Dr. Pratiksha Rigley
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Nurturing Good Character Traits in Preschoolers

Every parent wants their child to develop character traits such as compassion, generosity and kindness, but how do you get from point A to point B? Are preschoolers capable of learning and understanding these traits? And if so, how can parents and caregivers support their development?

According to the  National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, the early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for a wide range of important developmental outcomes, like self-confidence, mental health and the motivation to learn. The earlier these softer skills are fostered in young children, the more likely they are to be successful in school and later in life. And while it may seem like your child is too young to grasp these concepts, the foundational behaviors needed to develop empathy and other social-emotional skills that make us good people are actually nurtured in the first years of life.

Oftentimes the best way to teach young children about these intangible skills and traits is to provide hands-on learning opportunities and to reinforce the concepts in a variety of ways. Primrose Schools suggests the following tips for parents and caregivers to use at home:

•      Build an understanding of different traits. Even at a young age, children begin to build their understanding of traits like generosity, respect and gratitude. Read books such as “I Can Share by Karen Katz (ages 2-5) and “When I Care About Others by Cornelia Maude Spelman (ages 4-7) with your child and take the opportunity to discuss the positive traits that the characters possess. Ask questions and help your child apply the concepts in the book to real-life experiences.

•      Introduce important life skills. Even very young children can begin to learn about essential life skills, such as manners, safety and caring for the environment. Letting children take care of their very own plant will promote responsibility while also teaching the importance of caring for the world around them. Modeling these life skills is also a great way to introduce them, especially for younger children.

•      Make time for hands-on learning. Children get most excited about giving back when they are able to experience it firsthand. Introduce your child to helping those in need by starting small in your community. Whether it’s collecting coats for a clothing drive or making cards for the local nursing home, it’s rewarding to see your child begin to understand the huge impact a simple project can have.

Young children learn through repetition and observation. One of the best ways for you to nurture positive character traits is to lead by example and consistently model what it means to be a good person. Sooner than later, your child will start imitating you and be on their way to becoming a kind, caring individual.

For more helpful parenting tips and information, visit our blog at and sign up for the  Pointers for Parents newsletter.

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