Caring for your 3-year old

Three-year-olds have motor skills that enable them to accompany favorite songs with whole-body-rhythmic movements and they can sing simple tunes. Being very willing to please, it is an excellent time to introduce manners. It’s possible to start paying an allowance and begin talking about the costs of simple items. This is a wonderful year of exploration, silliness and imitation, perfecting motor skills through repetitive play, making up stories and expressing a newfound sense of humor. By now your child can solve simple, concrete, immediate problems if interested and willing.

Developmental characteristics:

  • A three-minute attention span and minimal understanding of yesterday and tomorrow.
  • Can hop on one foot and walk in a line.
  • Can follow simple directions and accept suggestions.
  • Can brush teeth, wash hands and get a drink.
  • Speaks in three-to-five-word sentences and uses plurals (cats, dogs, etc).
  • Can put on shoes without laces.
  • Uses the bathroom with some help — boys may master this later this year.
  • Needs no help with eating and can use a knife to butter bread.
  • Identifies some common colors and draws easy shapes.
  • Understands some dangers like moving cars.
  • Interested in differences and similarities.
  • Feels shame when caught doing something wrong.
  • Understands age differences between self and younger children (not older ones).
  • Still doesn’t cooperate or share well.
  • Understands “now,” “soon” and “later.”
  • Actively asks who, what, where and when questions and recognizes common sounds.
  • Can sort-of dress.
  • Kicks a ball forward, jumps over a 6″ barrier, tries to catch a large ball, throws a ball overhead and pedals a tricycle.
  • May prefer one parent (often the opposite sex).
  • Knows whether a boy or girl.

Supporting actions and activities:

  • Play silly word games and talk about imaginative capers.
  • Repeat and undo actions to help understand change and consistency.
  • Establish routines.
  • Introduce puzzles with about six pieces.
  • Offer simple choices.
  • Read aloud or tell stories exactly the same way each time without making changes.
  • Tell child-centered stories and talk about when he or she was a baby.
  • Encourage activities needing hand-eye coordination.
  • Solicit kitchen help like adding pizza toppings, decorating cookies, or, with supervision, cracking nuts with a mallet.
  • Expand verbal skills by expanding sentences. For example baby may say, “Look at the dog.” Reply, “Yes, the dog is big and brown.”
  • Count items like cookies and recipe ingredients.
  • Do easy science projects like making ice cubes.
  • Encourage safe experimentation like turning lights on and off.
  • Play musical games.
  • Encourage free art expression and don’t tell baby what to draw.

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