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Introduction to Parenting Your Toddler, Preschooler, and Young Child

Angela Oswalt, MSW, Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

image by Leonid Mamchenkov (lic)This topic center covers parenting and child development of preschool children (early childhood aged 3 to 7. For a complete review of the theories of child development upon which this article is based, please visit our Child and Adolescent Development topic center. For coverage of child development and parenting topics applicable to infant children (ages 0-2) please visit our Infant Parenting and Child Development topic center. For information on parenting and child development of middle childhood children (ages 8 to 11), please visit our Middle Childhood Parenting and Development center and Child Development Theory: Middle Childhood center. For information on parenting adolescents (ages 12-24), please visit our Adolescence Child Development and Parenting and Child Development Theory: Adolescence topic center.

Congratulations! You have survived the newborn and early infancy stage of your child's development. Late night feedings, heavy and awkward infant carriers, and stinky pureed baby foods are things of the past. Now, as your child becomes increasingly mobile and interactive, there are a new set of concerns and tasks that you must focus on to ensure that your child remains safe, healthy, happy, and developmentally on-track. Early childhood is an exhilarating time for both children and parents. Young ones start to gain increasing amounts of independence. They move from "toddling" to learning to ride a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels. They learn to scrub themselves in the bathtub. Better yet (especially for parents!), they will master using the bathroom by themselves. However, these little people aren't totally self-sufficient quite yet. Young children still need plenty of adult care and guidance.

In this article, we provide concrete advice and information on how to care for children between the ages of 2 and 7 years. Considered in Piagetian developmental terms, this age range corresponds to the preoperational years. We will be covering areas such as feeding and nutrition, sleep, hygiene, exercise, love and nurturing, medical care, and safety. This article will also discuss strategies parents can use to help children cope with common but difficult age-related transitions such as gaining a new sibling and starting pre-school and/or kindergarten.

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