Your child's emotional development 4 to 5 years
Be consistent and loving as you provide both opportunities and boundaries
Your child at a glance
Your child is developing friendships and enjoys playing in groups with other children. During this year you are likely to see your child:
- Enjoying discovering friendships, and even perhaps finding a best friend
- Engaging in, and organising, imaginative play with other children
- Gaining an increased awareness of himself as an individual
- Talking about own and others' emotions, showing empathy and explores what caused the emotions
- Starting to talk about what is 'fair', 'good' and 'bad'
- Finding it easier to be away from you, though still needing your emotional support, boundaries and routine
Your Child's story
Play remains a very important activity for your child, to learn social skills, independence, and acting out emotions. She is developing friendships now, and will probably enjoy imaginative play (pretend play) with other children, such as playing house or school. You may also see her becoming more involved in the organisation and planning of games.
Your child is becoming increasingly aware of himself as an individual, and starting to compare himself with others. He is more interested in others’ emotions and what caused them, showing empathy. He may tell you e.g. how a friend fell down and therefore cried and felt sad. What he sees and experiences will also be acted out during pretend play.
You may notice that your child is starting to understand moral reasoning, for example he may ask or talk about fairness and what behaviours are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. He is also starting to understand about past and future.
Your child will love jokes or silly games and will revel in showing off. She will be able to leave you without too much commotion, and understands that you will come back for her. At the same time, feelings of insecurity often start developing around this age. Brimming with confidence in one situation, and then suddenly becoming more timid in another. She still needs your support and reassurance. She needs you to provide a safe environment, with both encouragement and boundaries as well as a familiar routine that she knows and trusts. Certain fears may still linger (e.g. fear of the dark) at this age, and the occasional tantrum can occur with stubbornness and aggressive behaviour.
What you can do to support and encourage your child's development
Encourage your child to spend time with other children, as important learning happens during their play and ‘pretend play’ together. Also, support him and be excited with him when he finds a best friend. Equally, he needs your emotional support if he finds it a bit hard to find a best friend or feels excluded by someone.
To support her growing sense of self, you can tell her about what you did when you were little and your favourite stories about her as a younger child. You can also look at photos together from that time, and she will find it fascinating to see herself as a little baby growing to the age she is now.
You can support and encourage learning about emotions through talking, physical activity and play. By asking your child what he has been doing and what he has seen, you encourage him to think about things and learn how to express his thoughts and feelings. Listen with real interest and engage in the story he is telling you. Engage in 'active' reading with your child at this age, where you talk about what you've just read or what is going on in the pictures. This may encourage him to ‘act out’ the story of the book, learn from the interactions and emotions in the story, and imagine "what might happen next”.
Provide plenty of positive attention when your child manages to do things herself. Help her find opportunities to learn about emotions and feel good about herself no matter if she succeeds or fails at something. Provide support and encouragement to try again when things are more difficult to do or he seems to become insecure. Read about how the right praise can be very important to support this.
Continue to provide both opportunities and boundaries for your child, and be consistent and loving in your discipline. Any praise and critique needs to focus on your child’s behaviour, ensuring she understands she is still loved and accepted as a person. Remember that she thrives on familiar routines, and needs you to set limits so she understands how things work and what she can do within them. If you do meet some tantrums, try distraction techniques and humour, sensitivity and calm.