Child development 3-4 years

At this age, children are full of thoughts. They learn many more words, talk a lot and come up with their own stories. Now children move more easily, they run and jump.

All children are unique and develop differently. However, there are some characteristics that are common and typical for most children in an age group. These are described here.

It can vary greatly in how children develop. To understand and recognize your child you may also need to read about the child’s development 2-3 years or about the child’s development 4-5 years.

Development is going fast at different periods

The development is different at different times and can vary greatly from child to child, even between siblings.

Development is both fun and hard for the child. This means that they can sometimes be worried, change their mood and need more closeness or attention than before.

A child’s development is affected by many circumstances. There are individual conditions and events that can affect how a child develops, both in the short and longer term. For example, it may be that the child is born prematurely, has a disability or is involved in a major change in life.

You need to be active in the child’s development

The child is still dependent on adults, but also thinks and acts more independently. You and others who are close to the child are very important for how the child feels, develops and relates to their surroundings. The child is affected by how you give the child closeness, attention and it shows that they need. Then the child feels safe.

Compared to younger children, a 3-year-old often feels very good. They can talk, understand different rules and think on their own. But there is still a bit left to the more adult-like thinking and talking that starts with 4-year-olds.

What the child thinks, understands and feels

The 3-year-old can do a lot, but often the context needs to be the right one to show what they can. It is usually easier for the child when there are simple situations that they recognize.

Simple relationship between cause and effect handles the three-year-old without major problems. They solve problems using logical thinking, if problems are simple and the content of the problem is well known.

The child can distinguish between living and dead things, for example understanding that a robot is not alive and therefore does not need to eat.

When it becomes too difficult for the child to understand or think

It is common for the child to find it difficult when they receive too much information or when the requirements increase. Then it becomes difficult to think and do.

When the child is 3 years old, they still have a lot of so-called magical thinking and illogical thinking. For example, the child may believe that the fairytale being is for real and that simple magic is for real.

It is most common for the child to use magical thinking or illogical thinking when some new unknown problem arises or when they need to handle too much information. One such example is relying on what an adult is saying, even though the child can see or really know that it is not true.

Begins to understand time

At the age of 3, children begin to understand time more and more. For example, the child can understand what today and tomorrow mean. They also understand what then, now, soon and then means. However, the child does not know how long, for example, an hour is. Therefore, use “before” and “after” when talking to the child. For example, you might say, “We should go and brush our teeth after eating breakfast.”

At the age of 3, the child can ask questions like “When do I turn years? Is it before or after the summer? When is it Christmas?” The child can remember and tell about special holidays and events, such as last Christmas, a party or a trip.

It is important that it is fair

The child begins to understand numbers and numbers better. She is happy to hand out things to see how far it goes, for example a biscuit for each child. For many children, millimeter justice is important, for example everyone gets the same amount of juice in the glasses.

The mood becomes more stable

Many 3-year-olds are still in a period when they are testing their will. It is common for children to become frustrated when they cannot do what they want to do, or when they cannot do what they want. Mood and emotion can change quickly. It is part of the development. The child needs you as an adult to help them understand and manage their emotions, that you show and have patience.

Some children are enduring and calm. Others become more easily frustrated and may need you to help get the game and tasks going or make sure the game or tasks move forward. The differences are noticed, for example, when children practice wearing clothes.

Nearing the age of four, most children become more stable and more even in the mood. This is partly because the child begins to understand that others may have different thoughts and feelings than the child himself. Now the child can better and better take the perspective of others.

If the requirements become too high, the child may react with an outbreak. Read more about how you can do then.

Show the child how to do instead

At the age of three, children become more aware of themselves as their own individuals. For example, they can describe what they like and what they usually feel in different situations. Feelings such as pride and shame begin to affect how the child looks at himself.

The child’s self-perception and self-esteem is affected by how they are treated by adults. When the child does something that adults do not think is appropriate, it is good that you show the child how to do it instead. Be encouraging when the child tries to do things differently.

All children need to be listened to, given confirmation and feel they are capable.

Usually the child can and does

At this age, it is common for children to do this:

  • Draws circles, squares and main feet.
  • Adds puzzles with about six pieces.
  • Recognizes everyday sounds and mimics them, such as the vacuum cleaner and the phone.
  • Recognizes and can name the most common colors.
  • Counts two to three objects, and often many more.

How the child is with others – social development

Children under the age of three often enjoy playing with other children. Role play is common. The children practice agreeing on what the game is about and what different roles they have. In play and fantasy, the child explores different emotions and characteristics.

Children often disagree and there can be trouble and conflicts. Now the children start trying to solve these, for example by giving the other child the coveted toy.

The child also plays alone or next to other children.

Playing alone is good as a break from, among other things, plays. Loneliness also becomes good when you switch activities. This allows the child to gather and get ready to start a new game in a group.

Usually the game is lively

It is common for children to play quite wildly. They can run after each other, tickle and even fight on pretend. It is usually possible to see when the fight is on pretend. The strokes are controlled and not that hard, and much of what is said sounds a bit like acting. But especially for children who find it difficult to hold back impulses, it can sometimes turn into serious, and then you need to intervene.

