Between 2-4 years your child is experiencing many developmental changes and his play is becoming more complex. You’ll notice your two year old start engaging in pretend play. As your child approaches 3 he’ll enjoy more playing with other kids. Their play begins becoming more complex and they start making up stories and rules for their games. They’re also using their imagination much more. Your child may no longer play with the broom to sweep a pretend house but instead use it as a sword in battle or a horse to ride. Your three year old is starting to understand sharing but may still find it difficult to share all the time and be patient. Children under 5 have a fairly short concentration span so don’t be surprised if your child decides to end a game suddenly.
Children experience two kinds of play, structured and unstructured (free) play. Unstructured play is the best kind of play for young children. It’s where they get to initiate what to do, choose freely, make decisions and explore. When children make up their own rules during play they learn critical thinking skills when they have to evaluate the situation or rethink rules when the game doesn’t work. It’s also a great opportunity to develop their social and problem solving skills as kids play together and figure out ways on their own to solve their problems. Examples include pretend play, exploring parts of the house like cupboards or gardens, painting or dancing.
Structured play is usually led by a grown-up and has limited time and space like dance class, music class, sports, etc. In today’s world everything is organized to the minute it’s important your child gets enough time for free play not just structured play experiences.
There are many skills that your child learns through play.
- Puzzles, memory card games, age appropriate board games and games with building and construction like blocks or Legos are great for developing your child’s thinking skills. Try making a homemade memory card game by printing out pictures and cutting the paper yourself. Simple and effective and you can make new ones easily.
- Playing dress-up is great to develop young children’s creativity and imaginative skills. Have old clothes, scarves, hats or props available for your child’s imaginative play. Messy play with paint, mud or play dough allows your child to create and explore different textures as well as learn how different materials work together. You can make homemade play dough with flour, water and some food coloring. Invest in old fashioned blocks with allow for open ended play and let your child create and his imagination to grow. Use everyday item like empty milk containers or boxes to set up a restaurant or throw a sheet over two chairs to create a fort. Playing house or restaurant can help your child’s counting skills as he adds up how much things costs or how many items he has. It’s also a chance for your child to relive social situations and reflect on incidents that may happen in a real restaurant.
- Give your child opportunity to play outside and let out his energy. Outdoor play is also important for your child’s gross motor skills which develop his larger muscles. Include opportunities for jumping, climbing, throwing and running. Include puppets in your child’s toy box. They are great for allowing children to express their emotions as they pretend to be another character. You can make a puppet easily by using a sock, some buttons for eyes and nose and knitting string for hair. Let your child make his own as well!
- Of course books are essential and crucial for every child’s toy box. Reading with children helps their language and literacy skills. Children learn new words and may even start recognizing short words like cat or dog. Let your child pick out books on his on and sit and read them or look through the pictures. You’d be surprised how young children can sit and look through a book, retelling the events or even making up their own version! Keep books within your child’s reach to give him plenty of opportunity. If you’re worried about ruining his books then just keep board books close by and make sure you read the paper books with your child.
A final word about television, you’ve seen how important and rich all the daily play activities we take for granted are for your child. While most play may sound loud and exhausting which can be tough to handle after a long day, there are many opportunities for quiet play as well like puzzles or blocks. Child development experts recommend no more than 1 hour of screen time a day for children 2-5 years old. This includes computers, tablets and television. In fact research has shown that excessive TV time with young children had delays in language and cognitive skills. Excessive TV time takes away from all the rich play opportunities your child should be having which in turn affects the development of all these skills.
I hope this article helped show you how important play can be for young children and how this is their natural way for learning about themselves and the world around them.
Photo By sixninepixels, from freedigitalphotos.net
Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.
Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.
What you can do:
Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.
Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.
Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.
- Support your child’s development
Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.
- Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
- Try not to be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away from exploring new things.
- Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
- Communicate with your child
Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time. Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again. The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.
These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.
Image from onemorephoto/flickr
Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes! When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?
How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.
There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.
What you can do:
- Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
- Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
- Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
- Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.
Separate or Same Classroom?
