Parenting preschoolers is not a feat for the faint of heart. Society recognizes how difficult those “terrible twos” are, but most people don’t realize it doesn’t end there. The “threenagers” and “fournados” are even more challenging, as children are beginning to develop a need for independence, experiencing a plethora of new emotions, growing into their personalities, and facing a furious storm of developmental milestones.

Things change rapidly for preschool-aged children. Developmental milestones come quickly, and it can be difficult for parents to determine what is normal versus what is abnormal. With a bit of education and a lot of active monitoring, parents can use the preschool years to prepare their little ones for success in school and beyond.

Physical:

Preschoolers are in the process of learning about their bodies and working to control them. For most three and four-year-old children, climbing, jumping, and balancing will be favorites. They may also be dressing, turning pages in books, or washing their own hands. One of the biggest and most exciting physical milestones in this age range is potty training. Most three and four-year-old children are ready to start mastering the use of the toilet!

Emotional:

Temper tantrums peak in the preschool years. Although small children want to be independent, they may still find it difficult to perform tasks and may be very frustrated. As kids grow, they should learn to express their emotions using words such as “happy,” “mad,” and “sad” and begin to control their frustrations. Small children may also struggle with separation anxiety, especially if they spend large amounts of time with one specific caregiver.

Social:

Three and four-year-old children are ready to begin developing friendships with their peers. They may start to play with other children rather than alongside them. Sharing and cooperation will be significant indicators of social maturity for preschool children.

Imaginary friends and copying their favorite book or TV characters is also extremely common at this age.

Cognition:

Preschoolers are sponges. They are absorbing information all day, every day. Imagination and memory will begin to blossom, and parents should expect lots of questions about the world as well as fantastic stories from their children.

At this point, children should have a large and growing vocabulary. Simple sentences and comprehension are indicators of a healthy mind. Alongside general growth and curiosity, three and four-year-olds should be able to identify shapes, colors and even count or sing their ABCs.

Concerns:

At home, parents can help their kids along by providing opportunities for creativity and free play, storytelling, and independence. Practice giving preschoolers small jobs to do around the house or telling jokes and stories to one another.

Parents usually shouldn’t have to worry too much about meeting milestones. Each of these is a basic expectation, and kids will meet them at different paces. If a parent is concerned, they should seek the help of a licensed pediatrician to determine what, if anything, is preventing their child from developing. Early intervention and parental involvement are essential to combatting any early childhood deficiencies!