Kids ages 3-5 have tons of energy and are eager to walk, run, dance, and play. It's a great age for exploration too. Preschoolers learn a lot when given the chance to investigate their environments (with supervision, of course).
There's much for preschoolers to explore. Now that they're older, they can focus their energy and tackle more complex activities like playing dress-up, riding trikes, planting seeds, or building something out of snow.
With patience and some imagination, you can help your preschooler be a safe and happy explorer.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Hang back. Resist the urge to give your child too many directions or too much correction. Try offering encouragement instead. If your child wants to use her shoe as a hat or a pretend teacup, so be it. The language you use can make a difference. Say, "That makes a great hat!" or "How does that tea taste?"
If your child is doing something unsafe, gently correct or distract. For example, explain the real use of an object ("The pot is for cooking, not bonking your little brother"), then encourage exploration of more acceptable uses for it, such as getting a spoon and using the pot as a drum or to make a pretend soup.
You can suggest ideas for play, but chances are your child may have a different activity in mind — or might stumble onto something intriguing. Allowing kids some time without intervention can help them develop their creativity and learn to master tasks on their own.
Mistakes are OK. Trial-and-error is a brilliant teacher. Letting go enough to let your child fail in a small way (like being unsuccessful at working a zipper) is good for both of you. When your child begins to do something incorrectly and gets frustrated, offer encouragement. You also can provide opportunities to keeping working at the skill that's being mastered. Then one day soon, your child will be zippering like a champ.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD