Many parents feel that the 3-year-old stage of their baby is ‘just about there’ to start with learning alphabets, words and objects. Although it’s a good time to start training them for preschool now, the foundation for their learning can be laid down before they reach 3. So what are the milestones to look for at the age of 3 and what can you do when they seem delayed?
Educational Milestones for a 3-Year-Old Child
Getting in pre-schools means having a good set of cognitive skills in children and the foundation for it is laid down during their younger years. Many parents wonder what a 3-year-old should know from the education point of view and here are the 3 important things they need to be aware of:
1. Reading Skill
Children’s ability to read doesn’t need to develop only when they start school. Even as infants, they are building the skills needed that will help them to read soon enough. The time between 3 to 5 years is a critical phase for children to learn to start reading. By 3, although they won’t be able to read full sentences, they will definitely begin to show the signs of readiness. You will notice that they can recognise some commonly used letters or are even be able to learn simple three-letter-words.
Most preschoolers by the age of 3 will know the names of their favourite books. They can hold a book properly and turn pages, recall phrases and frequently used words from their favourite books and even pretend to read books. They can also differentiate between a random squiggle, an alphabet or number. Some preschoolers can also recognise or write numbers and letters, identify letters that begin with certain words or make up silly phrases.
The best way to instil an interest in reading is to read to your child every day regardless of how much it is that they understand. Reading opens the window to the realm of literacy that your child would soon enter while also building a bond with you during the time you spend reading to them. Reading doesn’t have to begin and end with books; labels on cereal boxes, words on toys will do as well. As they go from words to forming their first sentences, you will notice them reaching their milestones. You will also see them recognising printed words on signs, streets, common store signs and others.
A text-rich environment is a key to laying down the groundwork for success in reading. Along with books, you can also talk about words, letters or numbers on packages, signs, clothing, etc. Make a game of guessing letters and numbers when out on the streets or supermarkets. Flashcards are also good toys to introduce at this point to help learn alphabets and pictures.
You can expect a growth spurt in the language skills of your child between the ages of 2 and 3. At the beginning of this period, most kids can say 50 or more words and follow simple instructions. They can combine two or three words to form a sentence such as ‘mommy get in the car’ or ‘Me go too’. Kids are also able to understand one step instructions such as ‘put sock on foot’ or two-step instructions such as ‘pick up the ball and bring it to mommy’.
By the age of 3, the vocabulary of kids can contain as much as 200-300 words, and you will begin to hear longer sentences that are more structured and grammatical. For example, instead of saying ‘I go’, your child might say ‘I’m going’. You can also expect to hear past tense such as ‘walked’ or ‘jumped’. They can understand better and speak more clearly; you will be able to understand at least 75% of what your child says.
As they mature beyond the age of 3, they should be able to use language freely and solve problems and learn new concepts. They can engage in a simple question-answer session or tell stories. A good example is a story about their visit to the supermarket. They may be able to put together a simple story and say something similar to ‘I go shop’. When you respond with ‘And what did you do at the shop?’, they would reply ‘Buy candies’. They should also be able to tell simple made-up stories, although they would leave out a lot of details.
Children’s vocabulary when they start kindergarten is an important predictor of academic success throughout their school. Therefore it is important to work on building their vocabulary, language and communication skills. To start with, introduce them to new words during their day-to-day activities. At the grocery store, you can explain to them that bread comes from a bakery and show them a bakery on the way home. Children often have an obsession with things, be it cars, birds or a stray cat. The next time your child is chatting about their obsession, throw in a few words that they have never heard before into the discussion.
3. Identifying Different Objects
3-year-old children can identify many objects at this point in their development and even identify their various uses. As their cognitive skills expand, they learn with much vigour and stuff themselves with as much new information as possible. Objects that they encounter on a regular basis are often of the greatest interest. It could be your car and the sound it makes when you honk, the bouncing of balls, kitchen appliances and the rumbling of the grinder. They can associate that the function of a vacuum is to suck up dust and bits of paper that they throw in its way.
Even before they can identify individual objects, they pay attention to the colours and shapes of objects. As shapes and colours are the most noticeable attributes of the world around us, children pick these up faster than anything else. Therefore, children need to know the basics of colours and shapes before they can read, write or do the math. For example, when children learn to discern the differences or similarities between shapes and colours, they are using the same skills needed to understand the differences between letters and numbers. Therefore, when children are asked to sort objects, they often use the most noticeable attributes such as colour, shape and size to categorise objects.
To help them develop their ability to discern colours and objects, offer them paint swatches of different shapes to explore. Let them sort the shapes based on colours as an activity or give them glue sticks to make monochromatic collages of different colours. Shapes can be introduced in fun ways such as giving them square, triangle or circularly shaped cookies to eat. Play with shape sorting games or use household objects in sorting games.
As they grow older, they start developing an interest in science and math as many available games revolve around exploration and sorting/counting mathematically. Along with learning the numerals, they would love counting how many toys they have or how many crackers they can eat.
Most children reach the expected milestones on time or faster when they are supplemented with everyday activities and games designed to help them learn.