Social and Emotional Development
Next time you are outside, stick-up for the bugs! Teaching children empathy, caring, and consideration for other people can start small. Very small! Children are powerful and in control (mostly) of bugs, which makes them comfortable recipients of a child’s affections as opposed to other people, who may not follow along so willingly. For example, when you see an ant, or spider, or any other little bug, draw attention to it. Model to your child how to value the bugs life by being gentle, helping it if it needs to be moved, and feed it by putting grass or a leaf beside it (a little imagination doesn’t hurt). Acting this way towards the tiniest of creatures teaches your child that they have a responsibility towards living things and their actions can be helpful or harmful. Of course, children stepping on ants is a typical activity and it doesn’t mean that they are little monsters. Draw attention to how the ants work together and all live together as a family. Showing kindness and consideration to the smallest of animals will set a child up to show those actions and attitudes on a larger scale.
Professional Tip: Catching and collecting bugs is always a fun activity to do with children. Teach your child that it is also their responsibility to let them go so that they can go back to their homes and families. Children can relate to this scenario, therefore, developing feelings of empathy on a scale that they can understand.
Children love movement. As babies, one of the most basic calming activities that parents naturally do is to bounce and rock their little ones to calm them down, help them fall asleep, or make them laugh. Children still have a high need for vestibular input (information received through the inner ear that helps the brain interpret movement). Even though it is harder to rock your child now that they are in preschool, there are still many activities you can encourage your child to participate in that will give them vestibular input. Rocking in a rocking chair, spinning in an egg chair, and using playground equipment such as swings, slides, and monkey bars are great ways for a child to receive vestibular input. If your child is upset, encourage and help them participate in a movement activity that will give them this input.
Professional Tip: There is a fine line between just the right amount of proprioceptive input and too much. If your child receives an overload of proprioceptive input, they may become over escalated, dizzy, and maybe even sick. Think about the first time you spun too much on a tire swing. Monitor your child and help them learn what their limits are.
Some parents may be impressed by their preschooler’s abilities to recite word for word information about a particular area of interest. For example, many parents are amazed by their child’s repertoire of dinosaur information (if that is what they are into), including the names of different dinosaurs, where and when they lived, and of course, what they ate. Intense fascination with different subject material is an excellent indication of areas of interest for the child, but many times that information is an example of rote memorization, such as what the child has heard on the computer or a T.V. show, over and over again. The child does not understand the information at a level of conceptualization. Although a parent might think their child is a genius (all parents do), it is important to take the next step and support your child’s learning in a more play-based way. Pretend to play with your child about the topic of interest, create environments, and read to your child. Rote memorization can come across as a child having amazing knowledge about the topic, but remember, link memorization back to play-based activities to fully support your preschool child’s cognitive development.
Professional tip: Many parents will invest a lot of time, energy, and money supporting their child’s area of intense interest. It is normal for a child to move on after they have exhausted their and your efforts. Usually, a child will always keep that area of interest with them as they grow and learn different things and you will fondly look back at that time in your child’s development.