“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr. Seuss
“Wait! I have to tell my mommy something!”
If you enjoy watching our youngest Ninjas in action during Little Ninjas class enjoyment, then you know all too well how much these littles absolutely love to tell mommy and daddy all about their special thoughts, feelings, challenges and victories in real time!
You see, 3-4 year olds live entirely in the moment. They are actively soaking up every ounce of the experiences they are immersed in. From taking in the sights of their surroundings, watching what their peers are doing, listening while trying to process all the sounds around them so they can make connections to other shared experiences to tell you all about it, it is truly an extraordinarily special season of energetic life!
But what happens when the senses become overwhelmed or the experience in the moment combined with many other adventures of the day become too much?
3-4 Year Old’s: Emotional Development
During the years of three and four, children are beginning to take their first steps away from the protective wing of mom and dad to learn more about the world they live in.
At this stage of our children’s emotional development, we tend to see:
· Very strong emotional responses that may include at times fear, apprehension or even anxiety especially when being separated, even for a short amount of time, from mommy or daddy.
· An exploration of emotions; learning what anger is, sadness, frustration, worry. Where am I feeling this in my body? How do I move through the big feelings?
· Difficulty in channeling the big feelings from excitement to the other end of the spectrum, anger.
3-4 Year Old’s: Social Development
At this age and stage of development, children though beginning to observe and take in what others around them are up to, are still very self-focused.
Because of this age groups limited vocabulary as we discussed previously, much in the form of communication with others for 3-4 year olds is physical i.e. pushing a friend when they don’t get their way. Further, it is a challenge to take turns with others and to comprehend that they are not losing their toy forever when engaging in playtime with new friends but rather learning the concept of sharing.
Knowing what we know about the emotional and social stages of development for 3-4 year olds, how are our team of Pediatric Ninja Specialists supporting children on and beyond the mats to flourish in these areas?
1. Emotional Regulation
a. By having our ninjas actively exercise emotional regulation techniques on the mats when big feelings arise, we are helping to:
1. Define the emotion being felt; label it
2. Assist in shifting from “downstairs,” the emotionally driven brain to the “upstairs,” logical thinking center through breath work and regulation strategies like 5-4-3-2-1.
v “Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you can taste.”
3. By holding space, identifying the emotion and helping to guide our little Ninjas back to calm and center, we are giving them a template for how to encounter future big feelings with more confidence in knowing how to move through them safely and effectively.
2. Shining a Light on the Good Choices vs. the Poor Choices
a. Through the intentional practice of purposefully calling out when good choices are being made, we are instilling positive reinforcement, helping kiddos to understand where they are shining bright. When they know they have done something well, it goes a long way and encourages them to try and replicate that again in the future. In the event a poor choice is made, responding in a posture of “How can we do better next time?” or “What is the better choice?” goes a long way in supporting their emotional development.
3. Encouraging Skill Development
a. By immersing your child in safe and supportive environments where they are able to explore their emotions and interact with peers their age, you are giving them the incredible gift and opportunity to learn, grow and mature in their emotional as well as social development!
Every part of why we do what we do is with the purposeful intention of ensuring the whole mind, body and spirit of your child is supported.
We (Team DFK) are honored to walk alongside you in the journey and be a part of the safe, nurturing tribe of support for your Ninja!
About the Author
Meg Klettke is the proud owner alongside her husband, Alex of Family Strong Sussex, a SKILLZ Lifetime Gold studio in Southeastern Wisconsin. With a background in traditional and alternative therapeutics, Meg is an active advocate for today’s youth. Her passion for supporting and nurturing the whole child resonates through all she does as a Proud Ninja Mom of two boys with special needs, Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialist and Content Creator for SKILLZ Worldwide.