For our oldest son, being 3 years old started as being all about facts and information and gradually became all about make-believe. Right around his third birthday, our son was mostly into non-fiction books for kids (on dinosaurs, space, emergency vehicles, anything really) and watching nature shows like Planet Earth. He was mildly interested in fantasy on this third birthday, but over the course of the year, this was the age when, “I made you a sandwich, mom” turned into “I made you a chicken sandwich, mom, with tomato and lettuce. Please drive to my restaurant and a waiter will take your order. Be sure to ask for what I made you.”
My second child on the other hand, having an older brother to copy and play with all her life, started her 3’s well entrenched in fantasy play. With her, I try to remember that she is capable of understanding all the same non-fiction information that her brother was so interested in at the same age. They are very different kids, so in a way, it’s surprising to me how often my second child enjoys the same things her brother liked at her age. On the other hand, it’s not that surprising, because 3 year olds are frequently so open and willing to try new ways of playing.
It’s also important to realize that young 3 is very different from old 3 (which is true of any age, I’m sure), but it’s the age at which complex reasoning really comes into effect. At 36 months, my son was very literal. By his 4th birthday, however, he was able to figure things out, understand implications, and play in really interesting and creative ways. Of course, as with any age, both of my 3 year olds still liked arts and crafts, games, puzzles, and expending energy, as well.
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