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Your child’s social development 4-5 years

4 to 5 Years
Be clear and consistent with discipline and model and praise positive behaviours

Your child at a glance

Your child is gaining more understanding of himself and others, and will develop friendships. His knowledge and use of language is becoming more sophisticated. During this stage you are likely to see your child:
  • Wanting to understand and make sense of what he is experiencing and what is going on around her
  • Often engaging well with others, enjoying playing in groups of children
  • Expressing a desire to play with others, usually sharing and taking turns
  • Perhaps having a best friend
  • Seeking your attention and your approval
  • Coping well with having to wait to have her needs met

Your child's story

During this stage, your child is starting to become more aware of himself as an individual, and also understands that others are individuals with their own needs. This means he will also compare himself with other. He may start to demonstrate some grasp of concepts such as fairness and good or bad behaviour (in very simple terms).

Boy and Girl playing with camera Your child is keen to understand her experiences and make sense of what is going on around her. Play is one of the most important ways for her to explore situations and play out her own feelings. Dramatic or pretend play is now mirroring reality to a greater extent as she is including more detail and a sense of time and space. As she is setting up her own games and doing tasks she sets herself she is building confidence as well as independence.

She is learning about cooperation, sharing, and empathy through play and pretend play with other children, finding a way to deal with her own ‘selfish’ wishes and actions along with the needs and actions of others. Language skills and social skills are further developed through the conversations she has with her friends and with herself during play, and through directing how play is carried out.

You will find that your child is becoming very interested not only in playing with other children, but also building friendships. This is an important part of his social and emotional development as he is expressing more awareness of how others feel, developing empathy and learning to take others into account. He may even have a best friend around this age.

What you can do to support and encourage your child's development

Your child still needs comfort from you and a sense of security. This means affection and praise as well as limits and rules. It is important to be clear and consistent with your child’s discipline, and model the behaviour you expect him to show. When he finds something confusing or difficult, put things in simple terms but allow him to go through the steps of solving the situation with you. It is important for him to understand what is going on, and this will also help him understand and express his emotions more effectively. If you encounter difficulties with limits or decisions in certain situations, it may still work well to provide your child with a few choices he can decide from (e.g. around what to wear, what to read, and what snack to have).

Children looking at their shadowsPlay continues to be an important way for your child to make sense of various situations and to learn about cooperation, sharing and increasingly about empathy and friendship. When your child expresses interest in being with other children and talks about having a best friend, encourage and support her in this and praise her when she is thinking of others.

By this age, you can also start playing board games with your child. They provide lots of fun, and also more structured learning about following rules and taking turns. These are not easy concepts to learn at this age, and using a game may suit your child's learning style.

Encourage your child to devise his own playtime, and this will help him find his own tasks that he wants to achieve, which in turn builds confidence and independence. Also, as ever, throw yourself into his play, play the roles he assign to you and express enthusiasm. Praise positive behaviours and display creations he is proud of.

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