Emotional and social development: two to six

During early childhood, children become more independent and develop a stronger sense of self. They define themselves through what they can do and how successfully they can do it.

During play, children interact more with others but they still do not play co-operatively, i.e. share tasks and toys. They show signs of rivalry and will force their will on others. As they approach middle childhood, they become less selfish and start to form friendships. They learn to sympathise with others and become more generous. Toys are used as an object towards a goal, usually to elicit a response from a friend.

During the preschool years, children start to show more initiative when they play and explore their environments more actively.

In order to help children deal with the demands of this stage, parents should be supportive and firm. In this way initiative and respect for others’ rights and privileges develop and they feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Should parents be too controlling, guilt feelings can develop and the child could feel inferior and lose interest in the tasks before him/her.

True co-operative play only occurs towards the end of the preschool period.

(Ilse Pauw, Health24)

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