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    Your Preschooler: Off to School

    Around age 3 or 4, many children are starting school for the first time. This may be their first experience in a large group of children their own age, and it may take some getting used to. Your child suddenly has to share toys, take turns, communicate clearly, and cooperate with other children, and she'll probably need some help from the adults in her life. Many preschool activities are designed to work on developing these social skills.

    If your child isn't in school yet, it's important to provide plenty of opportunities for her to interact with other children her age, whether it's through playdates, trips to the playground, or organized activities like music classes or gymnastics.

    Preschoolers and Peer Relationships

    By age 5, many children are beginning to prefer the company of other children over the company of adults. They may also show a preference for certain children over others. Your child may have someone he calls his "best friend" now. It's important for parents to nurture these friendships. Encourage your child to have his best friend over for a playdate, because being allowed to "show off" his home and possessions will help build his self-esteem and confidence.

    Older preschoolers are beginning to understand and internalize social norms. Your 5-year-old probably realizes that if he doesn't let his friends have a turn, they won't want to play with him anymore. This helps to guide his behavior and choices.

    While 5-year-olds can be wonderfully loving friends, they can also be hurtful. At this age, children are beginning to understand the power of social rejection. Don't be surprised to hear an argument between two 5-year-olds culminating with the declaration, "If you don't let me have the ball, I'm not going to be your friend anymore!"

    Most of the time, this is just normal 5-year-old interaction. But it's important to keep an eye on mean behavior and make sure your child isn't ganging up or picking on others excessively. Bullying can happen even at this young age.

    Your Challenging Preschooler

    Your 5-year-old's friends are more than just her playmates. They are a major influence on her. To that end, you may find her trying on behaviors that are new (and unwelcome) to you. For example, If your child's best friend talks about a particular TV show, your child may suddenly demand to watch it, even if TV is forbidden in your home. She may insist on a sugary cereal because it is her friend's favorite.

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