Your 3-Year-Old

English / Language Arts

Whether you child is a natural chatty Cathy or more of a shy Violet, you’ve likely noticed her conversation skills are seriously improving. You’ll hear a more nuanced vocabulary—including words and phrases she’s heard you use and those from her favorite books—worked into longer sentences. Instead of “bright” the sun may now be “glowing,” while food fresh off the grill isn’t just “hot,” it’s “going to burn my mouth.” It’s impressive to hear, and a sign that she’s finding new ways to express her thoughts and personality.

Other new breakthroughs: Letters! Point to any capital letter in the alphabet, and if she doesn’t recognize it on sight, just give her a few weeks. She’s also beginning to recognize the letters that make up her name, and can call out other words that begin with those letters.

Books are also playing a bigger role in her life. When you read together, have her hold the book and turn the pages. As you reach the end of a page, ask her what she thinks about a particular character, or illustration. This not only helps her develop her language skills, but her storytelling skills as well. When she asks you questions about the book, try answering first, “what do you think?” and watching her rise to the challenge. No matter how she answers, you know she’s putting a lot of thought into it!

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I Know What That Word Means.

Once, you could say the word “pastry” without your daughter realizing there was actually one donut left in the bag. Now, as her vocabulary and comprehension expand, those days are fading. She’s taking in new things, processing them, and communicating them back in new ways. For example, she not only understands that certain off-color words are “bad words, ” but she might repeat a phrase she’s heard you say, like, “People use bad words when they’re upset,” or even try to comfort you if you say a “bad word!” It’s all part of her way of gaining context and clarity in her world through words and expression. And the more you continue to read to her and talk with her, the greater her vocabulary will grow.

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

You should see teachers encouraging the kids to talk—about their feelings, what they like, and what they do—by asking them questions and giving them the time and space to really think about their answers. The teachers shouldn’t be looking for “right” answers, but instead giving the children direction, and then allowing them to respond in their own voices.

I Can Tell You What The Story is About.

When your child was younger, you may have done most of the storytelling. Now, when books come out, your child is taking on a bigger role. She may ask to hold the book, turn the pages, and finish the last sentence on each page (especially if it ends in a rhyme). Ask her questions about the story—her opinion of the characters, or what she would do if she herself were a character in the story.

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

See if your kid’s teacher invites her class to help her retell a favorite story, or invites you to read book with the class as well. You should see kids starting to identify the letters in their names and other familiar words, even lowercase ones!

Let Me Tell You a Story.

What’s even more fun than your kid telling you a story? Him asking you to write it down. Listen as he spins his story, taking dramatic pauses, adding on an “and then…” here and there, and finally, wrapping up the ending. Then you read it back to him, using different voices for different characters. See if he’d like to illustrate his tale with crayons or colored pencils, and finish by writing his name, or the title. Voila! He’s created a story through drawing and writing, and you’ve helped him flesh it out.

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

You should see drawings, paintings, and writing that he and his classmates have created, displayed proudly where the kids can see it. Look for a reading center where he can make up his own stories through writing, or by using photos, art materials, and even objects from nature like leaves or feathers.

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.