3-Year-Old Parenting Questions Answered
Hooray! Your little one is now a big three! As the parent of an energetic (and chatty) bundle of fun, you are likely to have a whole new set of three-year-old parenting questions.
When your child joyfully jumps into the lively age of three, it’s normal for you to wish to nurture their growth and progress during this thrilling time. Things are sure to be a bit wilder now that your young explorer is confidently walking, possibly even running, and getting into everything!
This article will delve into the most frequently asked questions regarding parenting a three-year-old. We’ll discuss key developmental milestones, the best books, toys and activities for this age, healthy eating habits, reading and writing, as well as how to handle the occasional (and sometimes more than occasional) tantrums.
So, buckle up and get ready for an exciting journey through three-year-old toddlerhood!
What Milestones to Look For in a 3-year-old
As your child embarks on the thrilling journey of being three (some call this the “Trusting 3s”), look out for several developmental milestones across various areas. These can be grouped as follows:
1. Movement Skills
At this age, your child may be able to balance briefly on one foot, walk up the stairs alternating feet (without the need to hold onto the rail), and even pedal a tricycle! This is a busy time for your child, filled with lots of running, jumping, and exploring.
2. Hand and Finger Development Skills
Your three-year-old is likely to be an aspiring artist, capable of copying a circle, imitating a cross, and drawing a person when asked.
Building a tower of eight cubes? No problem for your toddler. Reasonable pencil control, snipping strips of paper with scissors, and threading large beads onto a string are among other talents you might spot.
3. Language Skills
Prepare for a chatterbox! Your child will have a vocabulary of hundreds of words, can create three to four-word sentences and use plurals and pronouns (he/she). They’ll also understand the concept of “mine” and “his/hers”, frequently asking questions to satisfy their curiosity.
Most of their words can be understood by strangers at this age, showcasing how far they’ve come!
4. Socio-emotional Skills
By now, your three-year-old should know their name, age, and gender. Their eagerness to please you and obey rules will become apparent. Their interest in other people develops further; they enjoy cooperation, following instructions, and even sharing! They are also capable of forming short-lived friendships.
As your child gains confidence, dressing themselves and feeding without difficulty become proud achievements. Some kids might also have control over their bowel and bladder functions during the day (and possibly at night). However, don’t fret if they need more time to get comfortable with toilet training.
5. Learning and Thinking Skills
At three, your little one can sort objects into simple categories, and identify everyday objects and pictures. They are very energetic at this age—and their imagination is often full throttle!
One of the most charming (and precious) aspects of this age is their fascination with make-believe, even though they sometimes struggle to distinguish between the real and the imaginary.
Your child will likely be an unstoppable bundle of energy, filled with curiosity and excitement about the world. As they continue to learn and grow, engaging them in activities that can further encourage their development
What should Your 3-year-old be Learning
As your little one blossoms into a three-year-old, they’re ready to rock the world! Give them a wide variety of learning experiences to influence their development.
Here are some of the top learning activities for three-year-olds that parents can do with their children:
Problem-Solving Skills: Foster your child’s ability to solve problems independently, with your guidance when necessary. Ask questions that help them understand the problem and assist them in brainstorming solutions. Encourage them to try different approaches until they succeed.
Emotional Understanding: Discuss emotions with your child, helping them develop the vocabulary to express their feelings. Teach calming techniques like taking deep breaths, hugging a favourite toy, or retreating to a quiet, safe place when upset.
Rules and Behaviour: Establish simple, clear rules for your child, such as using gentle hands when playing. Reinforce good behaviour by recognising and celebrating their adherence to regulations.
Language Skills: Enhance your child’s language skills by conversing with them using longer sentences than they currently do and introducing new words. For instance, repeat their short sentences (“need nana”) with more comprehensive phrases (“I want a banana”).
Reading and Counting: Regularly read with your child and engage them by asking questions about the story. Incorporate counting games into daily activities, as they’re just beginning to grasp numbers and counting.
Life Skills: Involve your child in meal preparation, assigning them simple tasks like washing fruits and vegetables or stirring ingredients. Providing instructions with two or three steps, such as “go to your room and get your shoes and jacket,” can help improve their comprehension and execution skills.
