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Emotional development is a critical time for children ages 3 to 4-years-old. As a parent, you’re their biggest supporters and you want to help them grow and flourish. Though, how do you know what normal emotional development looks like for them? It can take many forms, but there are things in particular to look out for during this stage in children’s lives.

Fantasy is a normal (and necessary) part of childhood.

Your 3-year-old will naturally get lost in fantasy land. Most young children explore a variety of emotions like anger, fear, love, dependence, and happiness through fantasy. Allow them to enjoy their vivid fantasies and daydreams! They may even have an imaginary friend (or a few).

Your child will probably adopt multiple identities through their fantasies and may ask you to join in the fun from time to time. Don’t be afraid to join in on your child’s imagination, filled adventures. Give them space to imagine and design their own stage and land. Participate without taking over or leading the way. Merely play your small role to help your youngster explore their imaginative world and be the star in their own show.

Your youngster moves fluidly between fantasy and reality.

Three-year-olds often blur the lines between fantasy and reality. During this formative time, they’re learning what’s real and what isn’t. It’s completely normal for a 3-year-old to be entirely wrapped up in a fantasy for days. If they struggle to separate fantasy and reality, support and help them through their experiences. Deliver news and explanations in age appropriate ways. Understand that your 3-year-old may have difficulty separating the fantasy of a scary story from the reality of tragic current events. As your child approaches age 4, they will start to separate fantasy and reality on their own.

Nurture independence by giving your 3 to 4-year-old control through choices.

As your child grows, you can foster their independence by allowing them to take control over their own life in small ways. Begin by offering them choices, and allow them to make reasonable decisions without your interference. For example, ask them what they would like to eat when you go to a restaurant. To help them ease into independence, offer them a few options to choose from. Allow them to begin dressing themselves by choosing their own clothing. Give your child a few appropriate options for the day’s events. As your child matures, allow them to make more choices as they become more comfortable with their independence.

Sexual curiosity is natural.

During the time between 4 and 5-years-old, it’s normal for your child to become curious about genitalia and sexuality. This is normal curiosity and is not a display of adult themed sexual actions. Allow your child to explore their own sexuality and set guidelines that your family agrees upon. They may begin to wonder about the opposite sex as well. Answer their questions simply but honestly, and show them the bounds of decency during sexual exploration. For example, it’s normal for a child to display interest in their sexual organs, but it’s not ok to display nudity in public.

If you have any questions about your preschooler’s development, Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics is here to help. We offer premier pediatric care in a clean, comfortable and professional office setting, complete with a safe and inviting environment. Contact us today for all of your pediatric needs.