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Preschooler Emotional Development

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Preschoolers: Ruled by Emotions continued...

By age 5, your child has made leaps and bounds in her emotional development. She's gotten much better at regulating her emotions, and she talks about her feelings easily. She has also gotten better at controlling her impulses. She patiently waits her turn, and she often asks first before taking something that isn't hers. 

When something makes your 5-year-old mad, she's much more likely to express her anger using words instead of getting physical or throwing a tantrum. The downside to this is that she may begin to use mean words and name-calling when she's angry or upset. 

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. 

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