Pre-schoolers between the ages of three and five are a curious mixture of beginning to want to do things all by themselves and wanting you by their side at a moment’s notice. They may insist that you wait on them hand and foot one minute, putting on their shoes and brushing their hair, the nest refusing any help whatsoever. It’s an interesting journey into independence that goes backwards and forwards just as it should at this age.
The pre-school age is an age of growing independence in preparation for attending school. Even if your little one has attended childcare or nursery it will still be a huge jump in independence at school. The pre-school years are when your child learns to separate from you and take care of essential life skills such as feeding, dressing and going to the toilet independently. Children learn best and are most secure when there are clear expectations and rules and it is beneficial to establish regular routines such as the morning ritual of getting washed, going to the toilet or potty, dressing and eating breakfast which your child can gradually take more responsibility for.
Encouraging daily tasks which your child can carry out on their own will give them a sense of growing independence and self-worth. Perhaps get them to feed the family pet, help put things away, put dirty clothes in the washing basket – little tasks which all add up to a feeling of growing up!
The threes and fours of pre-school can be challenging years as children try to assert their independence, and as they become more aware of what their needs and wants are and when they consider they are not being met. Tantrums and testing can ensue. The important thing is consistency and one on one attention spending time with your child teaching them how to do things for themselves with patience from how to bathe and dress to feed themselves. The more that children at this age learn to do for themselves the more empowered they feel but they will need support and encouragement.
Your child will begin to learn to separate from you in preparation for more independence but there will be times they cling more and times they wish to assert themselves; it is important to bear in mind it will be one step forward and one step back a lot of the time during this stage and that that is perfectly natural.