Pre-schoolers (3-5 years)

The transition from toddler to child

Your child is now gaining confidence in all developmental areas although she will still need guidance and support in moving towards more independence. It may be useful for parents to be aware of the developmental milestones they can expect their child to attain but more important still is to be aware of their own child’s individual needs. A good tip is to take the time to listen and observe your child, whilst trying not to intervene too early if they are struggling with a task. During this stage your child will start their Pre-school education (obligatory from age 4) and may for the first time spend a significant time away from you. This may take a period of adaptation for you both and is worth taking the time to prepare for. Children generally prefer the familiar and find change challenging.


Elmer & Toddler_B&W


Physical Development

Physically, and with a lot of parental patience, he will be able to feed himself, dress himself and by the end of this stage be able to go to the toilet by himself. Of course all these tasks can be helped along with some thought and planning by parents. In the beginning it is important to keep it simple by giving them easy to use ‘child friendly’ cutlery and slowly introducing more adult utensils like open cups then glasses at mealtimes. Your child may still need to use trousers with elasticated waists or clothes without too many fiddly fasteners or buttons. To encourage children to be more independent they need to be able to do things for themselves without too much interference. This can be very frustrating and even painful for parents who want to jump in and help. A great way to help your child to learn new skills is by ‘chain learning’, that is breaking down a task backwards from completion and letting the child try and succeed step by step in the task by themselves.

It is time to think of taking the metaphorical and possibly real stabilisers of their bikes. Children at this stage want to move, run, hop, skip and want to ride a big kid’s two wheeler! Their physical energy can be exhausting for parents. The trick is to get them outside as much as possible. In Luxembourg apart from the play parks and nature trails there are an abundance of wooded areas and fields where kids can run off some of that energy. Why not investigate one of the recommended walks at Visit Luxembourg. Take a kite or look for animal tracks (learn about the countryside code) or grab their imagination by going on a Gruffalo hunt! Let them have fun exploring their environment. Alternatively you could also visit one of the castles, farms or lakes side walks open to the public. For further details see our Resources section. Even when it is raining there are excellent indoor play areas where kids can ‘let off steam’ and parents can have a coffee. See in Useful Links below. And don’t forget to send us your ideas we are always looking for Top Tips for parents.

Children will continue to have growth spurts, that is when in any developmental area they have a sudden leap or change. It is useful for parents to be aware that during these growth spurts other areas of development might seem to slow down or even lapse. For example a physical growth spurt may put a child ‘off balance’ they may appear more clumsy whilst they get used to their changing body. Growth spurts can be painful too due to the physical adjustments in the body. These ‘growing pains’ are nothing to worry about but if they are particularly uncomfortable make an appointment to see your pediatrician.


Intellectual Development

Colourful Chalk FairyIntellectually your child will be beginning to develop the skills she will need to read and write. She will start to understand more abstract concepts like danger, continue to understand better ‘cause and effect’ and often feel the need to ask ‘why’ and ‘push’ at boundaries. She should generally be able to separate fact from fantasy but still has a wonderful imagination. Parents can help by continuing to read to their children, play board games, and ‘make believe’ imagination games. This will support not only for their intellectual but also language and communication, emotional and social development. It is now recognised that playing games of any kind can help in all areas of our child’s development because play literally is the work of children (and adults who want to stay young).

Engaging with your child’s developing mind can be exciting and can give you insight into how they see the world. Recently there has been an increase in neurological studies using brain scans that are changing the way we think about how the brain develops. It is worth finding out more about this by reading some of the recommended books by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson.


Language (Communication) Development

Language or speech development is developing at a fast pace during this developmental stage. He will want to engage you more and more in his conversation, with sentences that may be a bit repetitive and full of holes, but full of the enthusiasm at being understood at last. As parents it is important that we take time to listen, try to give our child eye contact (by getting down to their level) and gently correct mispronunciations without frustrating them. This can be tricky at first but with time you will get to know when is a good time to ‘fill in the gaps’ or just listen. He will be able to name everyday objects, understand and increasingly be understood, and by the end of this stage be able to write his name, recognise a simple written word and know it’s meaning. A new and exciting world is unfolding to him. Each child is of course different and some will naturally be more chatty and engaging than others. This often is reflected in the child’s temperament.

It is important not to push your child into speaking to unfamiliar people especially if they are generally ‘slow to warm up’. We have written about bilingualism and the challenges of growing up in a multi-lingual country like Luxembourg in earlier stages of development. If you are in any way concerned about your child’s language development or think there may be some developmental delay contact your pediatrician.


