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Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health – Young Children (4–5 Years)

Social-emotional development includes a child’s ability to understand himself or herself, to control and change his or her own emotions, and to form relationships with others.

For young children 4–5 years old, the following skills will typically be developing:

  1. Children will be socially ready to play with others; choose favorite playmates when playing in groups; may argue with playmates.
  2. Children will begin to show confidence in their abilities and environment.
  3. They may become bossy or demanding; may complain, whine or call names.
  4. Children should show an imagination and imitate grown-ups.
  5. Children will begin to follow rules, take turns and share.
  6. They may begin testing boundaries and people.
  7. They may demonstrate fears or insecurities.
  8. Children often make big, boastful statements.


What can you do to help?

  1. Preschool or group play is appropriate now. Be aware that small disagreements with other children are normal.
  2. Talk about the things children can do safely for themselves.
  3. Don’t fight with your child. Have them tell you about their problem; find books and games that demonstrate solving conflicts.
  4. Let your child take part in simple chores and activities (setting the table, feeding pets).
  5. Set simple rules (“You need to take turns” and “I expect you to share”).
  6. Set boundaries and limits and be firm with them.
  7. Assure the child that he or she is loved.
  8. Ask your child to talk about their activities and their family.

Learn more about social-emotional development:


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