This age range represents the transition from infancy to childhood. Your child starts to become independent, in part due to a greater understanding of themselves as not just a body, but also a mind with thoughts and feelings. This new emotional knowledge helps them as they become more social, forming stronger relationships, and resolving conflict with non-aggressive strategies such as sharing or taking turns. One of the hallmarks of this age is the explosion of imagination. Children begin to engage in fantasy play. This type of play is crucial to learning, incorporating many new skills such as language, social interaction, and the difference between real and pretend. It also builds self-esteem. One downside, however, is that your child may begin to fear imaginary concepts like monsters under the bed.

Tip:

Use real world strategies to help manage these fears, always take your child’s feelings seriously, and respect their emotions (even if you think they’re silly or funny), so that they know they can always rely on you. First, try to discover the true cause of the fear e.g., being afraid of monsters because of shadows at night. Next, discuss the fear at an age-appropriate level, i.e., experiment with lights to explain how shadows form. Finally, use creativity to establish a positive connection and make your child feel safe, such as teaching your child how to make shadow puppets.
An improving memory means children have a wider vocabulary, a better understanding of grammar, and a stronger sense of opposites. They love telling stories, are able to communicate more clearly, understand more complex commands and simple rules, and are eager to learn. Expect to be asked a lot of questions starting with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how”! Fine motor skills continue to develop, allowing children to more accurately copy and draw objects such as shapes and letters. The ability to count also advances. Children start internalizing the meaning of counting, what numbers represent, and how they relate to real life. Time is still a difficult concept to grasp, but basic elements of time such as the difference between morning and night become more accessible.

Tip:

Connect time to your child’s daily routine, providing concrete examples e.g. “Morning is when you eat cereal”, or “Night is when you put on your pajamas”.
This age range is generally considered the time when a child starts to become an individual. Your child may establish and express strong preferences about clothing, toys, friends, and more. Self-esteem skyrockets during these years, meaning your child won’t pause to argue if they think you’re wrong! This newfound confidence supports curiosity and exploration, but it can also lead to undesirable behaviors like bragging, stubbornness, competitiveness, and even intimidating others. That being said, children of this age are more dependent on approval. They have a strong desire to succeed and make people proud. They’ll revel in praise and take criticism very personally.

Tip:

In this age of arguments, it’s easy to get exhausted. Try to stay calm. Modeling impatience and anger will make your child think these are acceptable responses. Be polite, but firm and direct. Suggest postponing the discussion, or offer a small reward for completing tasks and chores without arguing. Establish house rules and shut down arguments by referring to and consistently enforcing these rules. Finally, choose your battles! Letting your child do something silly but harmless from time to time is unlikely to damage your authority.

Development content was created by Jennifer Dunn, child development specialist.