Preschoolers require a totally different approach than toddlers. Mighty Mommy has 5 ways to engage with your 3-5-year-old to develop their budding independence and foster a love of exploration, learning, and social connection.
Tip #3: Make Deposits in Your Hugging Account
I don’t think any child can ever get enough hugs from the people they love, especially their parents.
It’s even more important to show your child affection when they are annoying the daylight out of you. When you’re having one of “those days" or your child seems to be more whiny than usual, get nice and close to him or her and ask "Are you out of hugs again? Let's do something about that!" Then grab your child and give him or her an extra long hug.
After that first hug, you can say something along the lines of “I think your hug account is finally getting filled up again, but it’s not quite there. I think I’m going to have to hug you a little longer with this next hug.” This way, your child will likely forget about what's troubling them and give into the task of filling up their hugging account.
See also: How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids
Tip #4: Discourage Whining
Preschoolers love to whine, and that’s usually due to their expression of powerlessness.
Refusing to hear their whiny requests until they use a big kid voice further invalidates them. But of course you don't want to reward whining by giving into it either. Instead, encourage confidence and a big, strong voice by making it into a game: "Hey, where did your strong voice go? It was here a minute ago. I love your strong voice! Let's look for it. Is it under the chair? No...Is it in the bookcase?
“Wait a minute—what was that I just heard? Did you hear it too? You found it! That was your strong voice! Hurray!"
Then, ask your child to tell you again what she needs using that big-kid voice. I still play this game with my 8-year-old daughter. She actually catches herself using a whiny baby voice now and will stop herself and say “Hey Mom, I think we better go check my dollhouse to see if we can find my big kid voice.” Then she starts giggling and we both get to laugh together.
See also: 5 Ways to Speak Positively to Your Kids
Tip #5: Encourage Silliness
Sometimes after a long day, everyone in the family is cranky and on edge. When this happens, I like to do break the tension by doing something unexpected like throwing a rolled up ball of paper towels or some socks at one of my kids and saying “think fast.” It works to break the pattern of being tired or cranky and makes them change gears.
We then go back and forth and engage in some light rough housing, which is a great way for all of us to burn off some energy as well as help us forget that we’re coming off a cranky day. After that, we can start preparing for dinner and our evening together as a family.
As long as your child is laughing, the game is working to alleviate anxiety or other bad feelings. Don't be surprised if your child wants to play these games over and over. My college kids even play games like these with their roommates when they’re overwhelmed with exams and other stressors brought on by college life. Silliness relieves stress, helps your child master emotion, and it's also a lot of fun not to take yourself too seriously!
How do you and your preschooler get silly and connect? Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at email@example.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT where I continually update my selections.
All work and no play can make all of us dull, so try some playful approaches when you connect with your budding preschooler and have some fun! Until next time everyone—Happy Parenting!