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Child Emotional Development from Toddler to Preschool

Preschools and Kindergartens

This article covers the stages of typical child emotional development from ages 2 to 5. This information should give parents an idea of what behavior they can expect from their children as they reach these emotional milestones.

Child Emotional Development: Age 2

At age 2, children tend to be very self-centered. They are just starting to develop a sense of personal identity and belonging, and are often taking the first tentative steps towards asserting their independence. They are possessive, resistant to change, and often negative and easily frustrated (giving rise to the phenomenon known as the "terrible twos"). Two-year-olds lack the ability to choose between alternatives, and usually respond better to humor and distraction than discipline or reason. They enjoy physical affection and close contact.

Child Emotional Development: Age 3

Three-year-olds are more amenable to conformity and change, and tend to be much easier-going than they were at age 2. At this age, children are more secure and have a greater sense of their own personal identity. This is the age when most children will begin to act adventuresome. At age 3, children also start to enjoy music.

Child Emotional Development: Age 4

At age 4, children become even more sure of themselves, which leads to the constant testing of boundaries and authority. This out-of-bounds behavior is often perceived as defiant and negative. Four-year-olds respond well to "controlled freedom."

Child Emotional Development: Age 5

By the time children reach age 5, they are usually self-assured and stable enough to enjoy responsibility and accept some self-criticism (within reason). At this age, children are well-adjusted and home-centered. Many may prefer to associate with one parent over the other (usually the mother). Five-year-olds enjoy responsibility and take pride in their accomplishments.

It's important to bear in mind that these time frames are averages and may vary with individual children. Some may reach these milestones a little earlier or later than other children, but still be within the normal range of child emotional development.

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