Super-kid! Understanding, caring for, and respecting people starts with developing empathy skills. Pretend play is a great way to start building this high-ordered social skill. When your child is pretending to be a super-hero or whatever character they love to be, make sure you give them missions! “Spiderman, please go save the stuffy! He’s upstairs and needs to be rescued!” When your child completes the mission, tell them how they have saved the day by making things better. Missions can include: rescuing a stuffed animal in danger, keeping a precious item safe, being brave by doing something, and making a parent proud of the super work they have done! It may seem like play and that is perfect. This is a child’s first opportunity to practice and develop empathy skills in the comfort of their imagination while learning that they have the power to do great things for others.
Professional tip: Make sure to also tell your child about real-life superheroes. Firefighters, police officers, doctors, and nurses. These are the real-life super-heroes that are here to save the day.
Squeeze! Relax. If your preschooler is having a difficult time falling asleep or calming down when upset, this activity may help. First, when your child is happy and calm, play the squeeze game. Ask your child to squeeze the muscles of different parts of their body and then relax those muscles. For example, “let’s work on your hand muscles, squeeze them tight for 3 seconds and then relax.” Ask them to do this about three times. Hand, arm, feet, and tummy squeezes are all muscles that you can target with this exercise.
The important part is that your child starts to learn the difference between what their muscles feel like when they are tense and then when those muscles are relaxed. Once your child is used to playing this game when they are happy, you can introduce it to them in other moments, such as when they are having a hard time falling asleep or if they become upset and you want to help them calm down. Encourage your child to take deep breaths and focus on how nice relaxed muscles feel in their body.
Professional tip: Do this with your child and show them how to squeeze and relax the different muscles you are targeting. Remember to model deep breathing while you are in the relaxed phase.
Not perfect! Great! When our child completes a task, we often want to give them suggestions and point out mistakes. Unknowingly, we might be sending our child messages that what they are doing (e.g., drawing, painting, building) needs to be done as perfectly as possible. You may even hear your child give up on a task because “it’s not perfect!” Remind them that there is no such thing as perfect and it is more important to use their imagination and to keep trying. Point out the parts of their creation that are unique and wonderful because they did it incorrectly or it didn’t turn out exactly how they wanted it to. When your child tries new things, make sure to praise their efforts and help them see that the most important part is trying and that they will get a little better every time they do it. It is how you learn!
Professional tip: Even if your child is not concerned about their creations being perfect, make sure to use these strategies when they are trying new things. Once your child starts formal education, perfectionism can be a block for some children. The preschool years are a great time to start helping your child develop this positive attitude about trying new things.