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It’s easy to monitor your preschooler’s physical development as he or they grow taller, bigger, and stronger. But how can you measure your child’s development in other areas? For example, can you tell if their social and emotional development is on track for their age?

As your child’s parent and first teacher, you’re in a good position to observe and assess whether their developing skills are appropriate for children between 3 and 4 years old. The milestones and tips that follow will help you understand what your child should be doing and learning – and how you can support his or her development.

Is your child developing age-appropriate social and emotional skills?

It’s helpful to know what social and emotional skills your child should be developing by age 3 or 4. Review the following milestones for a child’s social and emotional skills, and note how your child is doing in each area.

My child:

  • Can correctly state his/her gender and age.
  • Can recite his/her first and last names, and the names of parents.
  • Takes care of his/her own needs, such as washing hands and dressing.
  • Enjoys helping with household tasks.
  • Adjusts to new situations without an adult being present.
  • Is starting to notice other people’s moods and feelings.
  • Is beginning to recognize his/her limits and ask others for help.
  • Is starting to learn to take turns, share, and cooperate.
  • Expresses anger with words rather than acting out physically.

Encouraging social and emotional development at home

Now that you understand some of the social and emotional skills your child should have, you can reinforce those skills and help him develop further where necessary. It’s natural (and fun) to practice these skills with your child throughout the day. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Provide structure and daily routines at home; this creates a secure environment for your child.
  • Encourage your child’s independence. As they practice and master skills such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, or feeding a pet, be sure to praise him/her.
  • Teach your child to recite their first and last names, parents’ names, gender and age, and your home address.
  • Make sure your child has regular social contact with other children their age, both one-on-one and in a group. Observe them playing with others, and listen to what they says about their friends. This is an opportunity for you to teach them to cooperate with peers, resolve conflicts, and build and maintain friendships.
  • Play games that require your child to cooperate with others, wait their turn, and learn to be a gracious winner or loser.

Promoting social and emotional growth at preschool

In preschool, your child will enter into the world filled with structured and informal learning, and one that places high value on good behavior and cooperation. To keep track of your child’s social and emotional progress, you’ll want to:

  • Ask the teacher what opportunities your child has to learn and practice social and emotional skills in the classroom and at play. Also ask how well your child is doing in the area of social and emotional development.
  • Find out what social skills and behaviors your child will need to demonstrate in order to make the best transition to kindergarten.
  • Encourage your child to talk about school, and try to gauge how they feel about classmates and any situations or activities they finds especially interesting (or challenging).

Cause for concern? Where to turn for advice and assistance

“Normal” social and emotional skills and awareness don’t develop in exactly the same way for all preschoolers. However, you may want to seek help if your child:

  • Has difficulty joining in and maintaining positive social status in a peer group.
  • When frustrated, he has a hard time maintaining self-control.
  • Throws long, drawn-out, or frequent tantrums, or bullies other children.
  • Is unusually withdrawn or seems sad. (Be sure to look for this behavior in group activities as well as solo play and artwork.)
  • Suffers from extreme anxiety when separated from you, even in a familiar setting.

By: Kristin Stanberry