3.5 Years

At age 3 and a half, children continue to develop their imagination and enjoy pretend play. Sometimes they even think that their dreams or things they imagine are real. Three-and-a-half year olds now have the grammar and vocabulary to tell wonderful stories and participate in family discussions. At this age, children are still comforted with the security of routines and consistent rules, although they will continue to test limits.

Your Baby

At this age, your child may …

Add new types of movement to her activities – tiptoeing, pedaling, catching a ball. Try to provide daily opportunities for active play, outdoors or indoors.

Start to draw recognizable pictures and pretend to read and write – Ask your child to tell you about their pictures.

Stumble over words – Sometimes, in their excitement to communicate, children stutter, stumble over words or repeat themselves. Listen patiently and for him / her to complete the thought.

Develop a greater understanding of numbers – Provide opportunities for your child to practice counting and sorting household objects such as socks, spoons, toys or food items.

Your Family

Get a jumpstart on writing skills.

Believe it or not – playing in the bathtub can help your child’s future writing skills! By squeezing a sponge and pouring from cups she is developing her hand and finger muscles. There are many other ways to develop fine motor skills such as stringing beads or macaroni, cutting with child-safe scissors, or using play dough. More traditional activities would include letting her explore with crayons, paint, colored pencils, markers, and chalk on a variety of surfaces. You can even let her “paint” the outside of the house with water! Old shirts and vinyl tablecloths make great smocks and floor protection.

Take steps to reduce bedwetting.

By this age, many children have mastered daytime bladder control but still wet the bed at night. You can help her stay dry by limiting fluids for two hours before bedtime and encouraging her to use the toilet right before bedtime. If these strategies aren’t successful she may just need time. Staying dry through the night requires a combination of many factors including an adequate bladder size, mature bladder control, and a balance of the body chemicals that control nighttime urine production.

Constipation is not uncommon so remember to keep fiber in your child’s diet.

As families get busy, it’s easy to pull out a quick, processed food choice for a snack or meal. When food is processed, it loses important nutrients such as fiber. Fiber helps your child’s digestive system by keeping them regular. Sources of fiber include whole grains such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and shredded wheat, whole fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, beans, and nuts. (Use caution with nuts because they can be a choking hazard for children under age 3.

Other causes of constipation can include waiting too long to use the toilet or the result of your child’s need to have power over themselves and others – using the toilet may be one of the few things over which your 3-year-old has total control.  His interest in controlling this aspect of his life may decrease as he gains control of more aspects of his life such as clothing, food, or activity choices.

If persistent constipation interferes with your child’s daily activities, contact your child’s health provider.

Your Checklist

Make sure your child has an annual well-child check-up and is fully up-to-date on immunizations.

Vaccine-preventable diseases can cause serious harm to children who are not fully immunized. Call your baby’s health care provider or your local health department to make an appointment.

Make sure you are keeping up with your child’s changing safety needs.
  • Talk with your child about issues such as fire safety and the use of 9-1-1
  • Visit your local library together to find books that stress safety
  • Help your child identify who is a stranger and who is not. Instruct your child not to talk to or obey a stranger. Use role playing to teach about stranger safety
  • Always use appropriate helmets and life jackets
  • Remember sunscreen for outdoor play – in all seasons
  • Keep using a car seat with an internal harness until age four – it is the law!
  • Post the Poison Control number by your phone: 1-800-222-1222. (In the past, parents may have administered syrup of ipecac to make children vomit if they had swallowed a poison. Although this may seem to make sense, it may not be a good poison treatment. Always contact Poison Control if you suspect your child has swallowed a poison.)