Ages & Stages: Your Three Year Old

Three year olds have a well-developed self-concept and are very interested in other children. They often refer to themselves as “I”, no longer as “me” and become aware of the way things are related to one another in terms of number and amount.

Three year olds know and can tell whether they are a boy or a girl. They can answer such questions as “What sleeps?”, “What flies?”, “What must you do when you are hungry?”. They also have enough concept of space combined with an understanding of place words so that they can respond to directions.

The typical three year old shows great interest in “preschool” activities. He builds with blocks and makes simple clay models. She is “product-oriented”. He enjoys looking through picture books and is eager to talk about the pictures. Often they will “read” their favorite story to you. This ability comes from the days of repetition . . . when you read the same story night after night and felt as if your child knew it “by heart”. They did!

The child at this age can follow a moving target with her eyes without losing her attention. Their paintings are confined to the paper now and do not “usually” spread to the table or the nearby walls or floor.

At three, children are rather strong and secure and accomplished in their motor movement. Three and a half year olds, however, tend to appear insecure and uncoordinated. This is known as “stretching in new abilities” and the child is caught in the middle.

The typical three year old wants to please and do things right. Parents aware of this desire to please can use positive reinforcement, encouragement, and praise as behavior management techniques quite successfully with this age group.