milestones for children 3-5 years old.

This age range means some 3 year olds may be ready to learn these skills, but from ages 3-5 is generally when children learn and master this area of development. Some children may start later than others or earlier.

-Self-control internally with potty training and emotions-being aware that their actions affect their self and others-listening to trusted adults, taking the opportunity to make a choice when it is offered, being accountable for their own behavior, and learning about their emotions and the emotions of others are all skills preschool aged children are learning.

This age group can learn to face challenges, to work on attention span, to follow rules in school, at home, and in others’ homes. Preschool children also learn that they do have power to affect others-this just needs to be guided. 🙂

This is why many 3 and 4 year olds (or so) go through a defiant stage. They know they have power and try to use it!
Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose, while failure results in a sense of guilt.”
This quote, in my mind, does not mean make sure your child never fails, but rather, talk through a failure; turn it into a learning experience.

We all experience failure, but those of us who feel competent get out of bed the next day and try again. This is a life lesson that is enforced early.  Children who continually feel guilty for their failures can develop into low self-esteem.

We really have such power to teach our children self-esteem starting so young!

How to teach a preschool activity free download.

Tips for Parenting Preschoolers

If your child has a positive interest, follow it!

If they want to potty train, try it!

If they want to talk to the kids at the playground while you are supervising, allow it!

If they exhibit a behavior you do not want them to continue. Teach them!

>Read these Tips & Advice for Games, Activities & Kids Development.<<<

As the adults, we have to avoid putting our children in situations for which they are not ready.

When we make smart choices, the exploration and independence is not scary for us to witness, or dangerous for our children. If we put our children in situations that they are not ready to navigate, and we are not present enough to offer guidance, bad behaviors can develop.

It can be hard to let our children grow up, but it is so good for them, and developmentally appropriate.  Let your preschooler begin to develop the sense that they are a ‘big kid’ with lots of time still to grow and learn. They are not adults yet, but the lessons they learn at this stage of child development will set the foundation for your future parenting.

What do you like best about the preschool age? What is the most challenging?

Children looking on with smiles. Text reads crash course in preschool child development.

This post is featured in A Complete Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms: Parenting Tips.
To view all of the resources shared, click HERE.
(For developmentally appropriate activities for your preschooler, check out my Preschool Activities page.)

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