Age 3

Your child is now three, and although they have left the baby and toddler stages well behind, they are still little, dependent and reliant on you. However, they are also learning to steer their own course in many areas of life and this can make year 3-4 an amazingly rewarding experience for both parent and child.

Is this the age of the chatterbox?

Yes, age 3 is the time when your child’s language really takes off. It may not happen immediately, but it will, and once it does there is likely to be no stopping the age of the chatterbox.

At this age, language is still experimental, but by the time your child reaches 4 she may well have a vocabulary that exceeds 500 words and be speaking complete and complex sentences. She will probably also be keen on saying her name – as well as those of her siblings – and may be eager to tell anyone who will listen all about her age, her family and her most significant likes.

She will probably also begin to tell stories, whether they are imaginary ones, recounted events or fantastical combinations of the two.

Is my child now old enough to make friends?

When she reaches 3 years old, she may also begin to forge her first important friendships. Not only does her language and cognitive development allow her to engage more meaningfully and consciously with her peers, but she is also developing the skills necessary to enjoy cooperative play. However, these early friendships will also inevitably go through challenging times as your child continues to learn about sharing, boundaries, empathy, anger-management and the full breadth of her emotions.

What about balance and hand-eye coordination?

Your child’s balance and basic motor skills are evolving rapidly. By now she should be able to track the movement of a ball and to catch it or kick it occasionally. She may also be able to throw overarm – some children of this age may already begin to show especial natural precocity in this area, which could indicate considerable sporting potential.

Additionally, your child will begin to be able to hop and to stand on one foot for up to five seconds, to negotiate stairs unassisted (though not unsupervised!) and to use their hands in an increasingly dextrous way – e.g. to cut with scissors, to draw circles or squares or to create pictures of people with recognisable body parts.

Now that the ‘terrible twos’ are over, will the tantrums come to an end?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “no”. This is not to say that your child isn’t showing signs of greater emotional continence. However, you are still likely to encounter regular issues with aggression and compliance, particularly if they have started nursery, which could lead them to regress in some ways at home as they adjust to the change.

Whatever the case, try not to focus too much on the negative. Instead, pay attention to positive actions and behaviours; it is by rewarding and affirming these that you can create rewarding patterns of compliant behaviour.

What’s the right amount of food for a 3-year-old?

Although there is always going to be variation from child-to-child, the general rule here is that a 3-year-old should be eating around half of what an adult would eat. Although it can be tempting to simply put the calories in at this age, try to ensure that your child has a balanced diet made up of protein, carbohydrates, fibre and plenty of vitamins and nutrients. Also remember Omega-3, an often overlooked essential fatty acid, is an important part of brain function, so if you can get your child to eat a regular portion of fatty fish such as mackerel or salmon, this will help her health.

It can be a good idea to involve your child as much as possible in selecting and preparing food at this stage. The more empowered they feel, the less fussy they are likely to be. You will also be sowing the seeds for a healthy relationship with food that will hopefully last well into adulthood.

Is it normal for my child to touch heir private parts?

Children are tactile beings who are exploring both the world around them and their own bodies. It is completely normal for them to explore their own private parts as part of normal development and childhood sexual behaviour. Although there is a time and place for this, it is important not to shame or punish them for their curiosity as this can create problems down the line.

What is the right amount of sleep?

Children are not all the same, although as a general guide, 3-year-olds should get around 11-12 hours of sleep a day, including a nap in the afternoon. The key to getting it right is having a consistent and calm bedtime routine that allows them to establish natural hormonal and circadian rhythms.