Your 3-Year-Old

Science

“Why does ice melt?” “How come it’s bedtime when it’s still light out?” “Why are the leaves turning colors?” The questions your child asks are pretty telling: they show his curiosity, his interest in how the world works, and his desire to dig deeper for the answers. In science, your child’s naturally inquisitive mind can really find a lot to work with.

At this age, he’s taking in every question, every touch and feel, even changes in the weather.  He’s starting to add up the things in his world that are the same, and those that are different—whether it’s by color, shape, size, or season—as well. As he grows older, he’ll start connecting cause with effect. Right now, he’s stockpiling pieces that he’ll eventually weave into a larger understanding of the physical world around him.

Family Field Trip: Grocery

I Can See the Wind Blowing Hard.

Since before your child was crawling, he was exploring the world around him with his hands. He would run his hands through sand, dirt, water, even over the blankets on the bed, and sense differences between how they felt or looked. Now, he’s able to talk about what he sees and feels, and ask questions about it. He might point out the rocks in the garden, say, “The wind is blowing so hard!” or ask, “Why does it rain?” He’s eager to share with you what he knows, and to learn even more about what he sees.

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

You should see your child and his friends playing at a water or sand table, weighing small classroom items on a scale, or even planning a nature walk. Items like a collection of shells or colored beads should be available for him to practice sorting and categorizing items by shape, size, or color.

I Know It’s Going to Rain.

You’ve been pointing out clouds, sunsets, and even snowfalls since your child was a baby. Now, he’s pointing them out to you, noting the difference between thunder and lightening, or sunny and cloudy. He may pretend to “run away from his shadow” or hand you “hot rocks” from a sunlit pathway. He’s also starting to understand how the seasons follow each other, when we wear our winter coats, and why we don’t swim in a storm.

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

Your child’s teacher should be taking the class on “nature walks” outdoors, where the kids can see, touch, and collect rocks, leaves, grass, and flowers. You should also hear your child asking you questions about the day’s weather—including what he should wear (like boots or a raincoat) that day.

I Know About Baby Animals.

Your growing child is growing aware of the difference between babies and adults. She’s learning the different names that baby and adult animals have, and can link “chick” to “chicken.” When she sees flowers on a bush, she might even point out the difference between open blossoms and new buds, and tell you that the buds are “baby flowers.” She’s also eager to point out what she knows about her own growing body—that her eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, and so forth. See if she knows what her eyelashes do.

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

Your child should have access to books about animals that she can read and explore on her own. You should see her flipping through the pages, and identifying the names of animals—even the names of baby animals as well—without needing her teacher’s help.

I Made a Toy!

Your child’s play is getting more and more hands-on…with a purpose! He’s got games in mind, and will use whatever pieces are at hand—blocks, tiles, even cut paper shapes—to assemble the toys that act out his new storyline. He’ll stick together three blocks, and voila! It’s a magic wand that turns rocks into food. Or, when rain falls, he’ll turn a paper plate into an umbrella and play “stormy.” When you play with him, ask what you can help him build—he may ask you to handle the more advanced tasks (like tying) that he hasn’t mastered yet.

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

You’ve probably seen him and his friends playing with toys like wood or plastic blocks, Legos, and MagnaTiles. Now, you should see him building more elaborate structures, and using these building materials in problem-solving games.

I Can Look Closer.

Your child is starting to notice details. She’s able to apply her focus, and combine what she sees with her growing knowledge of how the world works. For example, when she sees you pulling weeds, she might point out the difference between the weeds and the “good grass” you’re not pulling. And if you ask her to take a closer look at something, she’ll kneel down, squint her eyes, and apply herself like a real investigator!

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

You should see her asking her teachers questions about what they “think” will happen, and being asked by their teachers to make their own predictions. For example, when your daughter’s class plants seeds, she will be asked to observe the seeds’ growth and predict what she thinks will happen as they mature.

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.