The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
This article as features in Arabic on Supermama
Photo from Michaela Spodniakova
As a parent, sex education is a conversation that you’d most likely try to avoid. If you’re a parent of a toddler or preschooler you may think that you can avoid this talk for at least a few years. This is not exactly true. Sex education can start at any age and at the pace your child sets with his curiosity and questions.
Sex education is important for children of all ages. Young children need to learn about their own bodies to help them feel comfortable with themselves, understand their feelings and protect themselves against unwanted touch. How he or she feels about sex and the body can have a lifelong effect into their sexual relationships as grownups. Adults who are confident and knowledgeable about their bodies and their sexual needs tend to lead a healthier sex life and that this infrastructure is placed throughout childhood.
Introduce your child to his body through everyday activities like bath time or diaper changing by teaching your child the proper names for his or her sex organs. Teach your child that no one (or only certain people like mommy or daddy) are allowed to touch the private parts of his or her body and to tell you if someone tries to touch them. Start at a young age and add it to your regular instructions with your child. Don’t emphasize these instructions with an exaggerated sense of urgency or anxiety since that may cause your child to feel guilty or fearful of telling you if he or she does encounter that situation.
Children under 4 are naturally curious about their and other people’s bodies. At around 3 years, children start noticing that boys and girls have different genitals and can often be seen playing “doctor” to examine each other’s bodies. This form of exploration is very different from adults’ sexuality and is harmless when only young children are involved but you can choose to set the limits you see fit. When reminding your child that certain parts of his body are for him alone and not for others to touch, try to remain calm but firm when sending your child the message. If your child feels like he or she has done something really bad it may cause feelings of shame. He or she may start feeling guilty about these natural feelings of curiosity and try to explore without getting caught.
Some examples of common sexual behavior from children under 4:
■ Exploring, touching, rubbing or showing private parts, in public and in private
■ Trying to touch mother’s or other women’s breasts
■ Taking off clothes and being naked or trying to see others while they are naked
■ Asking questions and talking about their own—and others’—bodies and bodily functions to adults and other children their own age
When your child asks questions about his or her body or even your own don’t feel embarrassed, laugh or avoid the question. Take these questions seriously, your child looks to you for honest answers that teach him about the world. Give your child simple and age appropriate answers. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail, if your child wants to know more, he or she will ask.
Here are some examples of questions young children ask and how you could answer them
- Why doesn’t everyone have a penis? you can simply reply by saying that boys and girls have different bodies. Boys have a penis but girls don’t.
- Why is there hair down there? you can say that bodies change as we grow older and this is one of the changes.
- How do girls go “pee-pee”? Girls have a different part in their body than the penis that they can use to go to the toilet.
- Where do babies come from? this can be a tough question but try to give a simple and honest answer. You can start by saying that babies grow in a special place in the mommy’s tummy. If your child is still curious, you can elaborate that when a mommy and daddy love each other they come together and make a baby. Answer your child’s questions as long as she/he is asking them.
- Why do mommies have breasts but daddies don’t? “When boys and girls grow up to be big like daddy and mommy, their bodies change and become different”.You can point out other differences like daddy has a beard or moustache but mommy doesn’t. Let her know that you will answer any other questions or thoughts she has about this so she can come to you.
These conversations may feel awkward at time but remember that your child relies on you for information on how the world works.To make things easier you can try to include books in your regular reading which are designed specifically for teaching young children about their body and private parts. This can make approaching the topic much more natural and relaxed. It’s a good source of information for your child as well as showing you what is age appropriate information. Remember you are setting the stage for open conversation that will last till the critical years in adolescence and early adulthood when sexuality becomes a main topic for most young men and women.
Reading with your Child
My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky
“The story is a simple scenario involving a gender neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. The powerful message really comes through when the youngster tells on the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery. The last page shows a proud, smiling child doing a “strong arm” pose. The text assures them that it wasn’t their fault and by speaking out the child will continue to grow big and strong. It is a compelling and uplifting message.“
References and Helpful Resourcs
One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask? Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.
1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.
- What you can do:
Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height. He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.
2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting
- What you can do:
If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.
3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point
- What you can do:
First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.
4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.
- What you can do:
Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.
5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!
- What you can do:
Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you. Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.
6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.
- What you can do:
Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?
Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.
Photo from Allparentstalk.com and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com