Parenting a preschool-aged child is no walk in the park. Kids ages 3-5 accomplish a plethora of developmental milestones, start to become more independent, and develop the attitudes of teenagers, all while being prepped to enter their first stage of independence from their parents: preschool. Researching best practices to parent preschoolers can help to make the transition from toddlerhood to big-kid status a much smoother experience.
Preschool-Aged Children Need Routine
- From baby stages to toddlerhood, your little one's world is constantly changing as they rapidly develop. Because of this, almost all parenting experts agree that having a stable routine in place for preschoolers is important for everyone involved. Staying as consistent as possible in any routine is vital, but it's also understandable that routines occasionally need to be broken.
- Creating a chart for your preschoolers to follow is a great way to keep track of schedules and get them involved in the process. Printable Parents have perfect simple morning, after-school, and bedtime charts you can print for free and use with your child. Or, you can create one yourself with tools like Canva. Charts that use visual elements are best for preschool-aged children.
- While it's important to understand the importance of routines, you don't want to get carried away and overschedule your child.
- Giving warnings about transitions is just as important as following your schedule. When it's time to transition from playtime to a bedtime routine, giving a ten or five-minute warning can help ensure the transition goes smoothly.
Preschool-Aged Children Need Independence
- Children usually start to show their first signs of independence around preschool age. It is important to learn how to promote their independence in a safe and encouraging way.
- Introducing simple chores to your child is a great step towards independence. There are plenty of free chore charts you can print out. I suggest finding a simple one with an easy to understand picture for your child. My child, who will be three in a few short months, loves to help put away her clean clothes, clean up her toys, feed the dog, and throw dirty laundry down our laundry chute.
- Encourage your child's independence by offering them more choices. Instead of picking out their outfits, try letting them do it themself (even if they pick out an awfully unmatched outfit). Likewise, at snack time, give them a few options to pick from.
- Never underestimate your child's ability to do something independently. When a child enters preschool, they are usually expected to do a number of tasks on their own, such as hanging up jackets and backpacks and cleaning up after themselves after playtime and snack. Quite often though, preschoolers will be more willing to complete a task for someone other than their parent. Preschool teacher Donna Jones says instead of doing a task for them or simply asking them to do it, say it this way, "Do you want me to help you or can you do it by yourself?"
- Resist the urge to instantly help your child. I often catch myself doing things for my children that I know they can do themselves. Instead, when possible, try to let them figure it out themselves.
Discipline and Preschoolers
- All that development and routine can also mean more outbursts and temper tantrums. Developing effective discipline tactics for preschoolers can go a long way. It can reduce stress in the child, and help you, as the parent, avoid outbursts of parental burnout.
- Find alternatives to the word, "NO". It's inevitable—as a parent, we tell our children "no" all the time. However, trying to find alternatives can help reduce stress for parents and possibly prevent further resistance from the child. Check out this list of great alternatives to saying no.
- Reward more positive behavior and ignore bad behavior. From a child's perspective, all attention is good attention. Therefore, it's important as a parent to understand that ignoring a child's bad behaviors can help reduce the behavior. My youngest daughter recently went through a sticking-out-the-tongue phase. At first, my husband, older daughter, and I gave attention to the behavior by instantly acknowledging it and punishing it. And, guess what, she did it even more. One particular day she was really sticking her tongue out constantly. I remember Hadley (my oldest) screaming to me through the house, "She's sticking her tongue out again!" I finally told her to just ignore it, and that's what we all started doing. Once we stopped drawing attention to it, she stopped doing it as often.
- Involve the child in righting their wrongs. It's important to remember that you are disciplining a child who doesn't necessarily know or understand that what they are doing is wrong. When disciplining, make sure to explain what they have done wrong, and whenever possible try to involve them in righting their wrongs.
- Try to avoid punishing a child at a later time, or dwelling on the past. We've all heard it before. The child in the grocery store that's acting out. The parent looks at the child and says something like, "Just wait until we get home." If discipline isn't handed out to a child immediately after the act, the child isn't likely to learn from their mistake.
- Encouraging play with other children is a vital first step in preparing children for school. Encouraging them to share without forcing it will ensure your child does well in preschool. Having two children has given me lots of opportunities to teach good sharing practices for both of my daughters. I constantly remind them about ownership—these toys belong to you, these toys belong to your sister, and these belong to both of you-—and then encourage them through example on how to share things.
- Promote independent play. Independent play can help children to grow up with more confidence and self-reliance. However, it can be difficult to start children off with independent playtime. I have found that if I start out an activity with them for the first few minutes, they are more likely to play longer by themselves than if I just let them go on their own. Independent play can be very helpful for a child at school. Your child might find times at school where they don't want to play what the other children are playing, and the teacher(s) may not be able to give them their undivided attention. Ensuring your kid is confident enough to go off and play by themselves will foster a positive outlook on their school experience. Although all of these parenting tips are generally known to be best practices for preschool-aged children, it's important to understand that every child is unique. What works for one parent might not work for another.