By the time a child has reached the age of three years they begin to move out of the toddler phase - with this comes significant development and much greater independence, both physically and emotionally. These advancements bring a demand for greater stimulation, both physical and cognitive. The three to four-year old is learning at a rapid pace and thrives with a supportive and nurturing environment - the role of play is key to this phase.
During this phase children learn to accomplish a great number of physical milestones including but not limited to the following:
- Dress and undress by themselves – more difficult items such as buttons and zips may still require some assistance.
- Able to feed themselves and hold utensils
- Hold a crayon or a pencil
- Cut with scissors
- Able to draw basic recognisable forms such as body parts and straight lines
- Demonstrate a clear hand preference (pick up objects with the dominant hand)
- Go to the toilet unassisted
- Walk and run well
- Walk up and down the stairs without adult support or crawling
- Catch a ball (during a close and gentle throw)
There will be significant advances in the development of social skills, the three plus year old begins to form bonds with other children – as their attention span increases, relationships often improve all around as the child displays more interest in others, opening up a wider range of opportunities. Curiosity begins to blossom as does the child’s understanding of the world, helping them to further engage with other children, play together and share activities, rather than merely playing along-side one another, which is more common with younger children. The three to four-year old child may begin to demonstrate empathy and wish to comfort a crying friend, or show concern if others are upset. A child at this age also becomes aware of their age, gender and their own name.
During this phase, the child’s emotional development increases quickly, they have a much better awareness of the surrounding environment, self-control has improved, and levels of cooperation are generally better with fewer tantrums and less separation anxiety. However, at this age children may experience extreme emotions intensely such as jealously, anger, fear etc. and remain in this state for surprisingly long periods of time. They may also develop irrational fears which become more apparent at night such as fear of the dark or of abandonment. A change to routine may also cause upset or increased emotional behaviour.
The pre-schooler’s language begins to improve and expand considerably as new words are learnt quickly and easily, allowing them to create more complex sentence structures, express themselves more readily and identify a greater number of objects correctly by name. Number recognition will also improve, and the child may be able to repeat strings of letters or numbers. At this age, children copy adults and their friends with both actions and their use of language – repeating frequently used short phrases and colloquialisms.
How Toys Can Help
One of the most crucial aspects of any child’s development is defined through their play – how they play and what they learn from it. Ensuring that children have the right tools to be able to engage in productive play is important for both their physiological and psychological development.
The use of play helps children to develop language, motor and cognitive skills, as well as helping children to socialise - it also helps to prepare them for the reception years at school, inspiring creativity and imagination as well as important social skills such as sharing and turn taking.
There are numerous toys available on the market which encourage social development and imaginative play, for example, toy kitchens, doll's houses, theatre scenes, at the shops or in a restaurant/café, to name but a few. Such interactive toys can be played with by more than one child, which helps to encourage turn-taking - other toys may feature or lettered prints, this exposure helps to build familiarity and reinforce learning habits.
From the age of around three years, children become increasingly more active, seeking out energetic games which involve running and jumping as well as pushing and pulling toys around the home or the garden. Using building blocks or putting other toys together can help to build dexterity, hand-eye coordination and strength, spatial awareness, motor control and planning.
Toys can help children to vent some of their frustrations and deal with emotions in a controlled and safe environment. The three to four-year old also becomes more sophisticated in their ability to operate more complex toy parts - pulling or pushing levers and pushing down buttons, and are able to build more complex structures using blocks, or perform different activities such as unscrewing parts, turning handles etc. This helps to not only build up problem solving skills, it also gives children a greater sense of freedom and success which develops greater self-esteem through the achievement of any particular task.
All reputable toy manufacturers will provide guidelines demonstrating the age suitability of the toy – however, many play areas may also be co-occupied by younger siblings or other playmates, and although a toy designed for a child of age three and above is safe for the use of this age range, it may not be safe for younger children. It is important for parents and carers to remain vigilant, to check play areas for age-unsuitable toys and to always supervise play activities.
Le Toy Van was created in 1995 in Surrey and we have been designing and developing an extensive range of award-winning toys ever since, which are now sold in over fifty different countries worldwide. Our wooden toys are ethically made from sustainable rubberwood and are hand finished to create unique and lovingly crafted gifts for children which offer fun play which supports and nurtures children through their developmental phases. For more information, get in touch today.