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Your 4-year-old: Development, behavior and parenting tips

Beth Stewart is a married Canadian freelance writer with three grown children and a granddaughter Isabelle whom she adores. She lives on a river, watches soaps, goes camping, loves to dance, collects Mickey Sorcerers' and is in the proce...

Curious and fun 4-year-olds

Your 4-year-old is full of energy, talkative and curious. He’s eager to show you what he can do, and you will both be excited by his accomplishments. He constantly tests his environment and will waffle between feelings of security and insecurity. Your 4-year-old may also be a bossy little tyke who feels the need to be in charge. You will experience emotional highs and lows with this age and each day will be a new challenge — for both of you.

Parenting your 4-year-old to love learning

Michelle LaRowe is an author and career nanny who received the 2004 Nanny of the Year award by the International Nanny Association. Her books include Nanny to the Rescue!, Working Mom's 411 and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists. LaRowe says, "Parents can best encourage their 4-year-olds to love learning by providing lots of natural learning moments. For young children, the best learning is often done through play. Get rid of the battery-operated toys and shut off the TV. Set aside times for arts and crafts, singing songs, reading and creative, hands-on play." While it may seem like a great idea to set your 4-year-old up on the couch with the iPad, it shouldn't be her go-to activity at this age.

LaRowe continued, "Capitalize on what they love and incorporate it into playtime. Does your child love flowers? Plant a garden together. Chart the growth of the flowers. Draw pictures of the garden and label the different types of flowers you planted. Doing so will encourage a love of learning and teach them that learning is indeed fun!"

Give your 4-year-old specific tasks

Mother of three children and educational consultant, Sara Lise Raff says, "Early childhood is a crucial time and can make or break a child's love of learning. As a mom, I try to provide wonderful opportunities for learning and I know it is very important for my 4-year-old daughter to receive encouragement from both my husband and myself. Children at this stage are looking for purpose. I try to give my daughter opportunities to be independent and practice real skills that have meaning."

Raff says, "I have made it a point to teach her how to make her bed, set the table and give her other tasks that demonstrate to her that what she knows and learns has an impact on our family. We try to choose schools and teachers that bring out the best in all of our children and make a conscious effort to reflect those learning techniques at home."

This is a critical age for building self-esteem. Let your preschooler know you're proud of his learning. Providing a warm supportive environment is the key. As your child discovers that learning is fun, he will be self-motivated. Your 4-year-old is building a foundation for school days which are coming sooner than you think. You want that foundation to be strong and filled with exciting learning opportunities that your child will embrace.

More tips on parenting 4-year-olds

SheKnows talks to Supernanny Jo Frost
Top 15 books for preschoolers, kids and teens
10 Educational activities for kids that are low cost or no cost

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