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Children's Health

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Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years - Promoting Healthy Growth and Development

You can help your child grow by showing love and affection, by talking with and reading to your child, and by letting your child play. It's also important to set boundaries and limits.

Physical development

  • Offer plenty of opportunities for exercise. Going to the playground, joining a gymnastics or dance class, or simply running races in your backyard allows your child to release excess energy and encourages new physical skills. For more information, see the topic Physical Activity for Children and Teens.
  • Help your preschooler learn healthy eating habits. Although you control what, when, and where your child eats, realize that he or she chooses whether to eat and how much. As long as you offer nourishing foods from the major food groups camera.gif and focus on the big picture-how much is eaten throughout the day or over a few days-your child should not have problems. For more information, see the topic Healthy Eating for Children.

Cognitive development

  • Encourage safe exploration. Children who explore learn to master new skills and solve problems. Offer a variety of things to play with, read, create, and build. Take basic measures to minimize risks. For more information about preventing accidents and injuries, see the topic Health and Safety, Ages 2 to 5 Years.
  • Encourage a sense of security. This sense of trust lays the foundation for learning, social skills, adaptability, and emotional development. Your child is more likely to feel safe and secure if you are dependable, consistent, respectful, and responsive. Secure children also keep and strengthen their attachment to their parents.

Emotional and social development

  • Provide peer contact. Playing with other children even 1 day a week gives children opportunities to practice and develop important social, emotional, and language skills.
  • Promote self-control. Children need guidance, clear limits, and patient parents during this time of behavioral and emotional struggles. Help your child by modeling and teaching proper behavior. Time-outs can help, when they are used properly and sparingly. Encourage your child to think about the feelings of other people to develop empathy.
  • actionset.gif Help your child build self-esteem. Parents have the greatest influence on a child's belief about himself or herself. Let your child know that he or she belongs, is doing well, and is contributing.
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