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30 Things To Teach A 3 Year Old (Plus How To Do It!)

If you are looking for some easy, fun ways to start teaching your child life and social skills, these ideas are for you!

Things To Teach A 3 Year Old

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1. Independence

3 year old’s love independence and love to feel like they are in control of their choices.  An easy way to teach independence is by giving them choices like “do you want to wear the  unicorn shirt or the shark shirt?”

Giving your child choices in their daily activities empowers them to feel like they are making decisions and is the first steps to raising an independent child. It might take extra time but it is worth it! 

Some easy things to start with are:

  • Have your child help pick out their clothes 
  • Have your child try getting dressed on their own
  • Have your child carry their own coat/lunch box etc.
  • Let your child choose their own snack 
  • Have them help with food prep (an easy place to start is letting them put berries in a colander)

Your child wants to feel independent and capable and giving them choices and letting them take over tasks is the best start to helping them gain independence.

For more tips on growing your child’s independence, check out: how to organize your home in order to foster independence

2. Responsibility

This is such an exciting age and your child can do things like getting themselves kind of dressed! It’s an exciting time for kids and parents! 

That is why this is the perfect age to start working on responsibility with your child and your child will love having tasks they get to do on their own.

Remember that new skills take time and a great way to set your child up for success is by modeling things; do the task with them the first time and then let them try it on their own. 

Some simple activities to start having your child do: 

  • Pick up their toys/room at the end of the day. Make it a fun activity by having them sing the “clean up song”.
  • Have them help set the table. This may be as simple as giving each place a napkin or a fork. Make sure to put the supplies at your child’s level so they can get them on their own. 
  • Have them “make their bed/crib” each day by putting all their stuffed animals on their bed.
  • Have them help with your chores. This is actually something they will love to do and it sets you up for a future helper!  If you are putting wet clothes in the dryer, have them help you. If you are folding clothes, have them put all the socks in a pile. Anything you are doing, let them help.

3. Letter Recognition

Young kids love learning about their world and recognizing and talking about letters is a huge step!  There are so many fun ways to get your child looking at, talking about and recognizing letters.

The good news for you is that letters are everywhere and many of these activities can be done at home and can help you get through those long grocery lines!

  • Sing the alphabet song with your child. If you have alphabet letters, point to them as you sing.  
  • Point out the first letter of your child’s name whenever you see it (on signs, packages, books etc.)  This is a great start to letter recognition and can be done anywhere!  Once your child recognizes the first letter in their name, have them find other letters in their name and eventually their full name.
  • Do a letter craft.
  • Letter hunts: these are so much fun, extremely easy, require little to no prep and they can be done anywhere!  If your child is just learning to name letters, make sure you point out the letter and say it’s name and have them repeat it to you.  Once your child is able to identify a letter, have them find it and say it to you.
    • Some fun hunt ideas:
      • Have your child go on a “flashlight” letter hunt where they shine a light on whatever letter they are looking for.  This is really fun when it’s a little dark!
      • Choose a letter and then while reading your child’s favorite book, have them find that letter as many times as they can.

For more fun ideas that will help your child with letter recognition, check out play-based letter activities

4. Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills is the movement and coordination that usually involves hands and fingers. 

You can easily practice these skills and get their little hands moving with these great ideas:

  • Tracing basic shapes or letters
  • Cutting straight lines (older kids can start working on cutting curved lines)
  • Gluing
  • Stacking building blocks
  • Drawing and coloring
  • Threading beads on to a string
  • Picking up smaller objects and moving them from one area to another (this can be done with anything!) I have made many dinners with my little guy moving small oranges from one bowl to another!

Looking for some easy fine motor skills printable activities? Check out our: cut and paste letter crafts 

5. How To Take Turns

Taking turns can be hard, but starting to introducing this at a young age is so important!  A fun way to easily introduce this idea to your child is by taking turns with them while you play.  

This can be as easy as saying “I am done using the red crayon, now it is your turn to use it.” The most important part of taking turns is modeling it constantly and using the words that they will use in the future when playing with others.  

Another great way is to introduce board games to your toddler (and yes, they can totally play board games!)  These games should be cooperative games where the focus is not on winning or losing, but on taking turns.

Using toddler board games is a great way to practice turn taking.

6. How To Share

Sharing and taking turns goes hand in hand.  This is a skill that children have to learn, but also have to be taught and practicing with your child is the best way to do this!

