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How much should a 3-year-old know?
Sounds as though you’ve already done a lot to encourage her! Your description fits a bright and happy little girl. I don’t think anyone can tell you “just how much” your child should know at 3. But I’ll mention a few important things:
  • She should be talking a great deal, have a vocabulary of more than a thousand words and understand just about everything you say to her.
  • She should be toilet-trained, be able to feed and dress herself and sleep through the night without undue visits to your bed.
  • She should be able to play with other children without too many quarrels and fights over sharing toys.
  • She should be able to give and receive love to important people in her life.
  • She should be reasonably agile and well-coordinated, active with her toys and on a playground.
  • She should love to be read to and to look at books by herself and pretend to read.


How is that for a brief set of “shoulds”? Not least of all, she should have a mother who loves her and is very proud of her!

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education