Social Interaction: Encourage your child to interact with peers to help them understand the value of friendship and cooperation. At the same time, it is important to respect your child’s wish to be alone, or to not give away his/her favourite toys. Prepare them for new places and people through storytelling or pretend play. This can help to ease their transition into unfamiliar situations.
Fine Motor Skills: Provide your child with an “activity box” filled with materials like paper, crayons, and colouring books. Create opportunities for them to draw scribble, form lines and shapes and manipulate playdough, which can strengthen their hand and finger muscles for future tasks like writing and buttoning clothes.
Conceptual Learning: Introduce your child to simple songs, rhymes, and games that teach concepts like opposites and matching. This can also be an excellent way to enhance their memory and cognitive skills.
Physical Activity: Schedule regular outdoor play sessions, allowing your child to choose their preferred activities. Join them in their games and follow their lead.
Screen Time: Limit screen time to no more than one hour per day, with your active participation. Emphasise interaction through talking, playing, and engaging with others for optimal learning. Note that Shaws’ kids do not use screens in school.
Remember that every child is unique, and these guidelines should be adapted to your child’s needs and pace.
What are the Best Books for 3-year-olds
As your three-year-old wanders into the magical realm of words and stories, selecting the right engaging, age-appropriate books becomes critical. Opt for books that offer vibrant illustrations, straightforward narratives, and rhythmic patterns. These can stimulate your child’s curiosity, imagination, and linguistic development.
Here are some timeless book recommendations to consider:
“Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss – This rhyming classic uses just 50 different words, making it a delightful and accessible read for three-year-olds. It teaches about trying new things and not being afraid of the unknown.
“Where’s Spot?” by Eric Hill – This playful, interactive book with flaps to lift and discoveries to make, features the lovable dog Spot. It’s perfect for little hands exploring reading for the first time.
“The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson – This imaginative tale about a little mouse and a make-believe monster called the Gruffalo is suspenseful and heart-warming. It’s full of rhythmic, repetitive text that will captivate your child’s attention.
“Corduroy” by Don Freeman – This sweet story about a teddy bear waiting to be taken home from a department store pulls at the heartstrings while teaching children about friendship and love.
“Moo Baa La La La” by Sandra Boynton – This wonderfully whimsical book is perfect for three-year-olds. It introduces animals and their sounds in a fun and engaging way with its catchy rhythm and bright illustrations.
“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown – This bedtime classic uses rhyming text and cosy illustrations to depict the process of saying goodnight to everything around. It’s a comforting, calming read for your three-year-old.
“Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” by Eric Litwin – This book features the groovy cat Pete who turns everyday challenges into positive experiences. It’s a great tool for teaching children about optimism and resilience.
Reading these stories with your three-year-old not only helps foster language development and a lifelong love for reading — it also strengthens your bond with them.
To make the stories more enjoyable and memorable, add fun elements such as voice impersonations, facial expressions, or even a little dramatisation. Happy reading!
What should 3-year-olds eat?
Feeding your 3-year-old can sometimes feel like navigating a culinary minefield! Children at this age can have specific tastes and a heightened sense of independence. However, with patience and creativity, you can guide your child towards a varied and healthy diet.
Here are some tips to consider, adapted from Health Hub’s website.
Stick to a schedule: Regularly timed meals and snacks can help your child understand the concept of routine and anticipate meal times. Consistency is key.
Offer a wide range of foods: Expose your child to a diverse tastes, textures, and colours. The more variety, the better the chance your child will find new foods they enjoy.
Ensure the right balance: Provide the right balance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy (or equivalent plant-based options if you are a vegetarian or vegan). Here are the daily recommendations (number of servings) for a 3-year-old to 4-year-old child:
- Whole Grains – 3-4
- Fruits – 1
- Vegetables – 1
- Meat and Dairy – 1
Examples of a single serving from each group include:
- Whole Grains: 2 slices of wholemeal bread, ½ bowl of brown rice, or 1 thosai
- Vegetables: ¾ mug of cooked leafy vegetables or ¼ round plate of cooked vegetables
- Fruits: 1 small apple, orange, or 10 grapes
- Meat and Dairy: 1 palm-sized piece of fish or lean meat, or 2 glasses of milk
Make meals fun: Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes or arrange food into smiley faces or animals on the plate. A visually appealing meal can stimulate your child’s interest.