When teaching your child how to share, use simple words to model your thinking and your actions.  Practice sharing by playing with your child and saying words like “I am using this toy right now, but I will share it with you when I am done.”  

Make sure to adjust to your child’s needs when modeling this, don’t make your child wait long periods of time for a toy if this is not realistic for them.

When you are ready to give it to them make sure to share your thinking out loud like “I am done playing with this toy, now it is your turn with it.”  All children have to learn to share, and it’s really hard!

Your child will get the hang of it and the more you practice it with them, the more successful they will be when they are playing with other kids. 

7. How To Be Polite

Model, model, model! I know that seems to be a common theme around many of these social skills, but the best way to teach children is to model whatever we want them to do.  

If you want your child to say please and thank you, make sure you are doing these things.  Also, make sure you praise them when they do remember to say thank you, kids love feeling successful at new skills!

8. Teach About The World Around Them

New things are exciting to kids and young children are like sponges soaking up everything around them!  I didn’t fully believe this until I became a mom and my 3 year old stopped to look at different colors of cement for a solid five minutes. 

They are finally becoming fully aware that there is a world around them and they want to know everything!  This is why they ask you a million questions and why you should always answer them- even on the actual millionth question!  

A great way to get your child to think about the world around them is by asking them simple questions or even asking them questions back when they ask you a question.  

Try to ask questions that get them thinking and that involve whatever task you are doing.

  • Some simple questions you could ask while getting dressed in the morning:
    • What is the weather like today?
    • What should we wear if it is sunny?

When they ask you a question and you feel like they might have their own thoughts on it, you can rephrase their question to them.  

For example, if your child asks why they have to walk on the sidewalk (I have had this question many times) you might say “That is a great question! Do you have any ideas of why we have to walk on the sidewalk? What goes on the road?”

This gives them the chance to start thinking about their own questions and can lead to really great conversations and grow their problem-solving skills.

9. Verbal And Nonverbal Communication

3 year olds are at the end of their toddler years and are becoming preschool children! Communication is so much more than just words and your child is starting to pick up on verbal and nonverbal communication.

They may notice that when someone is smiling that they are happy and that if someone raises their voice they may be upset.  This is a great time to talk to your child using “noticing” statements.  

An example of this is “I am noticing that you are looking down when you talk and your voice is quiet. Are you feeling sad?”  This helps them identify the different verbal and nonverbal communication around them.

10. How To Use Their Imagination

Let your child’s imagination run wild! They are full of pretend games and it is a great way to bond with your child.  If they want to play dress up and pretend they are a princess, follow their lead.

If they want to play cook and you are eating at their restaurant, give them your food order.  Pretend play helps grow your child’s creativity and is a great way for them to explore their world.

A great way to foster your child’s imagination is letting them take the lead and you imitate and follow along with their play.

11. Numbers And Counting

Identifying numbers and learning to count is very similar to letter recognition and it takes practice.  

There are so many ways to do introducing numbers and counting to your child, and the good news is you can do it with everyday items found around your home!

Many of these activities you can do at home, but you can also practice these new skills out in the world.

Some easy ways to introduce numbers and counting: 

  • Counting your child’s fingers and toes. Have your child point to each finger or toe and say the number and have them repeat it. 
  • Stacking building blocks with your child, counting each one you add.
  • Sing number songs- kids LOVE singing!  Some great songs: “Five little Monkeys”, “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe” or “The Ants go Marching”
  • Count things around you. When your family is in the car, count how many people are in there. When you’re at the grocery store, count how many apples they see. Make sure to always have them point to the object and if possible, touch it while saying the number. 

12. How To Stack

Stacking items helps with spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. This is an easy thing to practice with things around your house or your child’s toys.

Some ways to practice this is by having your child try stacking 2 blocks and then 3 blocks, etc.  

Once your child gets the hang of stacking, a fun game to play is to take turns stacking building blocks with them.  

You can have them try stacking anything you can find- rocks, books and even granola bars! The sky is the limit to stacking!

13. To Be Active

Toddlers have a LOT of energy and being active is such an important part to their day!  Your child can practice being active both inside and outside, as long as they are getting their wiggles out!  

Some ways to get your chid moving: 

  • Having a dance party.
  • Using painters tape and making a fun “obstacle course” for them to do like “Walk on the blue piece of tape, now hop on this part of the tape” etc.
  • Doing yoga together! A great YouTube channel is Cosmic Yoga- kids love it and you can do it with them!

