This is the year for preschool for most kiddos. Your child is developing a set of skills that are essential for success in school and in life – the “executive functions.” No, this is not a management training program; “executive” refers to how to get things done. These are skills like problem solving, organizing play (or work later on), involving other children in play, and finding and using the right tool for the job. This short video on Executive Function gives you an idea of what this is all about.
Your child at this age would rather play with other children than by herself, and she engages in more and more elaborate make-believe games. She will talk to you about her interests, and she is able to tell stories using simple grammar rules. She will follow other rules, too. In fact, she will enjoy following rules, even the ones she makes up!
Is My Child On Track?
No two children will develop at the same pace, but there are some norms you can use as a guide. Physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional developmental milestones will give you a range of behaviors your baby should master and what to look forward to in the next growth stage. If you are concerned about any area of development, there are a number of activities you can do with baby to encourage growth. If you are worried that your baby is falling behind, consult with your doctor to decide if your baby needs more specialized help.
A few excellent sources for Developmental Milestones:
Center for Disease Control – Learn the Signs/Act Early and Milestone Moments
Zero to Three – Your Child’s Development
Healthy Children.Org – Ages and Stages
- Your four year old can catch a ball.
- She enjoys new things.
- She enjoys being with other children and is learning to cooperate.
- She will talk about what she likes or tell a story using good simple grammar.
- She will name some colors and numbers.
- She will begin to use scissors and copy capital letters.
Ideas for Learning and Growth
Socialization: Interacting with other children is a very important part of your child’s life right now. This is the time they learn cooperation, empathy, and just pure enjoyment of others’ company. Combining this with learning skills to enhance cognitive development and language is the ideal for getting her ready for Kindergarten.
Preschool: We have years and years of experience and research that shows children who attend a quality preschool program enter Kindergarten with a big advantage in cognitive and language skills. We also know that children who attend preschool have a great advantage because they have developed their “executive function skills”; they can problem solve by organizing a task, deciding how to attack it, changing their minds if they discover a better way of doing it, and sticking to their plan until it is finished. Hopefully, they also clean up after themselves!
Library Story Hours and Museum Classes: Most libraries and many museums have programs for toddlers and preschoolers. These programs are great fun and introduce children and parents to new and exciting ideas. Children also get a chance to practice how to behave with other children in an organized fashion and follow the adult leader’s directions.
Play and Learn Groups: Organized play groups that include activities to enhance children’s development and school readiness are great ways to have fun and learn at the same time. Play with your child using sorting and matching games. Using 4 to 8 playing cards, have your child sort the cards by color or number. Then, place the cards face down and try to remember where each card is to make a match.
Color and write with your child. This will help her develop those fine motor skills important for writing. Write her name in big letters and help her trace the letters.
Make up games with three or four steps she needs to remember, like “hop on one foot, turn around, touch the ground, then jump to the sky.” Let her make up steps for you to follow. Watch out – it could involve some interesting gymnastics!
What to Watch For
The CDC suggest you consult with your doctor if at four years of age your child:
- Can’t jump in place.
- Has trouble scribbling.
- Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe.
- Ignores other children or doesn’t respond to people outside the family.
- Resists dressing, sleeping, or using the toilet.
- Can’t retell a favorite story.
- Doesn’t follow 3-part commands.
- Doesn’t understand “same” and “different.”
- Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly.
- Speaks unclearly.
- Loses skills he once had.
This may be a sign of delayed development, something that could be resolved with the right interventions. The important thing is to act early! The earlier you act, the easier it will be to get baby on track developmentally.
Muskegon Area Services: A list of community groups, agencies, and schools that can help you and your baby.
Web Sources: Carefully researched websites that will give you a wealth of information on child development and parenting.