Preschoolers – Who Are They? Part 1

Featured Picture Book


(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

MY VERY BIG LITTLE WORLD is all about SugarLoaf figuring out about her world and the people in it. First, who is she and why is she? When SugarLoaf was born, her mom said that she “… looked as sweet as sugar.” Her dad said she “ … felt as warm as a freshly baked loaf of bread.” Voila! SugarLoaf puts two and two together – this is why she is SugarLoaf. Her world is all about her. She measures all things against herself, even Dad’s truck. “It’s very BIG. I’m smaller. The truck won’t grow. But I will.“ She figures out that what she likes is what others like too. She and Dad are “morning people.” She and Mom like tea. And, She and Gramma both have the same favorite color. SugarLoaf’s views are simple, fun, honest, interesting, amusing, and remind us that at this preschool age, children see themselves at the center of their world.

Parenting Thoughts 


Dr. Mom:  MY VERY BIG LITTLE WORLD is a window into a preschooler’s I’m-the-center-of-the-world way of thinking. It brings to my mind the wonderful and very important blossoming of children at this age.

Because preschoolers are so interesting and are often the target audience for picture books, I have written many things about preschoolers before. I don’t mind sharing those things with you again. I believe hearing things again can be very helpful.

I know this time you will hear them in new and smarter ways than you did another time you may have read them. I also know that some of you are just now entering this stage of preschool with your children, so you may not have paid as much attention before. This is how all of us hear parenting information. We mostly zero in on the issues we are dealing with everyday.

Preschool age is generally ages three to five, but there is nothing magic about those ages. Almost-three-year-olds or somewhat-older-than-five-year-olds can act just like preschoolers too. Likewise, a younger-than-five-year-old may be moving past preschool stuff into learning more about life skills and rules. Each child grows at his own speed – socially, physically, and in how he makes sense of his world and the people in it.

Your preschooler, just like SugarLoaf in MY VERY BIG LITTLE WORLD, spends a lot of time thinking about size, shape, jobs, and the way people think, feel, and act – what we might call people’s personalities – including their own. And, your preschooler will no doubt think a lot like SugarLoaf does. No, correct that. He will see that SugarLoaf thinks like he does, because his world is all about him.

Darling Daughter:  This is sooo ringing bells. My favorite book growing up was a Dr. Suess beginner book, “My Book about Me. I wrote in it. I drew in it – over and over again. It has you count things like spoons and steps in your house, select the color of your eyes from different illustrations on the page, and it even gave you space for a self portrait.  I think I filled that book in again and again over many different years.  Amazingly, it is still available in bookstores and online. I totally recommend it to our readers.

In this post I am going to talk about how the preschooler looks at size, shape, power, including the power that labels have (not labels in the grocery store, but labels placed on him and other people). On July 15, I will post Preschoolers – Who Are They? Part 2. It will talk about how preschoolers wonder how they “fit” into the world.

How do they fit in with family and friends? What do people do all day? What does it mean to have a job? Imagine thinking about “career awareness” already. Yes, they can. They do. And, it is good for them. It can help them connect other things they do, learn, and see in their worlds.

Size and Shape

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How big or small are things? Seems like such a simple question – and maybe not even a very important one. But to preschoolers, it is very important. Isn’t it amazing how we change on this subject.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to watch my size change. I even close my eyes while I’m on the scales at the doctor’s office and hope the nurse doesn’t say anything out loud. I seem to notice that the older the nurse, the more likely she will keep it to herself J  But, back to the preschoolers that do want to know everything about their size. It matters to them in many ways.

I remember when my oldest Darling Daughter was in kindergarten, she did a measuring exercise using feet sizes. Everyone drew around a foot, measured the length, and then displayed the results all in a row.

And I’m sure mine was the biggest.  Seems I started overachieving from the moment I could.  J  Now it’s hard to find shoes big enough in mainstream stores. <g> Not such a great thing after all.

I’m sure part of the lesson was to see first hand that everyone is different. Darling Daughter came home with, “Guess what, Mom? My feet are the biggest in the room.” I wasn’t the least surprised. (You’ll understand why when you read Caution #1 below.) And, I tried not to over-react because I didn’t want to contribute to the idea that bigger was better. However, I have to admit I was taken back when after a long pause, she added, “Even the teacher’s.”

            Ha!  See, told ya so!

Sometimes a preschooler’s interest in size is about what they can do – still have to sit in a high chair or reach a cookie on the counter. Sometimes it’s about power – does being bigger mean more powerful and getting my own way? Power, by the way is very, very important to children at this age. This is why superheroes, monsters, fears, and bullying are so much a part of their lives. We’ll talk more about some of that in our July 15 post.

In case some of you have ten-year-olds or so and are thinking about the bullying thing being big right now in their lives her is some food for thought. These issues come back and revisit us – often about every 6- or 7-years. That means a 10-12 year old could sound and act a lot like a preschooler. Think about it.