Emotional Development

Emotionally she will start to be aware of her own likes and dislikes, and happy to tell you! She may develop a fear of the dark, spiders or ‘baddies’ in films. This is because she is becoming increasingly aware of herself and her fears. She will have a little more control over her emotions but there will still be times when she is overwhelmed by them and needs to have space and time to calm down. She will start to recognise other people’s emotions, but she will still be quite egocentric. Parents can support their child by giving limited choices, setting clear boundaries and having consistent routines. These help children to understand and feel safe in their environment. Familiarity is still important at this stage and change if possible needs to be explained and kept to a minimum especially if a child is already coping with the possible stress of starting school, a new sibling etc. Children still needs lots of encouragement and praise at this stage and an effective parenting tool for this is the ‘praise sandwich’. Children need guidance but they also need a lot of recognition for what they are doing well. The ‘praise sandwich’ allows parents to focus on what the child is doing well (step 1 the bread – bottom slice) point out how they might do it differently or more successfully (step 2 – the filler) and then recognition for their attempt (step 3 – the top slice). You may also want to consider introducing a reward chart or other reward system in recognition of new skills being learnt and new ways in which they can work towards their independence by carrying out simple tasks or chores. For more about Reward Systems see our Resources section.


Social Development and Sense of Self

Toddler holding hands_B&WThis is a key stage for your child’s social development because it marks the beginning of their obligatory education. It is possible to home-school in Luxembourg however, to be able to socialise with other children will be a key skill he will need to learn. By the end of this stage most children will move from playing ‘side by side’ to actually playing together with other children, including turn taking and co-operative play. For this stage to be successful it is important for a child to feel that their parents are still ‘there’ for them. If he is securely attached and able to use a ‘transitionary object’ to self comfort then he is much more likely to enjoy school.

Starting school is a major event in your child’s life and with the added possible stress of starting school in another language it is worth taking some time to prepare him or her. Some parents find it useful to create a transition plan for the six months prior and six months after their child starts school. This plan can include pre-school activities parents and children can attend to practice socialising skills, putting your child in day care (crèche) before attending school, as well as visiting your child’s new school in advance. Even if your child cannot visit the school formerly you may be able to visit the school’s playground or find local children who might be attending the school.

If you can organise a play date with another child the same age, and preferably going to the same school, it can provide further opportunities to develop social skills and a possible play mate for their first months in school. Play dates also provide a good way for children of this age to start learning about people outside the family. Your child may need a lot of reassurance in new situations, which is why it is good to start exploring social situations with a parent present and only one or two other children to begin with.

Spending time with you in the family environment is still the place where your child will feel most at ease learning social skills by interactions with family members. If you can put aside some regular time to engage in an activity together like cooking, painting or playing ball. You can use the activity to talk about the new skills they are learning like sharing, including others in your play and appreciating other people’s efforts. There are lots of educational websites with activity ideas for afternoons at home or school holidays. See our Useful Links in our Further Information (below) or Resources section.


Introducing a New Sibling

Possibly the greatest challenge (or gift) to your child’s social development will be if she has a new brother or sister. Whether she is the oldest or the youngest, a new sibling will mean change in the family dynamics. Change or unpredictability is generally something that upsets young children. However, there are lots of ways parents can help their children prepare for the introduction of a new sibling and forgive some of the inevitable and normal ‘sibling rivalry’ that will ensue. For more on Sibling Rivalry see our Special Needs section.


Time Out for Parents

It is important to recognise that as parents we also need some ‘time out’ sometimes to get our needs met physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Parenting young children can be particularly exhausting at times especially without extended family to lend a hand. The time we give ourselves to relax or catch up with adult friends can be seen as an investment in our family life. For more information on ‘Time Out’ for Parents see our Resources section.



Further Information: Useful Links


If you are concerned about your child or have any questions about parenting in Luxembourg you can contact the Online Parent service in English at the Kanner Jugend Telefon



General Parenting

Family Lives: A UK-based website with lots of articles and information about subjects to do with building a healthy family environment for children and parents alike.

Empowering Parents: An American website full of interesting and useful articles about parenting. Highly recommended reading from preparing for the first day at school to kids leaving home and coming back with their dirty laundry.

Help Guides: An American website that has more than 200 articles, videos, and other resources based on the latest research, and updated regularly by a team of mental health professionals and writers. You can search topics of interest A-Z including information about family relationships, child development and additional educational needs.

The Mindsight Institute: The mission of The Mindsight Institute is to provide a scientifically grounded, integrated view of human development for mental health practitioners, educators and parents to promote the growth of vibrant lives and healthy minds. Dr. Siegel (founder) has written several books about this and collaboratively with Tina Bryson ‘The Whole Brain Child’ & ‘No Drama Discipline’.

Raising Boys: The Steve Biddulph community for Raising Boys brings together a collection of posts, articles and useful links for anyone wanting to connect and find out move about raising loving, connected and sensitive young men.

