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Typical Behavior of a 3-Year-Old

by Lisa Walker

When considering their child's behavior and development, parents often find themselves wondering exactly what is "normal" or what their child should be able to do at a particular age. While no two children are the same, it can be useful to know what a typical 3-year-old is capable of and how the average preschooler is likely to behave in certain situations.

Independence

Independence is a big part of being a 3-year-old. This doesn't mean you're out of a job or that your little one doesn't need you anymore, but she will be taking those first steps toward doing things for herself. Sometimes you'll welcome this, but other times it can be frustrating: for example, when you are running late but she insists on trying to dress herself without any help. Try to allow more time for these activities when you can. She may still find it hard to be separated from you, but she is capable of understanding that you will come back, so she's learned to accept that the two of you can spend time apart.

Friendships

Your preschooler is starting to gain the ability to form friendships and play with his peers. He is becoming more willing to share toys and interact with other children, and he may even form relationships with those he sees on a regular basis. One of the reasons he's able to socialize in this way is due to his developing understanding of feelings. Between the ages of 3 and 4, children become more aware of their own emotions and the emotions of others. You can start to use this understanding to teach him how to behave with explanations such as: "Bobby feels sad because he wanted to play with that toy but it's broken."

Why?

Your preschooler will go through a phase, probably during her third year, of asking "why" all the time. Though it may get tiresome after a while, she is not deliberately doing it to drive you mad. Preschoolers start to become very inquisitive about the world around them, and in their desperate attempt to make sense of it all, they learn this magic word that they hope can give them all the answers. Your patience may often be tested, and you may not always know answers to all of her questions, but it is helpful to respond with answers she can make sense of whenever possible.

Jumping and Throwing

Your 3-year-old is learning new skills all the time, such as climbing, jumping, running and throwing, and inevitably he wants to try them out. To begin with, he is not aware of the difference between throwing a ball and a toy car, or jumping and climbing in a soft play center or on the couch, so you may find yourself saying "stop that" quite often. This behavior is not necessarily naughty initially, as he is just desperate to practice his new tricks. Provide him with lots of opportunities to use these physical skills appropriately, and you can start to teach him how to properly care for his belongings and not to hurt those around him, even accidentally.

About the Author

Lisa Walker began her journalism career in local newspapers. She later joined Teletext to work on its website and analogue and digital TV services. Walker spent time as a qualified childminder whilst raising her own two children and now enjoys a career writing and editing for various websites, including parent website Surreymummy.com.

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