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Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years (cont.)

Promoting Healthy Growth and Development

You can help your child grow by showing love and affection, by talking with and reading to your child, and by letting your child play. It's also important to set boundaries and limits.

Physical development

  • Offer plenty of opportunities for exercise. Going to the playground, joining a gymnastics or dance class, or simply running races in your backyard allows your child to release excess energy and encourages new physical skills. For more information, see the topic Physical Activity for Children and Teens.
  • Help your preschooler learn healthy eating habits. Although you control what, when, and where your child eats, realize that he or she chooses whether to eat and how much. As long as you offer nourishing foods from the major food groupsClick here to see an illustration. and focus on the big picture—how much is eaten throughout the day or over a few days—your child should not have problems. For more information, see the topic Healthy Eating for Children.

Cognitive development

  • Encourage safe exploration. Children who explore learn to master new skills and solve problems. Offer a variety of things to play with, read, create, and build. Take basic measures to minimize risks. For more information about preventing accidents and injuries, see the topic Health and Safety, Ages 2 to 5 Years.
  • Encourage a sense of security. This sense of trust lays the foundation for learning, social skills, adaptability, and emotional development. Your child is more likely to feel safe and secure if you are dependable, consistent, respectful, and responsive. Secure children also keep and strengthen their attachment to their parents.

Emotional and social development

  • Provide peer contact. Playing with other children even 1 day a week gives children opportunities to practice and develop important social, emotional, and language skills.
  • Promote self-control. Children need guidance, clear limits, and patient parents during this time of behavioral and emotional struggles. Help your child by modeling and teaching proper behavior. Time-outs can help, when they are used properly and sparingly. Encourage your child to think about the feelings of other people to develop empathy.
  • Click here to view an Actionset.Help your child build self-esteem. Parents have the greatest influence on a child's belief about himself or herself. Let your child know that he or she belongs, is doing well, and is contributing.

Language development

Sensory and motor development

  • Provide a variety of experiences and play environments. Schedule time each day for either indoor or outdoor physical activity, such as dancing or going to a playground. These activities improve coordination and other large muscle skills. Fine motor skills develop through things such as art projects (like painting or using scissors) and playing musical instruments.

Nurturing your relationship with your child

Your relationship with your child will constantly change as your child gains new skills and develops independence. You can help your child through each stage by looking at your relationship from time to time. Ask yourself:

  • What do I like most about my child?
  • What could be triggering problem behavior? Are any of these new triggers?
  • What new skills has my child learned within the past 3 months? 2 months? 1 month?
  • What tasks can I encourage my child to do for himself or herself? How can I encourage him or her?
  • When am I happy about how I treat my child?
  • What don't I like about some of our interactions? When do these episodes tend to occur?

If you are the parent or caregiver of children, it is also important for you to:

  • Learn and use effective parenting and discipline techniques and avoid the use of corporal punishment. Parenting classes are offered in most communities. Ask your doctor or call a local hospital for more information.
  • Learn healthy techniques to resolve conflicts and manage stress. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Call a family member or friend to give you a break if you feel overwhelmed. Find community resources to help you with child care or other services that you need. Call a doctor or local hospital for a place to start. Some communities have respite care facilities for children. They provide temporary child care during times when you need a break.
  • Get help from school programs if your child has special needs.
  • Seek help if you think you have a problem with alcohol, drugs, anger, depression, stress, or other issues that affect your mental health.

Getting ready for kindergarten

Most children start kindergarten around age 4½ to 6 years.

It can be hard to know when your child is ready for school, but your local elementary school or preschool can help. Attending preschool or play groups can be a great way for children to build new skills and learn to interact with others.

Some of the tasks and behaviors that show that a child is ready for kindergarten are the following:

  • Your child can keep hands to himself or herself while in line; sit and pay attention for at least 5 minutes; help with clean-up activities, such as putting away toys; use words for frustration rather than acting out; work and play with other children in small groups; talk with other children and adults.
  • Your child can hold a pencil correctly, cut with scissors, do what the teacher asks, get dressed, and use the bathroom without help.
  • Your child knows the alphabet; can write his or her first name; may recognize some printed words; can count from 1 to 20 and name the colors.
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