A 3 year old's antics will entertain and challenge you.

Typical Behavior of a 3 Year Old

by Kathryn Hatter

At age 3, your little one is quickly leaving babyhood behind and racing toward a wide-open world full of exciting activities. Some days it might be all you can do just to keep up with your energetic preschooler. It may help to know what’s typical in a 3 year old’s behavior to see how yours measures up.

1. Cognitive Development

A 3 year old’s mind is developing and expanding at an amazing pace. Your preschooler’s imagination is waking up and you will probably begin to hear interesting stories and witness the beginnings of imaginative play. All the experiences she’s had to this point are giving her ample material for pretend play -- feeding a doll, playing with stuffed animals, cooking with a play kitchen or talking on a toy telephone. A 3 year old also has the maturity to sit quietly and create with art materials such as markers, crayons, construction paper, glue, scissors and modeling clay. Make sure you hand out plenty of praise when your tike comes and shows you her creations -- she’s hungry for your approval and positive feedback.

2. Language Development

It’s possible to have meaningful conversations with a 3 year old. The Iowa State University website states that an average 3 year old constructs sentences with three to five words and that about 80 percent of your little one’s words are understandable. He may like repeating words and sounds he hears and you may start getting questions from him as he starts to explore his world and wonder about how things work. Have fun singing with a 3 year old -- he can remember simple songs and he should even be able to carry a tune.

3. Emotional Development

By the time a tot reaches age 3, you should be escaping those tumultuous toddler days and starting to see some cooperative behavior. Your preschooler has a strong desire to please you and works hard to make you happy with her. You may even notice imitation as she tries so hard to conform and be like you. Your little one enjoys the camaraderie of other kids, but she’s probably happier playing alongside them instead of with them at this age. It’s common for 3 year olds to have continued difficulty sharing with peers, so this often leads to problems that require adult intervention. Don’t be surprised if your preschooler’s limited language skills and still-developing self control make it hard for her to avoid physical tussles from time to time. With firm guidance, a preschooler will eventually learn to use words instead of hands to get what she wants.

4. Physical Development

This impressive little person is probably potty trained, although some kids are still learning toilet skills at age 3. He may be staying dry all night long, but it is also perfectly normal for kids to have accidents once in a while. A 3 year old usually sleeps between 10 and 12 hours at night. Preschoolers can often dress and undress independently, with some supervision. While playing outside, 3 year olds can run, hop on one foot, walk on tiptoe, pedal a tricycle, throw and kick a ball and try to catch a big ball. You should expect your 3 year old to feed himself, but don’t freak out if he spills -- messes will still be common.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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