How the child plays is influenced by the child’s characteristics, for example if they are shy or outgoing. How children play is also influenced by how much they play with other children, and how much they play alone.

Play and chores with you

At home, children would like to help with simple household chores, such as sorting laundry or baking.

How you play with your child affects how the child plays with others.

A child of 3 years can very clearly show and say which of the parents they prefer in different contexts. This is common and part of the development. The child does not understand that parents can feel hurt by such choices. It just means that for some reason the child wants a parent to participate in a certain activity. If only one parent is available, you can usually do the activity with that person, no matter who it is.

Tests different gender roles

Children now usually understand if they are a boy or girl, and who in the area are boys or girls. The child can play with characteristics they associate with the sex. They can do this by exaggerating traits, for example only wanting to dress in pink princess dresses, or by trying to be the opposite sex.

Interested in body, kiss and poop

Many children under the age of 3 think it is fun to talk about kiss and poop and laugh about it with their friends. This is partly because it is exciting to see how others react when talking about it, and because many children exercise at this age.

Children are fascinated by what happens in the body. If the child seems to want to know, you can tell how the food goes through the body and becomes poop.

Tips on fun things to do

Here are some tips on what can be fun at this age:

  • Make a dressing box for the child. Old hats, vests, pants, skirts, shoes, jewelery and bags are good for playing fantasy games.
  • Have the child paint with ink pens, crayons or finger paint. Leklera can also be fun.
  • Have the child add puzzles.
  • Play role plays together. For example, you can play cooking, be with the doctor or take care of a doll.

Language, speech and communication

It can vary greatly how the child speaks and learns words, but many children aged three learn many more words quickly. Now children also quickly learn to talk better. The child often speaks quickly and intensely and can stumble across the words.

Between 2 and 4 years, the speech can sometimes catch up with some children. It then sounds like the baby is stuttering. This is quite common and in most cases goes by itself. Give the child time to express himself. Don’t stop interrupting, filling in words or hurrying on the child as the words warp.

The child asks many questions and wants to tell

The 3-year-old often thinks and wonders a lot. The question “Why?” is common. It is also common for the child to have questions about who, what and where. Many children enjoy talking and discussing. They can tell stories they have heard or tell about things they have seen or been involved with. They can tell the world in a personal way.

When you listen interested, you help the child create a story about reality. It helps the child feel that they have an identity, and that they are their own person that means something.

The child uses sentences with three to six words

Now, most children can be understood even by people they do not know. The child speaks in full sentences in three to six words, for example: “Mom and I are on a walk. Look where Grandpa’s dog comes. His name is Bamse.”

The child listens when the adults speak and sometimes corrects their own language. She often listens attentively to short stories.

At this age, some children are beginning to be able to use “if… so” phrases, for example: “If you turn off the lamp it will be dark”.

The 3-year-old can also come up with small stories. They are mostly about how people, animals and things look and about what you can see on the outside, as if someone is happy or angry.

Listen, talk and tell

Talk to the child a lot. Use short sentences, ask questions and listen. Do not interrupt to correct when the child says wrong. Instead, say the correct pronunciation or word when the child has finished talking, then hear how it should sound. If the child says “boom”, then you can say “yes, it was a flower”. Feel free to add new words to the theme the child is talking about. For example: “The flower has a long stalk.”

Screens and various media

You set boundaries around and teach kids how to handle different media. You make the decisions for your child that you think will be best. Never allowing a child to come near a screen can give a disadvantage to other children. Giving children unlimited screen access is harmful, as it takes time from physical activity, play, socializing with others and other tasks. It is also bad for children’s bodies to sit passive with a screen for long moments.

It is important that the time in front of the screen does not replace the time when you are together, or replace the time when the child is allowed to move and play outdoors. Children need to move a lot and be active. The biggest problem with screens is that they take too much time away from something else that is better for the kids.

There are different perceptions about how television and computer games affect children. Some age-appropriate television programs, video games and computer games can be fun and educational at this age.

Remember to have the same supervision over your child when they have screen time as with all other types of activities.

Take into account the child’s age and personality

Think about what you think your child is capable of. It can differ between children of the same age. Customize that child to see and do according to their personality. Look with the child, talk about what you see and experience. Keep in mind that children can be scared of things you don’t think they are scared of.

Time limit the child’s screen time. One obvious way is to set an egg bell for example. Help the child to finish by saying “now it is only five minutes left, and when the bell rings we should turn off”. It also gives the child some time perception.

The younger the child is, the less time with different media needs them. The recommendation from the World Health Organization, WHO, is that children between 2 and 4 years should use screens a maximum of one hour a day, but preferably shorter. They should not have their own access to social media. You can sometimes show them pictures or videos from social media that you have selected or approved yourself. Do not allow children to watch news programs, adult films or play games with violence. Turn off unpleasant background noise.

Think about how you use media yourself when you are with your child. Children do as adults do. Most social media programs are designed to devour as much of your own attention as possible. Therefore, when you sit with a screen yourself, you become less attentive to your child.