Raising Girls: The Steve Biddulph community for Raising Girls brings together a collection of posts, articles and useful links for anyone wanting to connect and find out move about raising loving, connected and strong young women.

NSPCC UK: The NSPCC offers parents information and advice about protecting their children from abuse online and in their day-to-day life including their ‘Underwear Rule’ for younger children.


Children’s Educational Activities Sites

The Crafty Crow – crafts from around the world: Why not teach your child the history of Bretzelsonneg, or Pretzel Sunday, whilst making them together. This occurs on the 4th Sunday in Lent and on this day traditionally boys give the girl they like a pastry shaped as a pretzel. The larger the pretzel the more the boy likes the girl. If the girl feels the same way she will give the boy a decorated egg on Easter Sunday. On leap years the roles are reversed. This practice is celebrated in Luxembourg by singles and married couples.

Activity Village: is a parent run website full of activities closely related to the English primary curriculum for all the year round.

National Geographic Kids: site with animal and environmental conservation activities

Cbeebies: International site for pre–school activities lots of crafts and games.

Mr Maker: UK site helps young children learn about crafts, shapes and of course the infamous ‘minute maker’ great for small attention spans.

Kidsites: gives a listing of Children’s Activity (mainly American) sites on the Internet.


Children’s Indoor Play Areas (age appropriate) – in Luxembourg

Zig Zag


Children’s Indoor Play Areas: in Germany – Trier

Trampoline Trier 

Children’s Indoor Play Areas: in Belgium – Arlon

Atomic Kids

Children’s Indoor Play Areas: in France – Thionville



Language (Communication) Development

Raising Bilingual Children: This website is for parents seeking information related to questions about raising children in a bilingual environment. Multilingual Education is a challenging task requiring much creativity, continuity and dedication for those parents raising children in such an environment.



Further Information: Recommended Reading

Social Rules for Kids-The Top 100 Social Rules Kids Need to Succeed by Susan Diamond M.A. (2011)
Useful book of social rules that will help any family hoping to help their children understand socially acceptable behavior.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Dr Tina Payne Bryson & Dr. Daniel Siegel (2012)
Following recent advances in understanding brains and how they effect our children’s development this book introduces the idea of parenting with a whole brain approach. The book is well designed and easy to read with really good examples from both the authors.


Starting School

Starting School by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg (2013)
Lovely illustrated board book that helps discussions about going to ‘big school’ by well loved English authors.

Charlie and Lola: I Am Too Absolutely Small For School by Lauren Child (2007)
Lola is to join her big brother at school but she not sure about it. She thinks it probably would be useful to read and write and count, but she doesn’t really have time for school – she’s much too busy doing extremely important things at home.


Different Approaches to Discipline

There are lots of books about how parents can use discipline in their family lives. You will no doubt find conflicting information but it is worth reading a few books or articles to decide what approach might work with you child. Remember no one approach that will work with all children all the time.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind By Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (2014)
This is the most recent book on discipline and highly recommended because it uses up to date understanding of child development and the brain. It is a follow on from the ‘Whole Brain Child’ and taking these principles shows how we can nurture our relationships with our children whilst providing clear boundaries and discipline in a loving way.

123 MAGIC by Thomas W Phelan (2014)
This book accompanies a series of recommended informative DVDs presented by Thomas Phalen. A lot of what he says makes sense in our current understanding of child development especially not treating children as ‘little adults’.


Helping Young Children Cope with Change

Moving Home With a Young ChildThis online article by Kalmen Heller Ph.D. proved to be a useful resource for a recent Passage Blog article.


Language (Communication) Development

Growing Up with Two Languages: A Practical Guide for the Bilingual Family by Una Cunningham (2011)
Growing Up with Two Languages is aimed at the many parents and professionals who feel uncertain about the best way to go about helping children gain maximum benefit from the multilingual situation like Luxembourg. The trials and rewards of life with two languages and cultures are discussed in detail, and followed by practical advice on how to support the child’s linguistic development.

Be Bilingual – Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families by Annika Bourgogne (2013)
Be Bilingual is full of practical, creative, and fun ideas backed up by the latest research. It shows families how to make multilingualism work in their busy lives. Multilingual families from all around the world have contributed by sharing their best resources and tips on how to make growing up with two or more languages an enjoyable experience.

Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism (Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides) by Colin Baker (2014)
In this accessible guide to bilingualism in the family and the classroom, Colin Baker delivers a realistic picture of the joys and difficulties of raising bilingual children. The Q&A format of this book makes it the natural choice for the busy parent or teacher who needs an easy reference guide to the most frequently asked questions.



Article by:  Lynn Frank who is a coordinator for Passage.

Last updated:  Tuesday 17th March, 2015