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2 to 3 Years of Age

During this year of life, children undergo many changes. They often lose their baby fat and they don't look like a baby anymore. This is also the year where they are gaining many social skills.

Reading to your child at this age is extremely important. It not only helps increase his vocabulary and language skills; it sets a wonderful example for the years to come. A child at this age likes to imitate you. If he sees you reading, he'll want to read too.

One of the top priorities of the Bright Start Initiative is to assure that every baby born in South Dakota has the opportunity for a good start in life. Bright Start components include the areas of infant brain development, comprehensive early childhood development that includes physical, intellectual, emotional and social development, parent education and health care.

This is an appropriate time to ask your child a lot of questions. Your goal is to help your child move from one-word responses to conversations. Asking what a picture in his favorite storybook means is one good method. Giving him your attention as you develop his conversation skills also helps develop his social skills and reassures him what he has to say is important.

Psychologists say that a 2- to 3-year-old is mastering what is called "parallel play." Children at this age will usually sit happily together and play with similar toys. They are often playing separately, not together. As the year ends, however, happy parallel play will likely turn into fights over the same toy. Don't worry. Quarrelling is how toddlers learn the social skills that will enable them to get along with others later in life.

Physical Development

Characteristic 3-Year Milestones:

  • Can stand on one foot, walk on tiptoes and jump with both feet
  • Can throw a ball, catch large balls and kick a ball forward
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Can stack blocks to build towers of six to 10 blocks
  • Paints, draws with a crayon, pencil or markers. Uses vertical, horizontal and circular motions
  • Manipulates small objects such as pegs, puzzle pieces and snap blocks
  • Feeds self quite well, although there are spills, and holds a small cup or glass in one hand
  • Washes and dries hands by himself and uses the toilet (may still require some help)
  • Can dress and undress self

To stimulate development you can:

  • Give your child opportunities to climb, jump, play with balls, and ride a tricycle.
  • Have your child play both indoors and outdoors with a balance between active and quiet play.
  • Provide crayons, markers, paints, paper and play dough, and your guidance as he works with them.
  • Help your child learn to dress and undress herself, wash and dry her hands, and follow a sanitary toileting procedure. Assist as needed.
  • Encourage your child to dance and move to music. Provide scarves, streamers or similar articles to manipulate to the rhythm of the music.

Intellectual and Language Development

Characteristic 3-Year Milestones:

  • Speaks sentences of three to five words, uses about 250 words, understands about 2,000 words
  • Can name many familiar objects and knows at least one primary color
  • Asks short questions, especially "who," "what," and "where" questions and can answer them
  • Understands "I," "me," "you," "she" and "he"
  • Knows simple rhymes and songs
  • Knows first and perhaps last name and his age
  • Attention span has developed so she can stay with an activity from three to five minutes
  • Can carry out a one-step direction

To stimulate development, you can:

  • Play a color identifying game asking, "Can you find two things in your toy box that are red?"
  • Teach your child his first and last name and age.
  • Read to your child, look through books and magazines together, do finger plays, repeat simple rhymes and sing songs together.
  • Play simple games while doing household chores, teaching your child to count items such as silverware and dishes when setting the table.
  • Have your child identify and match colors of clothing as he dresses.
  • Give your child one-step directions such as "Please put your blocks in the toy box."
  • Help your child do simple chores by saying, "Let's do it together." Self-confidence will emerge.

Social/Emotional Development

Characteristic 3-Year Milestones:

  • Enjoys playing by herself and with other children
  • Is beginning to learn to share
  • Is lively, curious and loving, but can also be stubborn, exasperating and naughty at times
  • Emotions may be extreme, but are short lived, and may express feelings physically
  • Likes to laugh and make others laugh
  • Likes pretend situations such as playing house, playing store or playing office
  • Needs to know the rules for appropriate behavior and the consequences for disobeying them

To stimulate development, you can:

  • Provide opportunities for your child to play alone and with other children for short periods.
  • Provide props, so your child can engage in pretend play. Blankets make great forts. Large boxes work well for playing house, store or office.
  • Encourage your child's good behavior by praising her and saying something like " Thank you for helping me pick up the toys."
  • Rather than telling your child what not to do, tell him what to do. "Turn the pages gently."
  • Have a few simple rules for your child, explain them to her and be consistent with them. Example: "We sit at the table when we eat." "Hitting hurts others." "We speak softly."
  • Be calm when you discipline your child. Speak gently and softly. Avoid anger and violence.

Appropriate Toys

3-Years Old:

  • Soft balls of various sizes and colors
  • Tricycle or other pedal toy
  • Building blocks of various sizes and colors
  • Crayons, pencils, markers, paints, large sheets of paper, and play dough
  • Pegs and peg boards, puzzles with few large pieces, and snap blocks such as large lego blocks
  • Picture books with colorful pages and other story books
  • Stuffed animals and dolls, bathtub toys, and kitchen pots and pans
  • Dress up clothes and cardboard boxes
  • Items for pretend play from the kitchen or your desk, discarded phones and calculators
  • Doll houses, farms and airports
  • Children's music and audio books
  • Step stool to use at the sink or counter
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