Usually the child can and does

At this age, it is common for children to do this:

  • Speaks so clearly that even people they don’t know understand.
  • Can tell short stories.

Tips on fun things you can do together

Here are some tips on what can be fun at this age:

  • Turn on music and dance with the child.
  • Ask the child to tell you something.
  • Read books for the child.
  • Teach the child his first and last name. It reinforces the feeling of having one’s own identity.
  • Feel free to talk about colors, numbers and shapes in what you do everyday. For example: “We need two eggs.” “Our car is blue.” “The butter is in the square jar.”
  • Look at pictures together and talk about when the baby was small.

The body and how the child moves

At the age of three, much of the baby round that was there before disappears and the child gets taller and slimmer. All 20 milk teeth usually have arrived and the child is called for their first examination at the dentist.

Moves easier and more

It is common for children to run and jump, and that they want to move over slightly larger surfaces than before. Many can walk a bit on their toes, stand for a moment on one leg, jump on their feet and ride a tricycle. Many children enjoy kicking the ball but have a hard time catching it with their hands.

Dress up and put on yourself

It is good to use clothes that are easy to put on and off. Then most children can dress themselves. Attaching the shoes is also good, but the child needs help tying them or fastening the Velcro straps.

Has easier to use hands and fingers

The child can now use hands and fingers more precisely. It’s called fine motor. The child can eat himself with a fork and spoon. Some also use knives.

Some children can now hold the pen or chalk with their thumb and index finger as they draw. They can also hold the paper with the other hand, making their strokes more precise. Other children still hold the pen with their entire hand.

Some children now learn to write certain letters in their name. They can also recognize their name when they see it written.

Many children can use scissors and can more or less cut along lines.

The child is curious about his body

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are very interested in how people live together and for the body. By playing, they learn to understand what it is like to have adult relationships, for example, to be married. It can be exciting that girls have snippets and boys have snouts. The child explores his and others’ bodies by, for example, playing doctor, playing family and playing chase-and-kiss.

Children can also explore their body by touching their genitals. It is most common at home but also happens in preschool. Touching their genitals for the sake of being nice or interesting can make children from birth. It is very different how interested children are by their genitals and by satisfying themselves, masturbating. Examining oneself in this way is common and part of the development. It has no connection to later problem behaviors. At about 3 years of age, the child discovers that they can give themselves pleasure by touching their genitals on their own. Research shows that masturbation is most common around the age of 4, and then it becomes very common again at puberty. But masturbation occurs throughout life.

The child learns a little at a time through guidance from you and from preschool staff what they can do when and where. How children explore their own and others’ bodies is influenced by what is allowed or forbidden by you and the environment. If you prohibit talking, playing and exploring about relationships and the body, it is common for the child to turn to friends or other adults instead to find out. Then it can be difficult for the child to understand what is okay and not.

It may be good to talk to a nurse at the childcare center, hospital, or to a child psychologist if the child repeatedly shows a sexual behavior that is adult, or if sexual behaviors take over completely when the child is playing. The same applies if the child forces other children with sexual behaviors against those children. You should also talk to the hospital or a child psychologist if the child does not respect the adult’s attempt to set reasonable limits on sexual behavior, or when the child ignores other children being scared, hurt, or uncomfortable.

Usually to stop with diapers

At the age of three, many end up with diapers. Three-year-olds who have ended up with diapers can often go to the pot or toilet themselves, but still need help to dry themselves and wash their hands afterwards.

Some kids may start peeing in the tub or toilet early, but still want to poop in the diaper. It can feel safer with the diaper that sits close to the body and receives the pouch.

Here you can read more about ending with diapers.

Usually the child can and does

It is common for children between the ages of 3 and 4 to do this:

  • Dress on and off themselves.
  • Going up and down a staircase without holding on.
  • Going backwards.
  • Jumps feet in place.
  • Kicks and throws the ball.
  • Draws a man with head, arms and legs, a so-called head foot.
  • Screws on and off corks on bottles and caps on jars.

Tips on fun things you can do together

Here are some tips on what can be fun at this age:

  • Play mimics like “Follow John”.
  • Have the child try to ride a tricycle or a balance bike.
  • Play bowling games, where the child gets to practice kicking, throwing and catching a ball.
  • Play in the sandbox. There the child can build roads for the toy cars, dig and make sand cookies.
  • Turn on music and let the child move and dance. Most children enjoy moving to music.
  • Let the child put bead plates or wooden necklaces.
  • Have the child use a blunt scissor, for example, to cut out pictures from magazines.
  • Let the child pour water into and out of bowls and bottles of different sizes, and maybe measure it up.

If you need support

Seek help if you need support, have questions or feel anxious about your child’s development.

In addition to talking to, for example, friends and relatives, you can contact the childcare center, hospital. The staff there has a lot of experience with questions about children of this age. You can also talk to preschool or family daycare.

You can also contact a health care center or the municipality. Some municipalities offer parental support in groups or individually. You can find information on your municipality’s website.

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