Self-awareness is the mental picture preschoolers have of who they are in relation to the world. Self-awareness is synonymous with self-identity, a concept children begin understanding from age 18 months on. For most preschoolers, self-awareness means discovering their bodies and emotions and realizing body differences in relation to their peers. Preschool activities that cater to this development will help your child make positive connections with his body and society as a whole.
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Same vs. Different
Preschoolers recognize physical differences before similarities and tend to sort these based on color and size. Preschoolers commonly notice differences in skin color and other physical characteristics. To guide this process, you may get out knee-high nylons of different colors for your child to try on. Pretend that they are skin, and emphasize the beauty and uniqueness of each color. Your preschooler will learn to appreciate his own skin color and the colors of others, says childhood specialist Barbara Biles.
Preschoolers often accept the stereotypes and prejudices of their immediate environment as acceptable social norms. This is due to their overall inability to categorize people, including themselves, in multi-dimensional ways. You can help your child obtain a sense of cultural identity and tolerance by exposing him to music and dance from around the world. From this he will learn that other people like to sing and dance, but every group does it differently.
Physical self-awareness comes naturally with age. You can help your preschooler understand and accept his developing body by encouraging positive, interactive growth activities. Hang a height chart on the wall and allow him to pencil in his progress. Have him point to and name his body parts in a mirror, or draw monthly outlines of his hands and feet. This will promote physical awareness and self-acceptance in your preschooler.
Younger preschoolers do not always have a firm grasp of personal responsibility in relation to the world. They may be messy, leaving toys or personal belongings scattered on the floor. Making your preschooler responsible for his possessions in a fun and interactive way will teach him self-esteem and personal responsibility, says child educator Jean Warren. Your preschooler can also attain self-worth and group identity by helping you and others with house chores.