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Early Child Development

11 Truths About Three-Year-Olds

A three-year-old's life is a fast-talking whirlwind of independence-mixed in with a few potty accidents and much-needed snuggles

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Here's the thing about three-year-olds-they're no longer two, nor are they quite four. Groundbreaking, we know. This lands them in the adorable place where they're seeking independence, asking a million questions, and playing pretend on a whole new level. All kids are different, but as a mom who has three kids under four, I've found these things about three-year-olds to be true.

1. They still answer to puppets. Everything starts to click at three-they're getting the hang of numbers, shapes, and colors and may even wow you with their new communication skills. But even though they've just announced they don't want to take a nap because they're busy and naps are boring, they'll just as swiftly engage in a full conversation with a puppet. That is attached to your arm. And they won't notice that your lips are moving and sound is coming out of your mouth. #precious

2. They're becoming tiny comedians. Prior to this, you laughed with your baby and at your baby, because, well, they were babies and they were unintentionally funny. But now, these kiddos are suddenly legit funny-making us laugh-out-loud with hilarious dance moves, silly songs, dramatic superhero moves, and a perfectly timed, "Uh-OH!"

3. There will be So. Much. Talking. If silence is a virtue, it is officially one that has left your household. Three-year-olds have a lot to say and sometimes you have to tell them to take a breath because they just can't get all of those very important thoughts out fast enough and they just really, really need you to listen right now, please, please, please!

4. And So. Many. Questions. Why do we eat breakfast? Where do teeth come from? Why didn't the Easter Bunny bring me a brown cat? Where's Dad? What's work? The litany of questions you're going to face everyday is a good thing because it means your kiddo's getting smarter with each question you answer. But there are times when you'd like to pour a cup of milk without explaining where milk comes from, where cows live, and why you're not a farmer.

5. Little miss (or mister) independent is becoming braver by the minute. But that independence can turn into a power struggle when it comes to, say, getting dressed in the morning, putting on shoes, or shampooing their hair. Budget some extra time in your morning and nighttime routines to help avoid a full-scale meltdown.

6. You'll miss naptime. Just when you're starting to feel like you're a slave to your kiddo's nap schedule, they'll drop the last nap and you'll miss that afternoon break more than you ever realized. While most kids drop the last nap by four, the waters can be tricky to navigate. Some days they'll nap and then be up till 9 at night, wide awake and needing water, another story, and one last snuggle. Other days they won't nap and will be a wreck by dinnertime. When your kid does drop that nap, be sure to institute an hour of mandatory quiet time during the afternoon-it will help everyone recharge their batteries.

7. Their imaginations are kicking in. Whereas your kiddo used to push cars around the floor saying "vroom," now he's likely concocted a scenario where the dinosaur is a mommy and the car is the daddy and block is a baby and-well, you get the picture. Their creative minds are exploding with inventive ways to play with their same ol' toys, and it's amazing to watch (and listen…that mommy dinosaur probably sounds an awful lot like you).  

8. Potty training isn't really over. As the saying goes, accidents happen. So even if your little one mastered the process in 48 hours, understand that a cold, a bad night's sleep, or a super-engrossing movie can result in some tinkle (or worse) in the undies.

9. Routine is key. From the moment they open their sleepy eyes until they close them 12 hours later, your three-year-old wants certain daily transactions to occur-a good morning hug, bringing their own breakfast plates to the table, singing the "Days of the Week" song on the way to school. Whatever your routine is, try to stick to it whenever possible.

10. Everything is a negotiation. Now that your kiddos have the vocabulary to express every last thing they're feeling, they also have the means to barter, finagle and hoodwink you into agreeing to one more cookie in exchange for being nice to their brother-which can be a pretty good deal.

11. The snuggles might be less frequent, but somehow they're better. Instead of two dozen hugs in an hour, you might get just one-when your little guy is overwhelmed and scared or happy and excited. But it will fill up your cup ten times over.