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Home > My Child > Ages and Stages > 3 to 4 Years > Emotional Development

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Emotional Development: 3 to 4 years

Emotional Development means developing a full range of emotions, from sad to happy to angry, and learning to handle them appropriately. This leads to deeper qualities – sympathy, caring, resilience, self-esteem, assertiveness and being able to rise to life's challenges.

Emerging Skills
  • May show attachment to one playmate
  • May stop napping
  • Begin to cope with frustration and anger better
  • Experience positive self-esteem that leads to feeling good about themselves
  • Talk about feelings
  • Express needs with words (such as "I'm hungry," "I'm tired")
  • Persevere on a difficult task for a longer period of time
  • Show empathy (for example, comfort a friend who is upset)
  • Develop a sense of mastery and self esteem in specific areas
  • Find out more about What to Expect from your preschooler, 3 to 4 Years.


    Through the comfort and responsiveness of an adult, preschoolers will learn how to handle their emotions and how to seek help when needed.

    Parents Can:
  • Model coping with emotions
  • Provide their preschooler with some different coping strategies
  • Child Will:
  • Learn acceptable ways to cope
  • Feel more in control of his emotions

  • Parents Can:
  • Help their preschooler cope with tantrums by talking to her about what makes her feel better when she is angry or sad
  • Child Will:
  • Learn to cope with anger/tantrums
  • Feel supported when experiencing trying emotions

  • Parents Can:
  • Explore books that talk about emotions
  • Ask or talk about why story characters may experience certain emotions (for example, "Why is the little girl sad?")
  • Child Will:
  • Begin to develop the ability to empathize with others
  • Explore different feelings and the types of experiences that result in happiness, joy, anger or other emotions

  • Play

    Through opportunities for play, preschoolers will experience joyful, free, spontaneous moments of fun while also learning about themselves and others.

    Parents Can:
  • Ask their preschooler who his favourite playmates are
  • Arrange special play dates with his friends
  • Child Will:
  • Begin to show attachment to one playmate
  • Feel validated, as you listened to him and took action
  • Feel supported in his social needs

  • Parents Can:
  • Provide opportunities for their preschooler to make choices about play activities
  • Child Will:
  • Develop a sense of mastery and positive self-esteem in areas he likes
  • Understand that he can make decisions that are respected

  • Parents Can:
  • Help their preschooler set small and achievable goals to be accomplished during play or other activities
  • Child Will:
  • Experience a sense of achievement
  • Develop a sense of pride in the things she chooses to do
  • Develop the ability to complete a task or activity
  • Develop a strong sense of self

  • Teach

    Through routines, and emotionally and physically safe and secure environments, preschoolers can learn how to think, solve problems and communicate.

    Parents Can:
  • Talk about experiences that make their preschooler happy
  • Include such experiences on a daily basis, such as reading together, doing a puzzle, building with blocks and so on
  • Child Will:
  • Feel supported in her desires and needs
  • Be inclined to share her feelings with you more consistently
  • Feel respected when you engage in her favourite activities

  • Parents Can:
  • Provide their preschooler with tasks such as puzzles, or drawing that require some concentration (be sure to choose a task that is appropriate to your preschooler's abilities)
  • Child Will:
  • Learn to persevere on a task for a period of time
  • Develop emotional skills to deal with challenges

  • Parents Can:
  • Give their preschooler some responsibility during daily routines, such as choosing his clothes and getting dressed
  • Child Will:
  • Feel good about himself
  • Develop confidence in his ability to be responsible
  • Anticipate when he needs to complete a task

  • Social Development: 3 to 4 years
    Intellectual Development - Language: 3 to 4 years
    Intellectual Development - Numeracy: 3 to 4 years
    Intellectual Development - Problem Solving: 3 to 4 years

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