Persistence is essential: It’s normal for a child to reject new foods initially. Don’t be discouraged; it may take a few tries before your child warms up to a new taste.
Promote self-feeding: By age three, your child should be mastering using utensils. This autonomy can boost their self-confidence and make mealtime more enjoyable.
Avoid pre-meal snacking: Try to limit heavy snacks and drinks before meals. A hungry child is more likely to be receptive to trying new foods.
Be careful with alternatives: While it’s important to cater to your child’s preferences to some extent, try to offer only a few other options to the main meal. This could discourage them from trying what’s initially served.
Include them in the kitchen: Whether washing vegetables or stirring ingredients, involving your three-year-old in meal preparation can excite them about the end product.
Lastly, avoid associating food with reward or punishment. It’s important to remember that at three, your child is still exploring their likes and dislikes when it comes to food. Their tastes are continually evolving, so maintain a supportive and patient approach to their food journey.
How often should 3-year-olds eat?
According to the Health Hub website, three-year-olds should eat three main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and another two to three healthy snacks a day.
Here’s a sample menu of what a three-year-old’s diet may look like in a day.
||Bedtime Snack (if needed)
Your 3-year-old is not talking? Here’s what you can do.
If your three-year-old child is not expressing themselves verbally, you may be concerned. However, do remember that children develop at their own pace.
To encourage speech development in your kid, practise the following:
Communicate Regularly: Talk to your child throughout the day about anything and everything. Narrate your activities, ask questions, and encourage them to respond. The more words they’re exposed to, the better.
Read Together: Books are a great tool for language development. Use picture books to name objects and describe what’s happening in the story. Ask your child questions about the pictures and characters to encourage their speech.
Play Interactive Games: Games that require verbal interaction can be very helpful. Simple games like ‘I Spy’ or ‘Simon Says’ encourage listening and verbal skills.
Use Simple Sentences: Speak clearly and use short sentences. This makes it easier for your child to understand and replicate.
Encourage Imitation: If your child is silent, start with getting them to imitate sounds and gestures. Applaud their efforts, and gradually they’ll start associating sounds with objects and actions.
Seek Professional Help: If you’re really concerned about your child’s speech development, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. Speech therapists can provide expert guidance and suggest specific strategies tailored to your child’s needs.
Remember, every child is unique and develops at their own pace. Patience, encouragement, and a positive environment are key to supporting your child’s speech and language development.
How to Manage 3-year-old’s Temper Tantrums
As your child grows to become a three-year-old toddler, tantrums might still be a part of your everyday life. They’re asserting their independence more, which can sometimes cause these tantrums.
Here’s how you can better manage your three-year-old’s tantrums.
First, prevention is key. Identify potential triggers for tantrums. If your child is hungry, tired, or overstimulated, address those issues promptly to prevent a meltdown.
When a tantrum does occur, keep your cool. This is the golden rule at any age. Speak in calm and measured tones. Remember, your three-year-old is still learning to manage their feelings and are looking to you for cues on how to do it.
As their language skills improve, a three-year-old can understand why certain behaviours are not acceptable. For example, “When you throw your toys, it can break them, and then you won’t be able to play with them anymore.”
While it might be tempting to give in to end the tantrum, try to hold your ground without losing your temper. At this age, children start understanding the concept of rules. Ensure they know tantrums aren’t a way to bend them.
At this age, your three-year-old should start developing some problem-solving skills. Thus, discuss what they could have done differently after the tantrum has subsided. Encourage them to use their words to express their feelings. Praise them when they can communicate their emotions.
Remember, consistency is crucial. If your three-year-old learns that tantrums result in getting their way sometimes but not always, they might keep trying in hopes of those times when it does work. Consistent parenting helps them understand that tantrums are not effective.