The three-year-old is full of wonder and spends a lot of time watching, observing, and imitating. Their days are filled with busy exploration of their world. Become a part of this world by joining in and trying to understand what makes the average 3-year-old tick. Below we look at the characteristics of your toddler and include some helpful ideas and tips to enjoy this time together.
By the grand old age of 3, your toddler will have it sussed. ‘Now she's got a clear idea of how her family works and her place in it,' says Dr Rudkin. ‘She understands what makes Mummy cross and what makes Daddy cross.
‘Give her simple clear choices like, “Pick up your toys and we can go to the park” versus “If you don't pick up your toys, we can't go to the park.'” But always try to go for the positive spin. It also boosts her confidence as she's making decisions.'
Remember that sometimes when you may think your three-year-old is being ‘naughty', she isn't at all. Messing about with her food, for instance, is part of learning to feed herself. But when you've had enough, it can sometimes seem she's doing it to spite you. But she's not, she's just being a toddler.
Pick your battles, too. Rather than spending all day every day saying ‘No' and ‘Don't do that', choose a few golden rules like not allowing your child to do anything that could be harmful, not hurting other people and learning to say please and thank you. Let the little stuff go for a while.
Three-year-olds have very little memory for past events and do not understand “yesterday” and “tomorrow” the way adults do. They often repeat activities or may do and undo actions such as putting a puzzle together. These sequences are important to later understandings of change and consistency.
Don't forget to enjoy your toddler. It sounds obvious, but how often have you got through a day navigating tantrums, mealtimes, clearing up a trail of chaos, only to realise you didn't have much fun together. Those sort of days can feel like an endurance test and you're just waiting for bedtime. It's a cliché, but those precious early years really do go so fast and having fun is what a toddler does best – so join in!
A three year old is interested in perfecting motor skills, and it is common for them to spend the entire morning going down the slide or riding a favourite tricycle. So allow them the time and space to do these repetitive actions…they'll soon be onto other things.
Most importantly, you've got to be a good role model. ‘Lead by example,' says Dr Rudkin. ‘If you tell your toddler not to hit other people, you can't then smack her. Make sure you give her plenty of praise and rewards for behaving well. Disciplining works best in the framework of a loving, nurturing family so she feels safe.'
I am a preschool and primary school teacher and mum to 3 children. I have been involved in education since 1997 and have trained in a variety of educational specialist areas. It is with this expertise that I write articles to help parents and educators provide quality learning experiences for the children in their care.