40 Developmental Assets for Preschoolers


The following is a framework of 40 developmental assets for children ages 3 to 5 that blends the Search Institute’s research on developmental assets for 12 to 18 year olds.  In parentheses behind some items are a few possible suggestions.


External Assets are those in the community:


1.      Family Support – Family life provides high levels of love and support.

2.      Positive family communication – Parents and child communicate

positively.  Child seeks out parents for assistance with difficult tasks or situations.

3.      Other adult resources – parents receive support from at least one-nonparent adults.  Parents have support from individuals outside the home. (childcare provider, grandparents, Sunday School Teacher, Preschool Teacher)

4.      Caring neighborhood – Child experiences caring neighbors. (They stop and talk to them)

5.      Caring out-of-home climate – Child is in caring, encouraging environments outside the home. (Sunday School, childcare, preschool, Story Hour at the library)

6.      Parent involvement in out-of-home situations – Parents are actively involved in helping child succeed in situations outside the home. (School open house, kids bowling league, parent teacher conferences)


7.      Children valued – Parents and other adults value and appreciate children. (Have them help set the table for supper and praise them for a good job done).

8.      Children given useful roles – Parents and other adults take child into account when making decisions and gradually include the child in decisions.  (Have them help carry dirty clothes to the laundry)

9.      Service to others – The family serves others in the community together. (Elementary Boosters, church, volunteer at the Wieting Theater)

10.  Safety – Child has a safe environment at home, in out-of-home settings, and in the neighborhood.

Boundaries & Expectations

11.  Family boundaries – Family has clear rules and consequences. Family monitors the child and consistently demonstrates appropriate behavior through modeling and limit setting. (limit TV watching, “time outs”)

12.  Out-of-home boundaries – Neighbors, childcare, preschool, and community provide clear rules and consequences.

13.  Neighborhood Boundaries – Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring child’s behavior. (If you see them talking to a stranger, tell them they need to go see their parents)

14.  Adult role models – Parents and other adult’s model positive, responsible behavior. (Talk to them, call them by name).

15.  Positive peer observation – Child’s interactions with other children are encouraged and promoted. Child is given opportunities to play with other children in a safe, well-supervised setting. (Sunday School, Story Hour at the Library)

16.  Expectations for growth – Adults have realistic expectations of development at this age. Parents, caregivers, and other adults encourage child to achieve and develop his or her unique talents.

Constructive Use of Time

17.  Creative activities –Child participates in music, art, or dramatic play on a regular basis. (Dance classes, attend middle/high school music programs)

18.  Out-of-home activities – Child interacts with children outside the family. Family attends events with the child’s needs in mind. (Summer reading programs at the library or story hours)

19.  Religious community – Family attends religious programs or services on a regular basis with keeping the child’s needs in mind. (Sunday School, Kids Club or other after school activities at the local churches, or other church family activities)

20.  Positive, supervised time at home – Child is supervised by an adult at all times. Child spends most evenings and weekends at home with parents in predictable, fun, enjoyable routines.  (Suppertime at 6 p.m.; bath time at 7:30 p.m.; bedtime at 8:30 p.m.)

Commitment to Learning

21.  Achievement expectation –Parents and other adults convey and reinforce expectations to do well at work, school, in the community, and within the family.

22.  Engagement expectation – The family models responsive and attentive attitudes at work, school, in the community, and at home.

23.  Stimulating activity – Parents and other adults encourage the child to explore and provide stimulating toys that match the child’s emerging skills. Parents and other adults are sensitive to the child’s level of development. (Age appropriate toys, going sledding, going to the park)

24.  Enjoyment of learning – Parents and other adults enjoy learning, and engage the child in learning activities.

25.  Reading for pleasure – Child is read to by a caring adult for at least 30 minutes a day.  (Go to the library on a weekly basis).

Positive Values

26.  Family values caring – Child is encouraged to express sympathy for someone who is distressed and to share their possessions.

27.  Family values equality and social justice – Parents place a high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty and model these beliefs.

28.  Family values integrity – Parents act on convictions and stand up for their beliefs and communicate and model this in the family.

29.  Family values honesty – Child learns the difference between truth and lying. (We’ve told our kids about the time when we were riding a motorcycle around Saylorville Lake and by the spillway we and found a wallet lying in the road.  It had several hundred dollars in it.  We had contacted the man who had lost it.  He was from Chicago and was back visiting relatives and had everything in his wallet.  He was so thankful that we called. . . . . . Good deeds come back 10 fold). 

30.  Family values responsibly – Child learns that actions have an effect on other people.

31.  Family values a healthy lifestyle and sexual attitudes – Parents and other adults, monitor, and teach the importance of good health habits. Child learns healthy sexual attitudes and beliefs and to respect them.

Social Competencies

32.  Planning and decision-making practice – Child begins to make simple choices, solve simple problems, and develop simple plans at an age-appropriate level. (They pick out their clothes for school the next day)

33.  Interpersonal interactions – Child plays and interacts with other children and adults. Child freely expresses feelings and is taught to articulate feelings verbally. Parents and other adults model and teach empathy.

34.  Cultural interactions – Child is positively exposed to information about people of different cultural/ethnic/racial backgrounds. (Everyone is different.  Not all blonde people are the same.  No two children are alike.)

35.  Resistance practice – Child is taught how to resist participating in behavior that is inappropriate or dangerous. (Look both ways before crossing the street)

36.  Peaceful conflict resolution practice – Parents and other adult’s model peaceful conflict resolution. Child is taught and begins to practice nonviolent, acceptable ways to deal with challenging and frustrating situations.

Positive Identity

37.  Family has personal power – Parents feel they have control over things that happen to them and model coping skills, demonstrating healthy ways to deal with frustrations and challenges.

38.  Family models high self-esteem – Parents model high self-esteem and create an environment where the child can develop positive self-esteem, giving the child positive feedback and reinforcement about skills and competencies.  (Praise them for setting the table, helping carry clothes to the washing machine)

39.  Family has a sense of purpose – Parents report that their lives have purpose and model these beliefs through their behaviors.

40.  Family has a positive view of the future – Parents are optimistic about their personal future and work to provide a positive future for the child.


The next article is on 40 Developmental Assets for Elementary Age Children


For more information about asset building and Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth, contact Lori Johnson, Tama County Empowerment Coordinator, Tama County Public Health and Home Care, at (641) 484-4788 or 1-866-484-4788.