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Emotional Development in Preschool Age Children (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Four-year-olds are beginning to develop a sense of humor. Four-year-olds may laugh simply to make others laugh. They will be amused at the things that adults do. This silliness is accompanied by a fascination with “potty” humor where words such as “poop” and “pee” can result in hysterical laughter from a group of four-year-olds. They are also beginning to understand the nature of a joke, when people say things for the sole purpose of being funny. Four-year-olds can spend endless amounts of time telling the same corny riddle or joke over and over and laughing each time.

At the beginning of three-years’ age, children also begin to have fears that they can identify. They want to sleep with a night-light on and will not go down into a dark basement alone. Monster books, such as There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer (1969) and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963), appeal to them. The books affirm what children already believe, “that monsters are really there,” but through the books the children are able to keep their fears in place. These fears and concerns are still present with four-year-olds. However, they are beginning to understand that a dream is different from something really happening and are beginning to distinguish between what they did and what they dreamed.

Four-year-olds are also beginning to understand that others have feelings, too (Denham, 1998). One little boy came into Matthew’s class with a big bandage on his knee. The teacher asked him what happened, and he said he fell when he was chasing his sister. Matthew said, “It must have really hurt.” Matthew touched his own knee where a scrape was healing. He said, “I fell off my bike the other day and cut my knee really bad. It was bleeding. I bet you cried; I did when I fell.” Being able to understand how another person feels is emerging.

Separation from parents or primary caregivers can sometimes be difficult, especially at school, and can be the cause of emotional distress (Denham, 1998). On the first day of preschool, three-year-old Nathan and four-year-old Kenyatta both cried as their mothers left the classroom. Nathan held on to his mother’s leg as she tried to leave. Nathan’s mom still heard the cries as she waited down the hallway. When his mother peeked back into his classroom 10 minutes later, Nathan was still crying and asking for his mom. Kenyatta, however, was happily playing at the sand table. Three-year-olds, since they are less interested in playing with other children, are more interested in staying with their primary caregivers. For four-year-olds, fears concerning separation are typically short-lived and are harder on parents than on the four-year-old.

Five-year-olds are beginning to regulate their emotions and express their feelings in more socially acceptable ways. For example, Sally tells her mom about what happened in school. “I was really mad at Lisa today. She always wants to be the mom when we play house, but I want to be the mom sometimes.” Sally’s mother asks, “Well, what did you do about it?” “I used my words like you told me to,” said Sally. “I told her I wanted to be the mom today and she had to be the baby, but she said, ‘No!’ I stopped playing with her, but I’ll play with her tomorrow because she’s my best friend.”

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