Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years - Common Concerns
It's common for parents to have questions about their child's sleep, safety,
toilet training, and difficult emotions and behavior.
Preschool children need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep each day. Your child may go through
phases when he or she resists resting.
To help foster good sleep habits, you can:
- Set bedtime routines. Do things in
the same order each night so that your child understands what to expect and
associates these steps with going to sleep.
- Handle sleep disturbances. Sometimes young children wake up and want attention or
reassurance. Keep your response the same each time your child wakes up. If you go into
your child's room, make the visit quick.
- Help prevent nightmares.
Preschool-age children's rich fantasy lives and active imaginations make them
prone to nightmares. These tend to occur toward the end of the night or very
early in the morning. You can help prevent nightmares by controlling what your child watches on TV. Also, encourage your child to talk about daily events to help him or her not feel confused or afraid.
- Manage night terrors. Night terrors
are different from nightmares because the child remains asleep and doesn't remember the episode in the morning. Night terrors
tend to occur about 3 to 5 hours after the child goes to sleep. Your child may cry intensely and may be short of breath. Do not try to wake a child during
a night terror. Instead, reassure your child and hold him or her to prevent
- Sleep: Helping Your Children-and Yourself-Sleep Well
help keep a child safe, a parent or caregiver must always be aware of the
child's abilities and the environment, whether it is the home, a playground, or
a public place. These abilities change as the child grows and gains new skills.
For more information on safety issues, see the topic
Health and Safety, Ages 2 to 5.
Children between ages 2 and 5 have many
intense emotions that they do not fully understand. As a result, expect your
young child to not always listen to you. Be patient, and do your best to be
consistent about setting limits to avoid some common
issues. These may include:
- Temper tantrums. These emotional
outbursts are perhaps the biggest behavior challenge for this age group. Many
1- to 4-year-olds have
temper tantrums at least once a week. For more information, including help on how to respond to
tantrums, see the topic
- Thumb-sucking. Thumb-sucking in children
younger than 4 years of age is not usually a problem. Most children stop sucking
their thumbs sometime between ages 3 and 6. But children who suck their thumbs often or with a lot
of force after the age of 3 or 4 may develop emotional, dental, or speech
problems. For more information, see the topic
- Breath-holding spells. These are periods
when young children stop breathing, often causing them to pass out (lose consciousness).
Breath-holding spells typically happen when a young
child is angry, frustrated, in pain, or afraid. The spell is a reflex, not a
deliberate behavior. For more information, see the topic
- Aggression. Some preschool children
become aggressive and may hurt other children.
biting, pushing, and shouting are all common forms of
aggression. Children's aggressive behavior usually is a normal variation of
can encourage self-control by teaching positive
behavior and how to channel feelings into words.
- Do not spank or hit your child. It usually doesn't work and only makes the child afraid.
- Help your child calm down. Then you can talk about better ways
to handle feelings.
- Don't expect changes in behavior right away. It takes time, repetition, and supportive comments for a child to learn.