Kids Full of Surprise at 4-5

The year between your child’s fourth and fifth birthday will be full of surprises. You’ll notice that she expresses herself more clearly, the result being fewer melt downs and tantrums. This is the year to encourage her increased independence and imagination. Keep in mind that children this age differ wildly in abilities. Comparisons to friends or siblings are not productive. As in the first four years, remember that your pediatrician and/or nurse practitioner is your best resource when you have questions or concerns. Mostly, though, this is the year to enjoy your child’s ever emerging personality. Embrace his quirks, talents and new maturity.

Milestones

Their new-found ability to express their thoughts, feelings and needs more clearly combined with their emerging physical prowess makes 4-5 year-olds a challenge and a delight. While a small number of children this age can read fluently, most are still learning their letters, numbers and shapes. Don’t be surprised to see your child playing independently for long stretches of time. They are learning to build tall (10-20) block towers, to manipulate toys like legos and to play make believe without you being right at their side.

You’ll find bedtime becoming easier as well. You can say something like “Put on your pajamas, brush your teeth and pick out a bedtime story” and your child will be able to remember and do all of these things easily. Keep reading aloud. At this age, you can start books that are more advanced and that stretch out over a night or two. “Wind in the Willows” and “Peter Pan” are excellent books for children this age.

Encourage your 4-5 year old’s newfound confidence and independence. She is fully capable of dressing herself though her outfit might not be your first choice. Let her express herself - getting dressed -- even in an outfit of plaid, stripes and sequins -- is not going to hurt anyone.

Mega-Fun

This is the perfect age to scout thrift stores, garage sales and your own closet for the beginnings of a dress-up trunk. Scarves, hats, gloves, glasses and other accessories enhance make believe worlds. You might consider picking up a set of play silks as well - they are durable, washable and versatile. Visit the library often and pick up books on your child’s interests - pirates, princesses, piranhas and more.

Outside, you’ll find your child maneuvering around her world with amazing adeptness - walking forward and backward, somersaulting, hopping on one foot and riding three wheeled toys like a champ. Sit on your hands and allow her to take measured risks and test her abilities.

Your 4-5 year-old is probably showing a new dexterity in regard to fine motor skills. Make crayons, pencils, markers, chalk and pens readily available. Let her practice making letters, numbers and shapes in a non-stressful environment. Have her draw a picture and then narrate to you the story of the picture while you write her narration on the bottom or back of the page. Display it prominently and then retire it to her collection of story books.

Maturity

Foster your child’s new abilities and make her feel like a contributing part of the family. 4-5 is the perfect age to have a child adopt a few chores. With a little coaching, kids this age can set the table, fold towels, sort socks, and make their own beds. Praise their work with a simple “Thank you, that was a big help,” rather than making each job done something worthy of a medal.

Enjoy this year as a parent. Soon, your little person will be off to school and adventures of their own. Have fun helping her build up her skills and confidence in a relaxed, fun way. By the time she turns five, you will both be ready to make the next big transition.

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