Raising Your Preschool Child with a Positive Touch

Raising your pre-school child can be a lot of fun. They are likely curious, chatty and always asking questions. They spend a lot of time running around and participating in gross motor play. They are exploring fine motor skills with activities like drawing and coloring. Reading together is enjoyable while you embrace the quiet time and love for each other.

It wasn’t that long ago they were babies. They were so dependent on you as a parent. Now, their language has become clearer and they can express their needs. This new phase of independence can bring on a different set of joys and challenges compared to the newborn and infancy phases.

Trying to help your child maneuver through the pre-school years is filled with challenges as they want to adventure out from their comfort zone and experience life while you are trying to guide them, both for learning purposes and for safety reasons. I like to equate this stage of development as a prelude to the teenage years. They are trying to branch out, but they still need to learn from you. How do you walk that fine line of giving them freedom while still guiding them with love and wisdom?

Children, and for that matter adults, learn best when they are in a positive environment, receiving instructions in a positive and constructive manner. Acknowledging that they are in learning mode, you expect them to make mistakes on a regular basis. As parents, you can have a better understanding of their behavior and have expectations for performance if you can understand the main areas of development, including gross motor, fine motor, language, social and problem solving.

When children come into the office for their well-child visits, we assess these areas of development through the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). You can access these questionnaires online, provided by Dr. Michael Taymor, MD. This can help you understand some reasonable expectations of your child. Some additional helpful tools I suggest checking out include:

Below are some tips and guidelines that can help you foster healthy and happy development for your pre-school child:

Helping Your Child Take Care of Their Body

  • Proper nutrition: When children are eating properly and sleeping well, they are likely to be rested the next day. They are also more likely to regulate their emotions and listen better. Check out these recommendations from the AAP website,
  • Good sleep: Ensure your child is getting enough sleep at night. On an average, kids between ages 3-4 need about 11-12 hours of sleep at night. It’s unusual to see a 4-year-old taking naps in the middle of the day, but some 3-year-old may take a 1-2 hour nap during the day.
  • Routines: Establish routines and predictable times for eating, playing, reading, and sleeping. Children like to know what is next, it gives them a sense of comfort and security.
  • Talk it out: Plan to have a “therapy” session with your child at the end of the day. Encourage them to express to you three things: what they thought was fun for the day, what was a challenge, and what was frustrating. This session can happen at bath-time or maybe when you cuddle in before reading together. As best as you can, try to be a good listener, empathizing with them. Their release of thoughts and emotions will help them have a good sleep. They will also be able to use you as a sounding board as they learn how to problem solve, explore feelings and express themselves. Repeating this nightly routine deepens your relationship with your child and creates a foundation that promotes them sharing with you long into your future relationship.

Create Positive Experiences

  • Reading together: Reading to your child is fun for children because they get to use their imagination. Not only are you helping them develop their language, but you are also fostering their ability to solve problems. Typically, good books showcase someone with a problem that needs to be solved. While reading the book, stop and periodically ask them how else that problem could have been solved, what would they do differently, or how the book makes them feel. This exercise might call for them to express feelings, learn empathy, and problem solve.
  • Play games: Simple board games and card games are a good way to have fun together. Your child will learn how to follow directions, move a playing piece, count spaces, have successes, and learn to handle their emotions when things don’t go their way. They will learn how to wait their turn and how to play by the rules.
  • Get outside: Go to the park. You can talk about the different birds flying around, the trees or plants that line the walking paths. These moments help discover the value of being at peace. They help reduce anxiety. Preschool-aged kids can learn to self-soothe by being in nature.
  • Be active: Go for a bike ride or a walk in your neighborhood. Have your child describe what they see. This is a fun activity that helps with language development and observation skills.

Promote Social Development

  • Set up play dates for your child: This will help them leave their ego-centric world and begin to understand others. By age 4, children have a good vocabulary. This will help kids when they are playing together as they pick what games to play, what rules to set. You may need to prompt a play activity, like a nature scavenger hunt, then let them play with their play date.
  • Play together: Make sure to put your cell phone away when you play with your child. They crave your attention.

Promote a Sense of Responsibility

  • Helping out: Have your child help with tasks around the house. Let them set the table, sort the laundry or pick up sticks in the yard. This can help them foster their independence.
  • Give praise: Praise them when they get ready by themselves in the morning. This can include getting dressed, brushing their hair and teeth and putting on their own shoes. Perhaps the night before, they can pick out the outfit they would like to wear the next day.

Promote Problem Solving Skills

  • Thinking out loud: When they encounter a problem, have them think out loud with you. Have them describe the problem and how they would like to solve it. It may be tempting to give them the solution, especially if you feel in a hurry. But taking the time to be patient and listen to what they have to say will help them develop confidence and solve problems by themselves.
  • Stay calm: Portray calmness as both of you encounter a problem. If you can think and talk calmly, you can help them learn to be calm, too. Good techniques include taking a couple of deep breaths or counting to ten. This will help relax the body and then have a clear mind.

I recently read with pleasure an article published by The University of California Davis Children Hospital, The Power of Positive Parenting. In the article, they describe the acronym PRIDE to help parents develop five skills for positive parenting:

  • Praise: A positive statement that expresses approval. Praise helps children feel good and validates what they are doing is important.
  • Reflection: Repeating back a child’s words and elaborating on what they said. By doing this, you are letting them know you are paying attention and making them feel important.
  • Imitation: Playing or making similar gestures that your child makes. When you do this, you let them know you are all in their activity and this makes them feel special.
  • Description: Describing what your child is doing like a sportscaster is doing in a play by play of a game. This lets them know they have your undivided attention.
  • Enjoyment: Where you express warmth and positivity with words and actions while you play with your child.

Every child’s temperament is different, not good or bad. Finding out the best way to address your child’s temperament is so important. This article in might give you some insight if you are having a difficult time relating with your child. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns that we can address and help you with.


I originally published this article at Bronson’s website,

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