For some more fun activities to get your little one moving: toddler activities for active kidsphysical activities for 3 year olds

14. How To Use The Potty

Potty training can be exciting, fun, scary and hard all in one!  This is a huge step for your child and a big one for you as well!  

Some important things to remember: 

  • Give yourself grace and remember that this is a new skill you and your child are learning together, and it can be hard.  
  • Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! Make sure you celebrate any and all things potty! 
  • Plan ahead. Potty training is much more successful when you have a set plan.

Check out our article for more potty training tips

15. The Basics Of Hygiene

Your child most likely already has set routines around hygiene and at this point you can start talking with your child about them.  Talk about each routine they do (morning and night) and why they are doing each of those tasks.

For example, when you brush your child’s teeth, talk about why we do this and how you are brushing their teeth. Then start having them practice doing it themselves. This is a great way to introduce basic hygiene to your child.

16. A Sense Of Time

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If you have ever been late for something and your child is frantically looking through their room for their small snail toy, you know that toddlers have no sense of time.  But don’t worry!

This is something they can and will learn with a little help from you.  Start helping your child realize that their days revolves around time by talking about each task they do throughout the day and what time it is. For example, you might say “It’s 9:30, is your stomach getting hungry? It’s been a few hours since you had breakfast”.  

The more you talk through your child’s day and the time they are doing things, the more they will start to be aware that things are happening at the same time each day. 

17. How To Make Healthy Choices

Right around this age, your child might start to notice when you go to the pantry and grab a cookie long after lunch has passed.  My son is like this and the minute my husband walks towards the kitchen, he is at his heels waiting to see if he is getting a cookie or snack.  

Easy ways to do this is by talking about your own body and asking your child about theirs.  For example, you might say “I am feeling thirsty, my body must need water. Do you need any water?”

Modeling healthy choices is the best way to help your child make their own healthy choices in the future. 

18. The Daily Routine

As adults, we love having routines and so does your child.  By this age, having a daily routine is very important so that your child can start to establish independence, responsibility and know what they need to do for each part of their day. 

If you are looking for ways to improve or set up a daily routine, check out: 3 year old bedtime routine

19. Sorting Skills

The world is full of different patterns and full of things for your child to sort!  Your house is full of things to sort and there are so many ways to have to do this. You can sort by color, shape, size, or amount of items.

This can be based on your child’s abilities and what things you are sorting.

Some easy ways to get your child sorting: 

  • Have them sort socks into color groups
  • Have them sort toys by colors or size
  • Have them sort cereal, pasta, or any food that is colorful. 

20. How To Pray

This is another great thing to model for your child- they really learn so much just by watching you.  Keep your prayer simple and let them hear you say one for a few days before you start to include them in it.

Once they start to see this on a daily basis, ask them at the end of the prayer if there is something they are thankful for. They might need ideas and this is okay, they will continue to watch you and learn and eventually they will be saying prayers on their own.

21. How To Think About Themselves

Your child is starting to develop their own personality and opinions as I am sure you might have noticed when they demand to wear their pajama shirt with their tutu to the grocery store.

This is wonderful and something to encourage! We want them to start thinking for themselves and helping them develop their own opinions is a huge step in independence. 

Some fun ways to help your child thing about themselves:

would you rather questions

questions for daughters

22. A Broader Vocabulary

Vocabulary exposure is such an important step in your child’s reading life and understanding of the world.  

A great and easy way to build your child’s vocabulary and content knowledge is to read a wide variety of books while also following your child’s interests. 

Some simple ways to do this are: 

  • If you have a public library, this is a great way to read a ton of different books for free!  Each time you go, have your child pick out picture books in the fiction and non-fiction section. 
  • When you are reading to your child, help grow their language skills by talking about the book and the vocabulary being used. It’s okay to stop in the middle of a sentence and explain a word to your child or rephrase a word.  We want our children to learn to ask about words when they don’t understand them and modeling this during a read aloud is the best way to show them this skill. 
  • Don’t be afraid to use big vocabulary words with your child.  This can be scary and I constantly find myself thinking of easier words to explain things to my child. However, I find that when I just use the real word and give him information about it, I am just adding that word to his vocabulary! Kids are truly sponges and will absorb anything we are putting out there!  

