Three to Four years
This is the year of the “why.” As tiresome as the endless questions might seem, remember that your Little One asks “why” because he wants to know how things relate to each other, and that’s great. All “why questions” identify teaching moments: don’t lose them.
Answer his “whys” whenever you can, and when you can’t (and sometimes, even when you can), just say, “That’s a good question: I don’t know, but let’s find out.” Then, as soon as possible, go to the source of the answer with him and look it up. Incidentally, if he talks back, don’t snap at him and don’t interrupt, just listen intently, be patient and totally honest. Remember, it is a learning experience for both of you, and if approached properly, you will find that the success of your effort will be just as you visualize.
Help your three-year-old start learning self-help skills such as satisfying his toileting needs, brushing his teeth, washing his face and hands, and getting dressed and undressed. Start with the easier skills – taking off socks is a lot simpler than putting them on – praise his efforts sincerely and liberally, but don’t overdo it.
Talk to him the way you’d talk to a friend; in other words, don’t use baby talk, and help him say words correctly. “Try to say water instead of wah-wah,” but don’t make a big deal out of it, it’ll come. The important thing is to not make fun of him, have fun with him. However, on occasion, you also want to point out weaknesses in such a way that he acknowledges that he is fallible: have fun with it so that he will not have a problem laughing with as well as at himself.
Try to limit TV time to about one hour a day. Most children will have seen more than 4,000 hours of TV by the time they start kindergarten. You want him to do, not just watch. So don’t use the TV as a baby sitter. Encourage your little one to help around the house. If he shows interest in setting the table, let him set out spoons or napkins for meals. If a spill needs to be cleaned up, show him where to find a towel. Show him how to put away some of his playthings and throw his dirty clothes in the laundry. Remember how Mr. Rogers would always hang up his sweater as soon as he entered the home? Of course, the reason is that the closet is where outerwear belongs when not being worn (not on the floor or on furniture).
Let him see how numbers are part of everyday life. Help him count fruit at the grocery store, stamps for your bills and letters, or pennies for a treat.
Add a twist to story time: act out familiar stories and verses like “The Three Little Pigs,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and “The Cookie Monster.” Use dolls or stuffed animals as characters, and give each a different voice.
Give him props to pretend with: old clothes to play “dress-up;” and clean, safe food containers to play “store.”
Show him how to use his body in new ways: how to jump, hop, spin, and walk backward. Make time for him to play with others. That is the time your association with other parents becomes part of your teaching and allocation of time. Help him learn about sharing, taking turns, and other ways to cooperate.
Sing songs together, or leave out a word and let him finish: “Twinkle, twinkle, little ______.” Try changing the words to songs or rhymes, and see if he can tell you what’s wrong: for example, “Mary had a little pig.” If he doesn’t stop you, say “Wups, that doesn’t sound quite right…” then praise him for getting the correct answer. Continue, “…his fleece was brown as dirt…” Again, if he doesn’t correct you, say, “Hmmm, for some reason that doesn’t seem to be right.” These types of games are multi purposeful, for one thing, they aid in improving his listening skills.
Encourage his interests. If he likes cars, for example, check out car books from the library, in addition, you might want to playfully challenge him to name the cars and trucks that pass by when you are out-and-about or in the car.
Let him explore art. If he enjoys scribbling and coloring, let him experiment with different kinds of paper, markers, crayons, or chalk.
Find time just to talk. According to one survey, parents talk to their children, on average, just a few minutes a day – usually giving orders. Talking with your child helps promote learning and love, it also aids the critical progress of self-discipline.
That third year can be an amazing growth year. The strength and character you have built into your Little One is satisfaction personafied. Don’t let up, simply continue to build that amazing creature.