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By the end of this period, imaginative play can become very involved and go on for a much longer time. Young children also don't have a complete understanding of cause and effect, especially when consequences happen a lot later. Though many TV shows and books claim to be educational, 2-year-olds may have difficulty applying what they learn from television or picture books to their own lives and will probably learn best from real-life experiences.

But by age 3, children are able to learn a wide range of information and skills from screen media. Social and emotional development: Kids this age enjoy imitating others. Toddlers are able to understand another person's goals. But they are not yet able to understand that another person's feelings and point of view may be different from their own. Two-year-olds' feelings are easily hurt, and they frighten easily.

Four Year Old Child Development Stages & Milestones - Help Me Grow MN

Three-year-olds still have extreme -- but short-lived -- emotions and often need to be encouraged to express their feelings with words. By age 4, children are beginning to learn to control their emotions and can work out problems by talking.

Kids this age can sometimes be aggressive in their play, but they want to have friends. Four-year-olds understand that friendship involves sympathy and conflict resolution. Preschool-age children are beginning to learn how to play with others, and they enjoy make-believe. Two-year-olds still haven't mastered how to control their emotions, and they aren't good at sharing; they often play next to but not with other children.

By age 3, children are more likely to play with peers and to share. Three-year-olds also enjoy playing pretend both alone and with others.

Earlychildhood NEWS - Article Reading Center

However, they also still have extreme but short-lived emotions and often need to be encouraged to express their feelings with words. Four-year-olds have very active imaginations some will have imaginary friends and enjoy role-playing. They're learning about taking turns and can play simple games. Children develop their gender identities whether they're boys or girls around age 2. They may show a preference for toys and media content that fit with gender stereotypes -- for example, girls and princesses and boys and trains.

Between the ages of 2 and 4, children learn stereotypes about activities, traits, toys, and skills associated with each gender. Those preferences may grow stronger over this period. Physical development: Two-year-olds' movements become broader and more refined, although they're not always fluid and can still be quite awkward at times. They talk, run, climb, and take things apart and put them back together. They love finger play and can do simple, whole-piece puzzles. But their fine motor skills still aren't fully developed. They can't yet draw pictures that look like the objects they're trying to copy.

Three-year-olds are much steadier, more mobile, and less awkward in their movements. They can handle small objects, tend to like puzzles, can build towers of six to nine blocks, and can use utensils well. By 4 years old, children are developing more muscle control and fine motor skills. They can dress themselves, use scissors to cut on a line, handle utensils, and do more complex, multi-piece puzzles.

Around age 4, kids begin favoring their right or left hand.

The Ages and Stages of Child Development

They love smartphones and tablets and can perform basic functions on remote controls. However, they often have difficulty connecting what they see on a screen or in picture books to the objects, people, and places they see in real life. By age 3, children can often start using a mouse and keyboard. Hand-eye coordination is still developing, though, so they have limited control over the kinds of fine movements that affect gaming and apps.

They understand how to point, click, and navigate via images, and they have enough finger control to use most touchscreen apps designed for preschoolers. Early readers will begin typing words they know -- for example, "Dora" -- into a search bar. Take care that kids aren't online without an adult present mostly because of images that may turn up that aren't age-appropriate. Start talking about how the internet has rules for behavior -- just as the real world does -- including how to behave nicely and respectfully.

Begin to teach internet safety basics -- for example, don't give out information such as your name and address or your parents' names or passwords, and stay on pre-approved, age-appropriate sites. Educational value: Appropriate content for this age helps kids build their vocabularies, count, and learn about the world for example, facts about plants and animals.

Children between 2 and 4 can benefit from clear lessons about social and emotional skills, such as being kind to others and waiting one's turn. Children in this age group can memorize songs and words, but they don't always understand the meaning of what they're saying. Some older children may be able to learn about basic scientific concepts, such as gravity, and they learn best from visual demonstrations rather than characters talking or singing. Lessons should include concrete rather than abstract ideas, because young children learn better from things they can experience, see, and feel.

This age group doesn't fully understand complicated content, so choose shows and games with simple production styles. Educational lessons should be central to the plot of the story rather than simply popping up in the middle of a mostly unrelated story. Ideally, the settings and scenarios are realistic or relatable to make it easier for children to understand and apply the lessons. Young children may not understand references to characters coming from other countries or using other languages, particularly if the show is animated.

Point out connections to the real world familiar people, activities , and ask questions to check that kids are making sense of what they see. At this age, children may also be able to learn from a well-designed interactive app.

The best apps will be easy to navigate and contain interactive features that support rather than distract from educational content. For example, look for electronic books with interactive features that support the story rather than gratuitous bells and whistles that distract from the story. Positive models and messages: Media that models positive behavior is always a great choice. But children this age have a hard time learning social lessons from stories, particularly from verbal descriptions or conversations between characters.

Stories that show characters doing kind, nice things for each other are probably most effective. Comment positively on the behaviors that you like on-screen or in stories. Content that tries to teach positive lessons by using negative examples for example, a sibling learns to love her new brother after she's shown being mean may be lost on 2- to 4-year-olds. It could also have the opposite effect, as young children may focus mostly on the negative.

Aim for content that models the good behaviors you want rather than the negative behaviors you don't want. Because 2- to 4-year-olds are learning about gender roles, look for media that portrays characters with diverse attributes to show that there's more than one way to "do" gender. Also look for TV shows and movies that give equal value to boys and girls and masculine and feminine behaviors and characteristics. Consider pointing out some of the positive, non-stereotypical attributes of characters the princess is brave; the train conductor is kind.


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Aim for at least some content that shows characters breaking stereotypes, but don't assume that kids will notice these aspects without your help. At this age, children often ignore or misremember counter-stereotypical content. Many children this age also begin to notice racial and ethnic differences. Encourage them to accept and respect people who are different by exposing them to content that includes people of diverse backgrounds.

Although parents may be uncomfortable discussing the race or ethnicity of characters, research suggests that doing so helps kids understand their parents' positive attitudes. Consider commenting positively on interracial interactions in stories or on-screen. Be aware that children this age often need help relating what happens in their media to the real world. World Health Organization information on infant nutrition external icon This site has information to promote proper feeding for infants and young children. Tips for parents — Ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight.


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Department of Agriculture provides information on health and nutrition for children 2 through 5 years of age. KidsQuest KidsQuest is a CDC website designed for students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, to get them to think about people with disabilities and some of the issues related to daily activities, health, and accessibility.

Body and Mind is a website designed for kids 9 through 13 years of age to give them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices.

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The site focuses on topics that kids told us are important to them—such as stress and physical fitness—using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features. Choose My Plate — Kids external icon. The U. Department of Agriculture provides information on health and nutrition for children over 5 years of age.