As a preschooler figures all this out, the question is not like on TV, “Is it bigger than a breadbox?” Rather, the preschooler compares all things to himself. “Is it bigger or smaller than me? Will it get bigger? Smaller? Stay the same? This is one reason why preschoolers really like both giant things (for example, overstuffed animals) and tiny versions of big things (for example, ponies and army men).

I think I was a giant thing “person” and yet Ezzy is most certainly a teeny-tiny thing “person.”  I think I liked the giant things better – much easier to keep track of!  But, I can’t count how many hours I have spent searching for (and mostly finding) little tiny itty-bitty things – gems, zinkies, dolls, doll shoes, pencils, you name it! More evidence of how children are different I guess.

This is also one reason why children at this age like to be measured and see their numbers grow on the doorjamb, wall, or special calendar chart. How they “fit” in this word is becoming more and more interesting to them.

Caution #1: We frequently think about granting privileges (crossing the street alone) or permissions (staying up late) based on a child’s size or age. This reminds me again of Darling Daughter’s kindergarten days. Before even turning five-years-old, she was as tall as most any six-year-old. Because of this “look,” when she arrived at school each morning, hall monitors would not let her in the building reserved only for kindergartners. I had to accompany her to the door to make sure she was allowed in.

Mortifying – not the mom part but the “Halt, who goes there?” part!  It felt good to have mom come to my rescue. 

Dr, Mom:  Don’t think you ever told me that was helpful. Love hearing that it was the right thing for you at that time. Thanks for sharing.

The more important part of this “tallness” was that people expected her to be and do many other things just because she was so tall.  They expected her to talk more like an older child, be as outgoing as an older child (DD: wasn’t gonna happen), and be able to control her emotions like an older child – just because she was bigger than most children her same age. Be careful about how your children’s size affects your expectations of them.

It made me embarrassed and nervous when it was time to order a meal.  I had a few people not believe I still qualified for the children’s price/menu and question me as if I was trying to pull a fast one.  I couldn’t believe they didn’t just believe me.  Made me feel like I was doing something wrong. 

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Privileges and permissions should be connected to a child’s behavior and maturity. What one 4-year-old is big enough for, she may not be really ready for. Pay attention to lots of different things about your child – age, size, and behavior – to decide what he may be capable of. And in the end, you can always try things out, carefully watch what happens, and then make your final decisions. You can read more about a child being ready at When Are Kids Old Enough?

Caution #2: If your child has a different shape than many of his friends (for example, heavier or thinner), he may be labeled by his friends. After all, his friends are preschoolers too and are measuring all things by their own size and shape. These labels can be hurtful and can stick with us for years and years – even into our adulthood. I encourage you to pay attention to how your child is being labeled and to help offset any hurtful “names” or “ideas” that he is hearing often from important people.

Labels are messages. They end up in our heads as though they were on a CD, playing over and over again in our heads – commercials from TV are good examples of how messages get in our heads. One way to fight hurtful messages like this is to fill your child’s head with so many positive messages that the hurtful ones become less often heard or paid attention to. You can read more about labeling children at Correct; Don’t Criticize – Part 1.

If you hear something enough you are most certainly going to start believing it – good or bad … so, why not make it good?

A note about good ones: Sometimes we intend a good message, but because we make it too big and broad it can end up not being as good. For example, I say, “I love how you make me feel when every single morning you give me that big smile.” This sounds like a great thing to hear from your mom or dad, right?

Until you have a bad day. Then, how do you feel when you’re not up to that big smile – when you want to cry and be comforted about something, but you know you will disappoint someone important?

Just change it up a little bit, and it won’t be as likely to turn harmful all of a sudden. “You have the best smile ever! I ‘m glad I get to see it today.” This tells him he is a happy, fun-to-be-around guy, but doesn’t say he has to be that way all the time just to make you feel good. It gives the compliment without the burden.

More Coming

MY VERY BIG LITTLE WORLD has more to tell us about our preschoolers. Be sure to check our posting on July 15 for Preschoolers – Who Are They? Part 2. Believe it or not, even at this young age your child is already thinking about when he is grown-up – including what jobs or careers he may like. The next post will also talk about the development of your child’s personality – how he is thinking and feeling about himself and those around him. Pretty important stuff!

Read All About It

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft


PICK UP YOUR SOCKS, Elizabeth Crary

TIME-IN: WHEN TIME-OUT DOESN’T WORK, Jean Illsley Clarke and Cary Pillo

 Surf the Internet:
  • self-esteem
  • make-believe
  • pretend play
  • feeling faces
  • children’s feelings
  • Erik Erikson
  • overindulgence
  • developmental tasks
  • logical consequences
  • natural consequences
  • discipline
  • sharing
  • bullying
  • kids making amends
  • career awareness in young children
  • preschoolers
  • name-calling


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