Your 4 1/4-year-old: Learning responsibility

Your 4 1/4-year-old: Learning responsibility

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Your 4-year-old now

Your child isn't ready to be responsible for a plant or animal yet. But she is old enough to help out with watering and feeding. These small chores teach responsibility.

Helping to take care of a plant or garden is a great first job for preschoolers. They love to watch plants grow, flower, and bear fruit, especially when they feel it's partly their doing. Get a watering can that's easy for your child to hold, even when it's full. It shouldn't be too large, and ideally it should have a very long, thin spout to minimize spills. The first few times, show her how much water to use, then put her in charge. Don't expect her to remember when to water, though. You'll need to remind her.

The same goes for feeding your pets. Your child is probably an eager helper, though not ready to initiate the work consistently. She'll need reminders about when to scoop food or fill water bowls. Be sure to teach how to do this safely: Your pet shouldn't be around when food is poured, and your child needs to know never to tease him or try to take his food away. Animals may snap to protect their food.

Your life now

Now's a great time to initiate "family night" or "pizza-and-movie night" in your household. Your child is old enough to appreciate a special family ritual and will be one of its strongest keepers once the routine gets started. Some families hold an "unplugged" night where there are no electronics, only board games or other old-fashioned activities. Some hit a family-friendly restaurant for Sunday brunch. The main idea is to do something together as a group on a regular basis. It's an idea that can help keep your family close in the years to come.

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