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NYS Parent Guide

36-48 Months: Growth and Development

You and Your Thriving Three-Year-Old

Parenting at This Stage

Parenting at This Stage

Welcome to the “preschool years,” the time between age three and when your little one enters school. That may seem like a long way off but time will fly. And much will change, one discovery at a time.

His abilities are growing. But as you will see in this chapter and the next one to follow, he still needs your support and help. Sometimes, when he is getting frustrated, this may mean stepping in and giving him a hand. Or, you may need to give him a little time to figure things out on his own. Either way, he always needs you to help keep him safe and to guide his behavior.

Below, you will find lots of ways to support your preschooler. By helping him today, you are also preparing him for tomorrow, to be successful in school.

As a parent of a three-year-old, you may:

  • Struggle at times with being consistent but it’s still very important
  • Find your three-year-old quite funny at times and enjoy her sense of humor
  • Feel embarrassed when she imitates your words or tone of voice that you would not want anyone to hear
  • Have moments when you just cannot be enthusiastic about playing the same thing for the fifth time in a day
  • Experience a little sadness when your three-year-old becomes attached to someone outside the family— while also being proud of her growing independence
  • Notice that your child may have some better skills and some less developed skills when looking at other three-year-olds
  • Wonder if you are expecting too much or too little of your three-year-old
  • Feel a bit silly playing imaginary games with your child
  • Find it challenging to let your child “lead” the learning in play and activities
  • Better understand the value of your child’s constant desire to play as an important way to learn
  • Learn with practice how to best guide your three-year-old child’s learning
  • Wonder about your child’s readiness for preschool and/or school and what you need to do to get her ready
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Did you know

If you have a concern about your child’s development, your local school district has a Committee on Preschool Special Education which can coordinate services for your child through preschool special education. Visit for more information.