3–4 Years

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By ILISA CO­HEN

Mile­stones not to miss

Watch for sen­tence savvy.

Kids’ ver­bal skills take off be­tween ages 3 and 5. While a 2-year-old gen­er­ally uses “Tarzan talk” such as “Want juice,” preschool­ers be­gin to speak in com­plete sen­tences. They’re also bet­ter able to de­scribe their feel­ings, an­swer ques­tions more ap­pro­priately, use new words, and say things that are truly (and even in­ten­tion­ally) funny. And rather than merely re­peat­ing phrases they hear, they be­gin to show a deeper un­der­stand­ing of how the world works. You might even no­tice your child cor­rect­ing you on cer­tain top­ics or things.

Pro­mote self-suf­fi­ciency.

Fine mo­tor skills de­velop rapidly at this age. Three- to 4- year-olds can usu­ally man­age but­ton­ing clothes, wash­ing their hands, and us­ing a spoon, though they may still need some help. While your child used to be com­pletely de­pen­dent on you, she’s be­com­ing more in­de­pen­dent in a va­ri­ety of ways. She should be able to pick up her toys, put her clothes in the ham­per, and even clear dishes from the din­ner ta­ble. While she might not per­form th­ese tasks per­fectly, she can def­i­nitely be help­ful and make your life a lit­tle bit eas­ier.

Feed his cu­rios­ity.

Preschool­ers eat up new in­for­ma­tion. The “why, why, why” phase that of­ten oc­curs at this age is their way of build­ing a knowl­edge base and learn­ing about their world. Your child may even grasp facts and de­tails that catch you by sur­prise—like know­ing his birth­day or full name. He’ll also start rec­og­niz­ing and learn­ing the names of shapes, colors, and let­ters, and might even be able to read “STOP” on a stop sign.

Give cheer­ful good­byes.

Sep­a­rat­ing more eas­ily from you is of­ten an­other ben­e­fit of this age. Preschool­ers be­come more com­fort­able be­ing away from their par­ents. Your child is be­gin­ning to un­der­stand ab­stract con­cepts like time. When she re­al­izes you’ll be back soon, she can say good­bye more eas­ily, and you just might feel a lit­tle less sad about leav­ing her too.

Ap­pre­ci­ate em­pa­thy.

Chil­dren this age are start­ing to iden­tify their own emo­tions and even pick up on other peo­ple’s feel­ings, which makes them more em­pa­thetic. Your child will prob­a­bly no­tice when you’re up­set and may try to com­fort you or say some­thing to make you feel bet­ter.

Sources: Michael As­sel, PH.D., pro­fes­sor of pe­di­atrics at The Chil­dren’s Learn­ing In­sti­tute at UT Health Sci­ence Cen­ter at Hous­ton; Laura Stout Sosin­sky, PH.D., re­search sci­en­tist at Pub­lic Health Man­age­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, in Philadel­phia.

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