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Your 3-Year-Old: Development and Milestones


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Social and Emotional Development in 3 Year Olds
Social and Emotional Development in 3 Year Olds

As your three-year-old continues to develop social skills, she'll start to develop friendships with other children. Remember though, every child goes at their own pace!

Social and emotional development is one of the most important parts of your child's growth, but also makes for some of the most trying aspects of it. Temper tantrums tend to peak around this age as your child learns to deal with stressful situations. And while there may still be a special adult in your child's life that she doesn't like to let out of her sight, three-year-olds are able to start to develop true friendships with new friends (and sometimes imaginary ones!).

It is important to really pay attention to your child's social and emotional development -- lots of groundwork is laid now that will help your child deal with more complex emotions as they get older.

Here's what else you can expect in terms of social and emotional development from your 3-year-old:

  • Starts to understand emotions -- his own and others. This may be through actually seeing someone express how they feel about something in person or on television or through reading a book. May use simple expressions -- "I'm mad!," "I'm sad!," "I'm happy!," to let you know how he feels.
  • May still not want to be separated from a parent or caregiver, even if they are at a place they are familiar with.
  • Instead of acting out physically (say by hitting) when she is frustrated, she uses her words.
  • Shows empathy when another person is hurt or upset and may even attempt to comfort the person.
  • Instead of engaging in parallel play (two or three children playing side-by-side rather than with each other) actually begins to play cooperatively with other children and develops friendships.
  • Starts to indicate preferences for things and understands what belongs to him.
  • May start to tattle if they feel they've been "wronged" by another child or sibling.
  • Can start to share and take turns, although they may not always like it.
  • Will copy the actions and behaviors of others, particularly children.

For more: Preschool Social Growth and Development

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