Preschooler Emotional Development
Preschoolers: Ruled by Emotions continued...
Around this age, your preschooler may start to get interested in sexuality. He may ask questions about where babies come from. He is fascinated by his own body, and he may start to touch or play with his genitals. He may also be interested in exploring the genitals of others. All of this is totally normal, but it's important to let your 5-year-old know what is and isn't appropriate.
Make sure he understands that it's OK to be curious about "private parts," but it's not OK to play with or show them in public. Also make sure he understands that it's never OK for other people to touch his genitals, except mom or dad during bath time or if something hurts down there.
Preschoolers and Fantasy Play
Around age 3, children begin to develop a vivid imagination. At this age, your preschooler will begin to spend a great deal of time in a fantasy world of her own creation. Her dolls and stuffed animals all have names and personalities. She may chat with imaginary friends. Parents sometimes worry that imaginary friends are a sign of loneliness or isolation, but in fact they're just the opposite. Children use this type of fantasy play to learn how to interact with real people. It's practice for the "real world." At an age when your child has very little control over her own life, her fantasy world is her own creation. She's in charge.
Around the same time your preschooler begins to talk to an imaginary friend, he may also develop a fear of the monster living under his bed. These types of fears are common. They are also quite serious to him, so don't make a joke out of it. The best thing you can do is reassure your child that he's safe and nothing is going to hurt him.
As your child gets older, fantasy play will continue to be an important part of his life, but he'll get better at understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. His fantasies will get more elaborate and sophisticated, and don't be surprised if they sometimes involve violence. Don't let endless games of shoot-'em-up bother you; it's totally normal for children to be fascinated with weapons and violence at this age, and it's not a sign that they'll be violent when they're older.
Your Independent Preschooler
The older your preschooler gets, the more she'll crave independence. It may sound like a contradiction, but the best way to nurture your preschooler's independence and self-confidence is to keep her life fairly structured. Give her choices, but don't give her endless choices. Let her choose between two outfits to wear, or ask her if she wants a turkey sandwich or macaroni and cheese for lunch. When she asks to do something you know isn't a good idea, hold firm. Being allowed choices within a structured framework will help to boost her self-confidence while at the same time letting her know she's safe and secure.