It is a fun time for three-year-olds as they discover the world around them.
IN the third year, most children start to insist that they do things for themselves. Their limbs are stronger and they are able to control their movements better. They like meeting new people and doing new things. They may have a wider vocabulary and speak better.
They no longer seek attention from familiar adults. They are confident that the adults will be there when they need them. Children this age like to explore on their own without waiting for adults to guide them.
At this stage of their development, they need to take part in more activities that are related to their increasing need for independence. Parents and caregivers must plan activities that children can do themselves without adult assistance.
Outdoor activities such as digging with a spade and watering the plants are fun and easy to do. Simple construction play with wooden or plastic blocks can occupy a three-year-old’s attention.
They have a short attention span but they can take part in simple discussions, planning, sharing, taking turns and playing by the rules. They will wait for their turn and take their share of the toys during play.
They can now play with small groups of children. In a group of three or four children, three-year-olds can take turns to go under the bridge as they sing to the tune of, London Bridge Is Falling Down.
Puzzle play is a favourite among three-year-olds. Many start off with simple five- to six-piece puzzles, working towards more complex ones. It is interesting to note that children this age like to fit the pieces together though they may not complete the whole picture.
Some may give up working on the puzzle before completing it. When this happpens, you can help your child to complete it before keeping it in the box. Or you can tell your child that he can complete the puzzle on another occasion when he feels like working on it.
Parents and caregivers must learn how to encourage three-year-olds so that they can respond positively. Children at this age like to be noticed for what they can do. When they cannot manage a certain task, they get frustrated easily. Encourage them by saying, “I know you can do it.”
When children are upset over what they cannot do, show them that you understand their feelings. Let them know gently that if they should need help, you will be ready to assist them. This encourages them to be independent.
Mistakes are common with this age group. It is important that parents and caregivers know how to manage the situation and help children to know that they can learn from their mistakes.
Talk with them, rather than tell them what to do. You can show them how you handle things with care and attention. When you show them how to do something, be sure to make it appealing to the child.
Children this age imitate adults in what they do. They like doing things around the house like wiping, cleaning, mopping and vacuuming. Whenever there is a task to be done around the house, offer your young child a manageable activity. Being able to help will boost the child’s self-esteem.
Three-year-olds like working with their hands. Playing with dough or clay appeals to them. Usually they will make or draw things first before deciding what it is they are doing. This is part of their development. It is not until they enter the fourth year that they start to talk about what they are about to do before doing it.
As with all activities, adults must show children how to put things back where they belong or carry things from end to another. When your child wants to do something, she will know where to get it and put it back when she is done.
Children may still be a little unsteady with their hands but they now know how to be careful.
Whenever possible, set up a place where your three-year-old can play or do her work. There should be low shelves, and low tables and chairs for your child.
Making music with household objects such as ladles, biscuit tins, pots and pans can provide endless fun for children. They may make up their own songs to sing along to the music they create. To build their interest, parents and caregivers should participate in this merry-making.
Allow three-year-olds ample time to learn and discover, to help maximise their potential. Children often repeat what they like to do. If you observe that your child is always doing the same thing, don’t stop him. Let him graduate to the next activity on his own.