Preschoolers: 3-5 Years

The first five years of a child’s life are significant because your child is learning to think, speak, love, feel and trust, which are all part of a healthy attachment.

As a parent, you help shape the experiences your child has by spending time comforting, playing and teaching them, which makes your child feel safe and secure.

You child’s attachment to you will give them the confidence they need to explore, grow, learn and develop.

three preschoolers sitting on a mat reading

Preschooler Growth and Behaviour

Around 3 to 3 ½ years, you will notice that your child is full of humour, self-confidence and charm. You may also notice that they talk non-stop, using more and more words each day.

Your child will learn to do more independently.  They will want to put on their own shoes, get a drink of water or brush their teeth by themselves.  Your child is learning that they can run faster, jump higher and do more with their body.

Your child needs praise, encouragement and approval.  They want to please you.  Your child is learning it is okay to be away from you and is content when you are gone, such as while in daycare.

Your child is learning to understand their own feelings and while caring about others’ feelings too.  It is important to listen to your child and to respect their feelings.  It is important not to make fun of their fears or shame them for how they feel.

Preschoolers are becoming more aware of the world around them and will start asking a lot of “why” and “how” questions. Preschoolers are little sponges and this is a great time to explain how things work and to use new words to describe different things or feelings. Reading and telling stories will help your child learn new ideas and words.

In no time at all, your child will be off to school and we want to make sure they are ready. Preschoolers are starting to form friendships and it is important to give your child a chance to play with other children. This helps them learn how to take turns, share and be imaginative.

Preschoolers love to help with different chores or activities like putting groceries into the cart, shovelling the snow, or stirring the bowl while you are making dinner.  Encourage your child’s efforts and be patient with them.  Focus on what they are doing well and thank them for being a great helper. 

Preschooler’s are constantly learning new things and seem to have endless energy.  They need to be watched closely as they are still learning right from wrong and are not always aware of their own limitations.  Teaching rules and setting limits and boundaries will help your child learn to be safe while still being playful.

A few quick tips to remember with your 3 – 5 year old child:

  • Listen to your child
  • Teach your child to use words to express feelings and help your child deal with emotions
  • Try to see the situation from your child’s eyes
  • Give a 15 minute warning when an activity or game is about to end
  • Do not make fun of your child, shame them or use sarcasm
  • Take the time to answer your child’s questions and explain the reason for rules
  • Help your child understand how their behaviour affects others

Your child is off to school.  What an exciting and sometimes scary time for both children and parents.  To learn more about full-day kindergarten, see the Ontario Ministry of Education website.

Other websites that may be helpful:

For more helpful tips on positive parenting and discipline for your preschooler, please go to the website Children See Children Learn.

If you have questions about your preschooler’s  development and whether she is reaching her milestones, please visit the website Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS) for more information.  There is a NDDS screen available for 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years.

If you have questions or concerns about how your child is talking compared to other children the same age, visit the website for tykeTALK.

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health or would like to speak to someone about serious family difficulties including: anxiety, emotion regulation issues, attachment disorders, poor peer relationships, school adaptation, sleep issues, aggression or tantrums, please visit the website for Oxford-Elgin Child & Youth Centre (OECYC).

Building healthy relationships is so important.  Parenting is very hard and if you are interested in learning more about healthy attachment, please visit the website Circle of Security.

All information adapted from the Let’s Grow Newsletter