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The influence of peers really starts to take hold at this age. Three- and 4-year-olds are ripe for interaction with other children – they're responsive to playing cooperatively and have a handle on how to share, so it's a great age to introduce your child to preschool or an organized play group, if you haven't done so already. Such group settings will give her plenty of opportunity to stretch her social skills while learning more about getting along with kids her age.
Share and share alike
As your 3-year-old becomes more sensitive to others' feelings, she'll gradually give up her self-centered toddler ways and begin to cooperate when playing with her preschool pals. Children this age have a better grasp than 2-year-olds of sharing, taking turns, and resolving problems. Left to their own devices, for instance, many 3- and 4-year-olds are able to figure out their own solution when haggling over a hot toy. Your role is to encourage this kind of cooperative behavior while staying at arm's length. Only intervene when it looks like someone is going to get hurt or is overly upset. You can suggest to your child that she "use her words" to cope with a conflict instead of relying on physical responses or emotional outbursts. If you tend to explode in stressful situations, try to tone down your reactions in her presence. Otherwise, your child may start to imitate your strong reactions when she's feeling strained.
The magic of make-believe
Because this age is full of fantasy play, your preschooler is likely to engage in make-believe games with friends. These can help her develop important social skills such as paying attention and communicating through both actions and words. Pretend play also allows your child and her buddies to try on any role they please, so it can help them begin to explore complex social ideas such as compassion, cruelty, and power. Be sure to provide your child and her friends with a box of props for imaginary play (homemade costumes, worn-out clothing, and plastic plates and bowls), then leave them to romp through their make-believe world together.