Preschoolers are amazing little creatures. They can go, go, go all day, absorbing huge amounts of information on the fly. Having helped four children of my own navigate this precious season of life, here are my 10 parenting tips for preschoolers.
1. Use your imagination.
Preschoolers do. Everyday, all day long. Their developing imaginations help them to make sense of their world and since they have limited experience, imaginations help them to fill in the gaps. Imaginative play helps them understand new concepts in a non-threatening way.
2. Why is the sky blue?
Preschoolers have a ton of questions and rightly so. As their parent, you are the resident expert on all things in life. What a wonderful position of influence! Preschoolers need simple and direct answers, so save the complicated, technically correct answers for their science class in a few years.
3. Be patient.
Preschoolers are eager to learn about everything around them. However, they have limited attention spans and vocabularies. This can lead to frustration! One of our daughters at this age was interested in information she couldn’t articulate yet. Sometimes she would sit crying while we would play a guessing game, trying to figure out what she was wanting to know. Over time and as her verbal abilities developed, she grew into an extremely descriptive person. Your ability to stay patient will help your little one develop patience with herself, too.
4. Sympathize with their struggles.
Along the same lines as being patient is to sympathize and empathize with your preschooler’s struggles. Let them know you understand how tough some things are for them and that you are on their side. This age group really likes the idea that someone is their champion; it will help them listen to you even when they don’t like what you have to say.
5. Play grown-up.
Preschoolers are wonderful imitators of all things adult. Providing a dress-up box filled with your cast off treasures is one of the best things you can do for your little one’s play habits. Read a good book, then act it out together and you’ll be your preschooler’s best friend for life.
6. Boundaries with a bit of freedom.
Your young child needs to know where the limits of behavior are in your family. So tell her clearly and firmly. Then enforce those limits as necessary. This gives your child a tremendous sense of security and establishes you as a leader in her life; both concepts she will need as she grows. Include a bit of freedom within those boundaries; “you can play anywhere in your playroom or bedroom with those toys, but not in the living room.” Such boundaries allow her to practice making small decisions and to learn self-control.
7. Active is best.
Preschoolers need to be active! They are driven to move and explore. So make sure you include plenty of active time in each and every day. Television is not an active time so keep it to a minimum.
8. Educational toys are more fun.
Look for action-oriented toys that go along with your preschooler’s action-oriented drive. One-use toys are simply boring at this age. Aim for toys that can be turned into multiple things and imaginative toys that require play-acting.
9. Enlist your preschooler’s cooperation.
Appeal to your little one’s sense of ‘big girl’ or ‘big boy’. Ask him to help you carry the groceries inside or put the laundry away. Show how to fold clothes and set the table. If you start these simple tasks now, they will be habits by the time your child is old enough to do them well.
10. Sleep is good.
Make sure your preschooler gets an adequate amount of sleep each day. Some kids at this age still need naps, some do not. Your little guy or gal will function better, be more cooperative and enjoy each day more with the correct amount of rest. Make sure there is a quiet time in your home each evening that will signal to your preschooler that bed time is arriving.
There you have my 10 parenting tips for preschoolers. Enjoy this special time in your child’s life as she literally absorbs the world around her. It is a magical time for children and parents alike and the relationship you forge with your child at this stage will stay with you both a long, long time.