By: Judy Lyden
I love three year olds.
There is something about this year that's wonderful. The child is coming down off his god year and entering the "Oh there's a world outside ME? Hum? " He is learning through discovery – things like he can't fly, can't make other people disappear, can't make time shorter or longer, so now he begins to look around him and see what he can do with what he's got.
Toys, books, other people, bugs, animals, plants, food, you name it; it's a wide wonderful world, and he is realizing that he has all the tools to accomplish his trials and efforts in that world.
One effort he will make is that he will be quiet occasionally and listen. He will stop to listen and observe more. He will enjoy more mental connections. He will notice details like faces and clothes and colors and he will want to understand.
The three year old will play with purpose. It's an outcome play that causes his pride to become a virtue rather than a vice. And this is how he will learn about the world and how things work, how things relate, how things are supposed to be and not supposed to be.
He will work to achieve a goal unlike the two year old who is like the grasshopper. Mr. Three suddenly becomes the ant. He is learning that his presence counts. He is learning self esteem because he is rewarded for his good behavior.
He will still want the ice cream, the candy, the cookie, but not all of them. He will want to share. He is learning the importance of others in his life. He will still take a few revengeful actions, but he won't want to hurt another being. He will recognize pleasure and pain outside of himself and he will want to mitigate it for those he loves.
He is learning about moods and moments. A three year old makes friends who are important to him and to his family. He serves and is served by friendship unlike the two year old who could walk over the fainted body of his mother. The three year old is learning about lasting relationships.
He discovers parts of things – letters, puzzles, doll clothes, screws and bolts, vegetables, colors, shapes, books, toys, and he wants to understand how these things fit together. The emotional senses or passions he will encounter at three are love and hate. A
three year old will continue to learn by repetition, but he adds a new dimension. He learns through questions, questions he's willing to wait to hear the answers to. A three year old will occasionally be tormented by a question he can't verbalize.
His ability to understand concepts is very developed, but he can't understand motive nor intent. He can't quite figure our why mom and dad fought. He can't understand why the policeman is angry. He can't understand why mother stormed out of the store.
Yet a three year old is sensitive. He still cries a lot. He is balancing between two worlds. He is a demonstrative lap climber who will not only take up your lap space, but he'll tell you why. I love the three year old because that's where learning that's remembered begins.
When speaking to a three year old, parents should remember that he will remember – absolutely everything. When working with three year olds, it's wise to work one on one rather than six in a group especially with paint, glue, beads or potting soil.
When feeding a three year old, remember that he isn't growing as much and will begin to reject food because he doesn't need to fuel anymore, and he's beginning to taste with the palate of the worst snob. Yuck often becomes the favorite salute.