Your Child's 37th, 38th, & 39th Months
Physical & Mental Growth
By Pam Gelman
Please keep in mind that all children are unique. Whether your child reaches milestones early or late, she has her own developmental path to follow. The dividing lines between these months are very fuzzy. If you have any concerns or questions about your child's development, please check with her health care provider.
Life After Two
Congratulations! You survived the two's. Your child made enormous strides physically and intellectually in the past year. And you reached a new peak of patience. But life with your three year old is not a piece of cake yet (if ever). The threes hold more challenges, discoveries, and rewards for your child and for you as a parent.
Three year olds are now aware of themselves as separate individuals and feel less dependent on their parents. Most important, they can now communicate their needs, feelings and ideas. This is an enormous leap away from the frustration faced by two year olds who use their bodies to do what they cannot communicate in words. Three year olds also now understand that you are separate from them—with your own set of feelings and needs. This opens a whole new chapter in parenting as your relationship with your child takes on even deeper meaning.
What's Happening With Physical Growth?
Some children shoot up like sprouts during this year. In general, you can expect your child to gain about 5 lbs. and grow about 3 ½ inches during this year. Many three year olds grow much more in height than weight and may appear skinny to the parental eye. A good habit is to measure and weigh your child twice during the year to check that height and weight are progressing on course. If you notice that her height is not increasing or if her weight is increasing at a faster rate than height, consult with her pediatrician.
Your child has mastered many different feats in physical development as well. Chances are she can hop on one foot, walk up and down stairs, walk backwards, walk on tiptoes, and throw/kick balls. Instead of drifting about from activity to activity, she may be able to stick with one activity for a short period of time. She also may prefer more structured types of play such as trying to get a basketball in a hoop (with the help of Air-Dad or Mom) or other games.
And she has developed the control and coordination to use her hands and fingers with more precision. Puzzles, crayons, blocks, train sets, and water play with cups and pitchers are intriguing to the three year old. She can apply her fine motor skills to self-help activities, such as brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, washing herself with a washcloth, buttoning her pjs, drinking from a cup, and using utensils and napkins at a meal. Encourage her to do these things for herself—not just to hone fine motor skills but to support her developing positive sense of self. It is satisfying for her to do these things by herself.
Language: The Chatterbox Emerges
The changes in development during the third year are more subtle than in previous years, except perhaps for language. As mentioned earlier, your child can now confidently express what is on her mind. Sometimes she may chatter away non-stop or tell stories. Most three year olds are using three to six word sentences and can choose from a huge memory of vocabulary. You will often think to yourself, "Where did she learn that expression?" Her brain has been programmed to absorb language, categorize it, make sense of it, remember it, and say it back to you.
But her learning of language still needs your support. Some parents, delighted by their child's ability to use words, mistakenly believe that learning is now on autopilot. Reading and other forms of responsive communication between parent or caregiver and child is critical in helping her continue to feel confident about her learning of the things and people in the world. It is from these types of experiences with loving people that further push a three year olds learning of language.