Your 3-Year-Old

Approaches to Play and Learning

Children, as they grow, continue to need routines and parameters. But your child is beginning to realize that there’s more than one way to do things—and that you, she, and the world around her can be flexible. From inviting dinosaurs to a tea party to using tissues and tape to craft a kite -she’s learning to invent her own ways and rules. She’s reaching out for new experiences. She’s seeing her familiar world in new ways.

All this exploration will lead her to realize not only that she can make choices, but that choices are a way by which she can learn new things. Every time she approaches a task differently, or tries something she’s never done before, she shows herself that she can do it…and that gives her confidence in herself, and in her ability to try and even to fail.

How can you help her embrace this growth? Watch her explore, and be there to answer her questions. Praise her acts of independence, communication, and persistence. And give her the guidance and support to feel confident in the steps she takes off her usual path.

Multilingual Learning — Many Paths to Language Skills

Let Me Try It.

“I know I can do it- just watch!” You are likely to hear phrases like this more and more. As your child grows stronger in her body, she’s also gaining confidence in her ability to strike out on her own. She’s curious to learn and try new things, even if she’s not always sure how to go about them. She may watch first, or ask you questions. In some cases she may just jump in with both feet! Step back, and let her explore—she’ll reach out to you if she needs reassurance.

Look for signs of learning at your child's care.

Look for the children hanging up their own backpacks, getting their own smocks from the art center, and doing similar tasks independently. You should also see them using different activities such as imitation play, question-and-answer games, and hands-on investigation to learn new things.

I Can Do It Another Way.

Who knew toothbrushes could clean trucks or that that mud could help hold building blocks together! While you know there’s more than one way to solve a problem.  Your child is experimenting as he recognizes this as well—especially if you encourage him to find new ways to do things he’s done before. As he learns he has options, he’ll see that the world is a place where he has opportunities to try different things, whether they work or not. With your guidance and support, he’ll learn to be flexible in his thinking and his play.

Look for signs of learning at your child's care.

Does your kid’s teacher encourage the children to use their imaginations to do things in new and different ways? For example, notice if your child is using familiar objects to create new things, or vice versa—like painting with mud and sand, or using colored paper scraps to construct pictures of animals.

I Can Finish It, or I Can Pay Attention.

Your child is learning to focus and pay attention in a way that’s totally new—and sometimes, totally surprising! You may come across him reading a book to himself, all the way to its end. He may talk about needing to finish a drawing for you. And now, when you assign him a task like “put these forks and knives on the table,” he’ll have the ability to finish it by himself.

 

Look for signs of learning at your child's care.

You should also notice children following through on their own activities, such as finishing artwork and hanging it on a drying rack, or putting all the building pieces away in their bucket. Children should also be able to wait for a small period of time to be “next” at a desired activity.

I Can Play With Other Kids.

Remember how excited you were to see your child “parallel play” next to other children? Now, she’s taken play to the next level. She’ll play blocks with a friend, and they’ll talk the whole time about what they’re building. With a little guidance from you or another adult, they can even build something in sync. You may even see her playing a game with a small group of children.

Look for signs of learning at your child's care.

Opportunities to play turn-taking games like Red Light Green Light and Red Rover Red Rover, or leading songs where each child is given a chance to sing their verse are great signs of learning in action. You should also hear her talking about playing with friends, or find her playing dress-up games in one of the centers.

All children learn and grow at their own pace and in their own way. For more information about the skills and milestones for your child's age check out our developmental milestones resource page. If you continue to have concerns or questions please give us a call at 1-800-299-1627.