4.5 Years

At age four and a half, children continue to build friendships with peers and they are probably preparing for a new school experience. By now, children are more independent and better able to handle frustrations. Remember they are still learning how to understand and deal with complex feelings, such as excitement, anticipation, or anger. As children learn to cope with these complex emotions, parents might see extremes in behavior.

Your Baby

At age four and a half your child may …

Throw a ball overhand with some control and direction – Play catch and encourage aiming games. Set clear limits about where, when, and what to throw.

Enjoy copying simple shapes and letters – while holding the writing tool between her fingers and thumb like an adult does. Writing in front of your child helps encourage their efforts. Provide a variety of art materials such as washable markers, stencils, chalk and stickers.

Begin to recognize some printed words in books or on signs – Practice finding simple words as you share stories together or travel in a car. These activities help emphasize the relationship between the spoken and written words.

Be interested in using the telephone to talk with others – Help teach your child telephone manners by practicing with familiar people.

Begin to identify family members and their relationships to each other – Talk about family relationships by sharing photos and stories.

Begin to understand the difference between fair and unfair – Simple games like “Go Fish or Candyland help teach them to follow rules and play fair.

Your Family

Teach hand-washing skills to keep everyone in your family healthy.

“Achoo!” “Please cover your mouth when you cough.” These are familiar sounds year-round especially in preschool or at childcare. When children begin to enter the “outside world,” they become exposed to a variety of new and different germs. The single most important thing you can teach your child is hand washing. Hands should be washed after using the restroom, several times during the day, and certainly before meals or snack time. Singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” while rubbing little hands together under the water is about the correct length of time to scrub away those pesky germs.

Eating Healthy on the Go

Busy American families often turn to fast-food, which ranges from national chains to frozen dinners or snacks. Quick at-home alternatives to fast-food are often healthier and nearly as fast. These could include peanut butter and banana sandwiches, string cheese, whole grain crackers, raw vegetables and dip, or tortillas with melted cheese. If you do visit a fast-food chain, keep in mind that many now offer healthier choices or substitutions such as milk instead of pop, salad instead of fries, or sandwiches without mayonnaise. Your child’s lifelong eating habits begin now – model and talk about healthy food choices with your child.

Build Positive Self-Esteem

You can help your preschooler build positive self-esteem with the following strategies.

  • Encourage effort – Hard work and motivation will help her to continue her improvement to achieve future goals.
  • Comment on the good things your child does, “Thank you for being a great helper. You helped your little brother with his coat.”
  • Tell them how you feel about them. “Your smile makes me feel so happy!” Remember that your affection, respect or love should never be tied to performance.
  • Most importantly, always draw attention to the behavior, not the child!
How to Manage Childhood Fears

Childhood fears come in many shapes and sizes, and may be based on something real or imagined. The important thing to keep in mind is your child believes her fear is real. Common things children are afraid of include strangers, animals, bugs, snakes, spiders, busy streets, the dark, monsters, bad dreams, or loud noises like thunder. You can help your child by taking her fear seriously. Find books that will give her more information. Listen to her and have her tell you more about her fear. Acknowledge her fear with words. For example, “you are afraid of the kisses that the dog tries to give you,” or “you are scared when it is dark.” Problem solve with your child, let her come up with realistic solutions. Finally, be patient and understanding.

Your Checklist

Your child’s safety needs change over time. Make sure you are taking the right steps to protect your child.
  • A booster seat is required by law until children reach 8 years of age or 4’ 9”
  • It is recommended that children remain in the back seat until at least age 12
  • Always use appropriate helmets and life jackets
  • During any season, sunscreen is a must for outdoor play
  • Talk with your child about issues such as fire safety and the use of 9-1-1
  • Visit your local library together to find books that stress safety
  • Help your child identify who is a stranger and who is not. Instruct your child not to talk to or obey a stranger. Use role playing to teach about stranger safety
  • Keep matches, knives, and other sharp objects out of reach
  • Lock away guns and gun supplies at all times
  • Keep vitamins and other medicines out of children’s reach
  • Post the Poison Control number by your phone: 1-800-222-1222
  • For more information on child safety, visit michigansafekids.org
Ask Your Health Care Provider

Vitamins: Despite the messages you and your child may be getting from advertisements about chewable vitamins, your child’s health care provider is the best resource to help you decide if vitamins are necessary. A well-balanced daily diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and protein may eliminate the need for vitamin supplements. If your child’s health care provider recommends vitamins, even though they are purchased over-the-counter, remember they are a medication that can be harmful if taken improperly.

Remember to schedule regular dental checkups as recommended by your family dentist or your child’s health care provider.