23. Colors

Teaching toddlers colors is so fun and best of all- they are everywhere! There are so many fun activities you can do to help young children learn different colors.  

Here are some simple activities: 

  • Color hunt: Give your child a color and have them find items of that color.  
  • Outdoor color hunt: Take your hunt outdoors! This is so much fun in the spring when everything is blooming.  Walk with your child around your yard, neighborhood, park- wherever and have them find different colors. You might ask them what color flowers they see or if they can point out purple flowers. This is a great activity to get little kids outside and hunting for colors!
  • Color sort: Give your child a basket of different color toys and have them sort them by color.  (Tip: try to only choose toys that are solid colors)
    • If your child is having a hard time with this, a great way to help is to lay construction paper of each color on the floor and have them set their items on the paper that matches.

24. Memory/Listening Skills

Memory and listening skills are important steps to learning, reading and understanding our world. 

Some easy ways to practice these skills: 

  • Sing songs or say rhymes with your child. Once they have learned the song and rhyme, pause when you are saying them and let your child finish the sentence. 
  • Play games that require them to use their listening and memory skills like “I spy” or the game Memory. 
  • Have them tell you the steps in their routine: “Okay it’s time for bed, what is the first thing we do?”  

25. How To Act In Public

Modeling good behavior is always the first step; however, your child will most likely lose it in public at some point in their life.  I think every parent has a fun story about the time their child lost it in a store and they had to leave immediately.

The most valuable time comes after your child loses it and has regulated their emotions enough to talk about what happened.  After your child has a hard time in a public setting (or private) take time to comfort them and then talk through what happened and how their choices made you feel and how their choices made them feel.

After they are able to identify that they may have made a bad choice, you can talk about other choices they can make in the future.  Help set them up for success by reminding them what good choices they can make this time when you return to the space they had previously lost it in.

Learning how to act in public takes practice, good modeling and a few embarrassing screaming moments, but they will get it!

26. Problem-Solving Skills

Your child most likely practices problem-solving skills on a daily basis. Every time they play, they are adjusting and learning about how things work.  

A great way to draw attention to how they are problem-solving is talking through what you see them doing.  For example, if your child is building a tower but it keeps falling down because they are using too small of a block for a base, you might encourage them to try a bigger block on the bottom.

Once they see this block makes it so their tower doesn’t fall, you can then talk about why.  There are so many great conversations to have around problem-solving skills just by watching your child play.

27. Body Parts

Some ideas to teach about body parts: 

  • Singing song is so much fun! Singing songs about body parts is even more fun! Get your child up and moving while learning body parts by singing the classic “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”. 
  • Talk about their body parts whenever you can! Focus on simple things like when you are getting them dressed or on their daily activities like washing hands.  You can even make this into a fun, ridiculous song because toddlers just love that!  “Oh we are washing your hands whoooo you have ten fingers whoooo look at your nails ahhh ahhh.” This can be so much fun and no matter how bad your singing is, your child will love it! 
  • Read books about body parts- the library has a ton of great books that introduce the different body parts to your child. One of my child’s favorites was “Hello, World! My Body!” By Jill McDonald.  This series has a book for almost anything and it does a great job introducing vocabulary and content to young children. 

28. Independent Play

This may be the most important skill to teach your child, and yes you have to teach them to independently play! I myself was not aware of this fact until I was an exhausted mom and my doctor asked if I ever let my child just play on their own without me being in their space.

My answer at the time was no, but I quickly tried this out and it was so good for me and my child!  Give your child room and space to play on their own.

This may look different for each family and child, but the important parts of independent play are that they are not having you interact or guide their playing and even better if they are not right by your side while playing.  

The more you practice this skill the more your child will learn to play on their own and their imagination will grow because of this!

29. Consent

Consent is just important to adults as it is to children.  Model and teach consent to your little one by verbally explaining what you are doing when you are touching their bodies or they are touching yours.  

This is as simple as saying “Are you ready for me to take off your shirt and put your pajamas on?” or “I don’t like when you pull on my arm like that, please stop”.  Modeling this type of language is showing them what they can say in the future. 

30. Self Confidence

At 3 years old, your child may start to feel good about things when they are successful and frustrated when they are not. We want our children to feel proud of themselves and confident so that they know they can try new things and have tools to use when things are hard.  

Check out fostering confidence and questions to build self-esteem for easy ways to build your child’s self confidence. 

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