Early Development: 4 Skills to Teach Your Kids before They Turn 5
By Dixie Somers
Children develop rapidly during the first years of life; motor and cognitive skills they acquire in early childhood will carry them through adolescence. As your baby and toddler grows, there are additional life skills you can begin to teach them.
Many parents read up on skills to teach their child before kindergarten, which starts around age 5, but there are other subtle skills that can provide a healthy foundation for children’s other skills to build upon.
Before your child hits their fifth year of life, here are four skills you can begin teaching them at home to improve their self-confidence, emotional regulation and decision-making.
Around 8 or 9 months, children develop object permanence, meaning they know something exists even when they can no longer see it.
This is perhaps their first sense of time, which will continue to expand as they grow. While children don’t understand abstractions of time until they’re 5 or 6, you can start to teach them the importance of a schedule and balance when they’re under a year.
For newborns to 6 months, consistency is key. Regular feedings, a set sleep schedule and reliable routine will help give your child a sense of peace and security. When they’re a bit older, around 2 or 3, they’ll be able to understand order sequences like, “We’ll go to the playground after lunch.”
You can help your child learn time management by periodically reviewing the day’s events, reading books about time words and using a daily learning calendar.
Around age 2, children can handle basic chores and grooming. Let them put away their clothes after they’ve been washed, assist in table setting, and picking up their own messes. Help them learn the importance of dental care, making their hair clean and presentable and bathing regularly.
You can even make their day-to-day tasks fun. Toddlers can help sort clothes and practice their colors and associations as they do so. Children also experience a lot from their senses, so the varying textures can provide crucial stimulation and context.
Comparison and Preference
Children are impulsive and lack the ability to delay gratification. They drop something when it no longer interests them, even if they’re in the middle of an activity. In order to help children understand their own feelings better, guide them through comparisons and help them articulate what they like and dislike.
Let them choose between toys during playtime, and encourage dialogue. Children are more prone to temper tantrums in early childhood as they realize there is a difference between them and adults.
Between ages 2 and 4, work on open communication. Always encourage your child to express themselves and ask them how they feel rather than telling them.
Communicating with your child can be important for improving speech and expanding their vocabulary. That said, some children can be slower at learning to express themselves and may have difficulty choosing words. It could be worth looking into in home speech therapy near you if you feel your child is really struggling. Getting speech therapy early will make it easier to catch up.
Embrace your child’s wind range of emotions rather than shun them. You may reflexively say, “Don’t cry,” or “Don’t feel bad,” but this teaches children that some feelings are socially acceptable while others are not.
Pain, sadness, frustration and anger are all normal, healthy emotions that even adults struggle with. Help your child learn to work through their feelings rather than against them.
If your child fails at something, encourage them to try again. If they get too frustrated, don’t force them to continue. Instead, tell them, “That’s okay. This is tough, but you did a great job. Let’s take a break and try again later.”
You set the first impression of the world for your child. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to fix everything that goes wrong in their lives. Instead, you have to act with compassion and kindness, displaying patience and acceptance as often as possible. Your child will learn far more from watching you than you could ever teach them, so make sure that you embrace the opportunity parenthood presents to be the best version of yourself.
About the Author
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer who loves to write for business, health, home, and women’s interests. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.
*Photos courtesy of Dixie Somers